East County Sports

Eagles go long to beat Walden Grove


ECS staff report

SAHUARITA, Ariz. —- The Granite Hills Eagles ventured out of the state of California for a football game for the first time in school history, but the trip proved well worth the wait, as well as, worth the effort, bringing home a 41-27 victory over the Walden Grove Red Wolves, of Tucson.

The trip home was an enjoyable one after the Eagles expanded a 14-7 halftime lead on Friday.

Two Granite Hills backs rushed for over 100 yards and the Eagles pounded the Red Wolves’ defense for nearly 400 yards on the ground.

Four different ball carriers reached the end zone for Granite.

“That has been the game plan from the beginning of the season,” said the Eagles’ Corey Thompson-Miller, who scored to tie the game at 7-all with 8:45 to go in the second quarter. “We all rotate to share an equal amount of carries and opportunities.”

Zak Darling, a junior, led the Eagles with 142 yards on 15 carries and two scores.

Darling gave Granite a 27-13 lead with a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:28 left in the third quarter. He busted off a 66-yard scamper down the right side with 7:35 left in the game that put Granite Hills on top 41-20.

Junior Joaquin Thomas Jr. carried 13 times for 108 yards with a 6-yard score in the second quarter with 1:20 to play before halftime. He took a direct snap for a 1-yard TD with 4:17 left in the third quarter for the only score in the period.

Granite Hills rotated quarterbacks on each series, no matter the scenario, but it was the ground game that powered this one.

“I thought that our team played very well against (Walden Grove),” said sophomore receiver Isaiah Hasten, who had the Eagles’ two longest receptions on the night of 25 and 32 yards. “I think that the dual quarterback strategy might help our quarterbacks get more reps and help us perform better. We definitely have made some adjustments for the better and our offensive running, blocking, and passing have all been greatly improved.”

The Eagles put some massive effort into this one and some massive hits on Walden Grove.

Zach Burton had a pair of sacks for the Eagles.

“It was a great win for us,” said Burton, who had five tackles for loss. “(Walden Grove) had a really solid line. I would say probably some of the best we have played all year but we did a great job of mixing up the fronts and stunts and the line on both sides played a really physical game.”

Joining the hit parade for the Eagles was senior Brandon Kleist, who had a sack and an interception, to go along with three solo tackles.

Senior Carter Braun, of Granite Hills, had 5 1/2 tackles, including one for loss.

Juniors Derek Ibarra both had five tackles, along with a defended pass, for the Eagles.

“This week at we practiced on defense and not letting anything get behind the safeties,” said Thompson-Miller, who had three tackles and a pass break up to go along with 75 rushing yards on five carries. “And on the offensive side, we just kept doing what we do, which is run the football. It feels good to win two back-to-back games after losing two games in a row. I would like to give thanks to my line though. I wouldn’t be able to get those yards without them moving the defenders out of the way for me.”

Granite Hills sophomore Jordan Glaze had five tackles, including several on special teams, as well as, a pair of assists and a defended pass.
Also having a nifty night on special teams was Thomas Jr., who had punts of 46 and 55 yards and returned a punt 33 yards.

While the underdog Red Wolves played admirably, they were worn down by the fourth quarter as the game started to open up. The Eagles were able to flash their talent with three scores in the final period.

“t was a total blast coming out here,” Burton said. “I think a lot of our previous struggles were just jitters and playing some good teams like Madison and Eastlake. I think we have cleared that hurdle and really to keep moving into the season.”
Granite Hills (4-2) will have a bye week before hitting the road once again, this time to face St. Francis, of La Canada. The Golden Knights host Steele Canyon this Friday.


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