Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 | 11:50 p.m.
Basic High wide receiver Steven Justice caught a seven-yard pass during the first quarter of Friday night’s game with Canyon Springs, and was tackled near the sideline by a host of Pioneer defensive backs.
The momentum carried Justice out of bounds and into Canyon Springs’ sideline area where Justice crashed into a slab of concrete. Pioneer defenders quickly jumped up, extended their hands and lifted Justice to his feet before patting him on the helmet as he jogged back to the field.
Friday night was about redemption for Canyon Springs. Not just on the field, where the Pioneers cruised past Basic 41-0, but in sportsmanship. The first meeting between the teams on Sept. 15 ended in a bench-clearing brawl and a cloud of pepper spray from school police.
The rematch ended in a handshake and an embrace between the two head coaches, Gus McNair and Jeff Cahill.
“I am just so sorry how things went that first time around,” Canyon Springs coach McNair said. “When I first became a head coach, Cahill was one of the guys that I had a lot of respect for. There are certain coaches when I watched as an assistant coach at other schools and he was one of the guys who knew how to win and is a classy guy.”
McNair’s Pioneers cleaned up the mental mistakes that plagued them during the first game, and their offensive firepower was just too much for the Wolves.
Quarterback DiaMante Burton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Canyon Springs raced to a 28-0 lead in the first half.
“DiaMante is phenomenal,” McNair said. “He’s a great kid and a great athlete. We are so lucky to have him. He’s so athletic he can step in and play quarterback. He makes things happen with his feet and he controls the offense.”
Burton finished the night 12-of-20 for 174 yards through the air, and 11 carries for 67 yards on the ground.
“I can’t take the credit because the linemen come out here and do their thing every week,” Burton said.
Running back Jayvion Pugh had a big night as well, running for 96 yards, catching two passes for 41 yards and intercepting a pass on defense.
“He’s only a junior,” McNair said. “That kid is really starting to come into his own. The athleticism is there, and now he’s starting to understand how to be a back.”
The Canyon Springs defense held Basic to only 54 yards in the first half, and the Pioneers outgained the Wolves 392-152 overall.
“Anybody who knows anything knows Basic puts up points,” McNair said. “I know they’ve been in a slump but we were preparing for the best Basic because they were hungry. Picking up this (shutout) is huge.”
It’s the first playoff win for Canyon Springs since 2013. The Pioneers had lost three straight times in the first round — two of them to Basic.
“We all feel like we broke a curse,” Burton said. “We felt like we were cursed because we could never get into the second round of the playoffs and we finally did it. Now we just have to show what we can do.”
As impressive as the dominant 41-0 win was, the Pioneers’ discipline throughout the game overshadowed their statistical performance. Both teams played the game as it should be played.
Canyon Springs hosts Green Valley in the 4A Sunrise semifinal on Thursday.
“That situation (on Sept. 15) helped us mature a lot,” McNair said. “We had our hiccups and our ups and downs, but these kids chose to get up and bounce back.”