Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer are back with their weekly look at high school football. In this episode, they debate how to rank Arbor View, Palo Verde, Green Valley and Liberty.
He’s tiny but mighty, aching but smashing.
The most significant play of Canyon Springs’ 30-7 victory over Desert Oasis Friday night came when senior Raequan Bascombe blazed down the field on a kickoff in a blur, quite possibly inconspicuous to the naked eye. But no ears in the area could escape the crunch from the ensuing collision when the 5-foot-8, 150-pound defensive back lowered his shoulder — the same one he separated three weeks ago but decided to play through the pain — into an opponent.
Bascombe’s contact forced the Desert Oasis kick returner to fumble, allowing Marck Cassino to scoop the ball and score on a 9-yard recovery. Using the template presented by Bascombe and Cassino, two other Pioneers combined to repeat the trick less than a minute later on the next kickoff.
“Kickoff is a man’s job,” Bascombe boasted. “It’s get down the field, get a hit and execute.”
Canyon Springs used its nearly unprecedented turnover-forcing, special teams prowess to overcome an otherwise mediocre performance at home Friday.
With 11 minutes to go in the third quarter, the game was scoreless. With 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Canyon Springs led 20-0 after Marcel Selmon followed Cassino’s score with a 12-yard kickoff fumble recovery touchdown of his own.
“That’s why you call it special,” Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper said. “So many people in this game think it’s about 50 percent offense, 50 percent defense. But it’s a third of the game, special teams. The first team of special teams can change so many things.”
Before the special teams outburst, the Pioneers led 7-0 but had been thoroughly outplayed by the Diamondbacks. One Desert Oasis player, senior running back Jocquez Kalili, had close to thrice the yardage of Canyon Springs’ entire offense.
Kalili, who finished with 30 carries for 218 yards, hit the 100-yard barrier early in the second quarter. He broke free on a team-high 46-yard run on the second play of the game where Bascombe made a touchdown-saving tackle.
“He’s a good player, a real fast dude,” Bascombe said. “But our defense swarms around. I played my keys, cut back and got to him.”
Fellow Canyon Springs senior defensive back A.J. Cooper also prevented a score from Kalili with an open-field tackle as the last man to beat in the game. Desert Oasis didn’t score until six minutes remained when Blake Kutz, who had 16 rushes for 84 yards, plowed his way into the end zone with a six-yard run.
During their 4-0 start to the season, the Pioneers have allowed just nine points per game. It’s an even more impressive figure considering the injuries they’re dealing with.
The two members on the preseason All-Sun Team from Canyon Springs, defensive lineman Rayshawn Henderson and defensive back Diamante Luna, are both out. A.J. Cooper was only at 70 percent after missing two games with a high ankle sprain, and Bascombe has his own maladies.
“These guys play with so much on their shoulders,” Hunkie Cooper said. “I can’t start to tell you what we’re going through, what we could blame certain things on.”
A.J. Cooper ended the game with an interception in the final minute, a fair representation of how the defense rose to the occasion in key situations all night. Desert Oasis’ 368 total yards to Canyon Springs’ 190 looks nice in the box score, but the Diamondbacks could never make use of the advantage.
Canyon Springs’ offense awakened in the second half, too. Zaviontay Stevenson had touchdown runs of 34 and 48 yards to finish with a total of 129 on 14 carries.
He’s the Pioneers' go-to guy, but the kickoff unit tied Stevenson in points on Friday.
“Any time you get a 40-yard free run and make contact with somebody, something needs to fly off — either a helmet or a football,” Hunkie Cooper said.
Against Desert Oasis, it was the latter.