Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 | 12:36 a.m.
Bishop Gorman vs. Palo Verde. Arbor View vs. Centennial. The start of the Sunrise region playoffs. The semifinals of the Division 1A playoffs. It's a packed week of high school football for Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer to break down on this episode of Prep Sports Now.
As he was going down, he pitched the ball to fellow defensive back Diamante Luna. The ball took a hop before Luna scooped it up and made an incredible run, outsprinting many Wolves defenders en route to an 86-yard score.
“I didn’t expect (the pitch),” Luna said. “I had to do something to help my team. It was huge momentum shift.”
Indeed it was a huge shift, as it tied the game and capped off a sensational defensive performance by the Pioneers, who advanced in the Sunrise Regional playoffs with a 37-15 win over Basic on Friday.
The defense got three interceptions and limited the Wolves’ dynamic pairing of DeVonte Boyd (six catches on 12 targets for 30 yards and a touchdown) and Antraye Johnson (17 carries, 31 yards).
“Stan Davis and the entire defensive staff have given us a chance to be undefeated (this season),” Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper said. “It was just amazing preparation.”
The Luna interception return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Pioneers.
The Wolves (6-4) went up 15-7 on the Pioneers following a 40-yard Johnson touchdown pass, and had the ball heading into Pioneer territory.
After being pressured, Rose threw up a pass in the middle of the field where A.J. Cooper intercepted it. He ran laterally for a few steps before the defense began to swarm. Cooper looked back and delivered a soft pitch to Luna, who got the ball and used his speed to get to the end zone.
“A.J. made a great play,” Hunkie Cooper said. “He’s pretty smart, so when he pitches it to Luna, ‘I’m like, what are you doing?’ He’s a little smarter than I am and has a higher GPA than me, and Luna is a track star.”
As stellar as the defense played through the first three quarters, the Pioneers (7-3) got a little extra help from Mother Nature in the final quarter.
The wind had shifted from blowing east to the north, meaning Canyon Springs, which kicked off in the second half, would be driving with the wind at its back while Basic was going into it.
Basic’s offense couldn’t throw the ball downfield effectively as a result, leading them one-dimensional.
Naturally, Basic also struggled to kick it out of its territory.
On the Wolves’ first punt of the fourth quarter, the ball hung in the air and went only two yards before it was downed.
That’s when Canyon Springs used the wind to its advantage. Pioneer quarterback Stevie Farmer found Luna down the right side of the field, put the ball where only Luna could get it, and Luna scored his second touchdown of the night. The pass went 32 yards.
“We saw the corner was playing an inside technique, so I ran the correct route,” said Luna, who also converted the two-point conversion on a busted play.
On the ensuing possession, the Pioneer defense forced another punt. The wind, once again, kept the ball in the air, putting the Pioneers on the Basic 30.
Canyon Springs marched up the field, capped off by a Rayshawn Henderson 1-yard touchdown plunge.
"(The wind) was a big help,” Luna said. “(Being in Basic territory) made us feel like we were doing something like we were supposed to do.
“We had a lot of luck (tonight).”
Not to be overshadowed by the stellar defensive effort, Zaviontay Stevenson filled in well for the injured D.J. Pumphrey, who made an attempt to play but ultimately couldn’t finish the game.
Stevenson rushed for 172 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns. A bulk of those yards came on his two scoring plays. He gained 84 yards on his first touchdown score, and sealed the game with his 68-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds remaining.
“He’s a kid that wanted an opportunity,” Hunkie Cooper said. “He chose to be great.”
The Pioneers will travel to Liberty for the Sunrise Regional semifinal game next Friday. Liberty won the first meeting between the two teams 23-20.
“We've got to fight and claw and nobody will give us anything,” Hunkie Cooper said.