Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 | 12:21 a.m.
Ray Brewer and Case Keefer dive into Henderson Bowl week by getting into a debate about the annual Basic at Green Valley showdown before moving on to the rest of the schedule.
Sean White broke tackles and kept his feet moving, nearly being brought down by two defenders at the goal line.
But White, and his teammates on the Basic High football team, weren’t going to be denied on this night. White pushed his way into the endzone for a 7-yard touchdown against rival Green Valley in the annual Henderson Bowl, giving his team what appeared to be an insurmountable 12-point lead with 1:28 to play.
White’s senior class had never won the Henderson Bowl, and he was convinced his scoring run put the finishing touches on a victory four years in the making.
As White raced to the sideline to celebrate with teammates, coach Jeff Cahill warned them: This game isn’t over.
Cahill, who as a player at Basic 25 years ago played in the first Henderson Bowl, was right. Basic held on for a 26-21 win to snap a four-year drought against Green Valley, but nearly squandered the lead in the final minute in arguably the best ending in series history.
Green Valley, fighting the clock more than Basic’s prevent defense, drove the length of the field when it received the ball and trimmed the deficit to five points on A.J. Amelburu’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Powell with 28 seconds remaining.
Powell then recovered the ensuing onside kick, and after a Basic penalty, Green Valley had the ball in Basic territory with time for a few plays. On the game’s last play, from the Basic 15-yard line, Amelburu was intercepted by Basic’s John Funaki at the goal line to end the game.
“I told everybody when we scored the last touchdown that we have been through way too many (Henderson Bowl games) to think it is over yet,” Cahill said. “We knew Green Valley was going fight, claw, scratch, do whatever they have to do to not let the bowl go. We were going to have to take it from them. At least we made that last play and took it from them.”
Funaki, another senior, had one of the best games of his career, scoring on a 23-yard run with 4:11 remaining to give Basic the lead for good. On Green Valley’s next possession, Funaki stopped Amelburu on a quarterback keeper on fourth down to force a turnover deep in Green Valley territory.
For players such as White and Funaki, the postgame celebration was even better than they had imagined.
“It feels amazing. I can't even put it into words,” White said. “There are only so many times Basic High School has won that bowl right there, and I get to be part of the class that actually gets to hold that bowl up. I get to take a picture with my team and with my family.”
Cahill gave players the weekend off to cherish the victory, but coaches don’t want the celebrating to linger into the rest of the season. They told players in the postgame huddle to not let this game define the season.
Last year, Basic (5-1, 1-0 Southeast League) won just one Southeast League game, but peaked late and reached the Sunrise Region championship game. This season, they want to take another step and play for the state championship.
The Basic seniors — players such as White, Funaki, Jake Waldron, Tank McAllister and Kendahl Blakely — enjoyed their moment with plenty of pictures together and hugs from supporters. It’s not the last celebration they want to have together.
“We never give up, no matter what,” White said. “We can be marked as the underdog, but we are going to come out on top because we have the will to fight.”