Miranda Alam/Special to Sun
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 | 12:28 a.m.
Green Valley High football coach Brian Castro knew the math going into Friday’s regular season finale: If the Gators win, they’d reach the postseason. If the Gators win by 10 or more points, they’d finish as the Southeast League’s No. 3 seed and avoid nine-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman next week in the first round of the playoffs.
So, even though emotions were already high in preparation for a showdown with rival Basic in the annual Henderson Bowl, Castro made sure his players knew exactly what they needed to do.
“Absolutely, they knew the scenarios going in,” Castro said. “I talked to the kids all week, ‘If we aren’t up by 10, we are going to do what we need to do to get there.’”
Not only did Maaliek Duncan’s 35-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the third quarter pad the Gators’ lead in an 18-6 victory, it more importantly gave them a victory by more than 10 points. The Gators would prevail in the three-way tiebreaker, knocking Coronado out of the playoffs and forcing Basic to open next Friday at Gorman, which hasn’t lost to a local opponent since 2008 and is playing for a 10th straight championship.
Green Valley travels to Sierra Vista next week for its quarterfinal game. Needless to say, the Gators have momentum. After all, they won the most important game of the season by downing Basic.
“This game was more intense because we are trying to make the playoffs and go all the way to state,” said Duncan, who led Green Valley with 78 rushing yards.
Green Valley held the ball for the game’s final six minutes, draining the clock with repeated running plays for tough yardage. For all of the Gators’ inconsistent play this season — they were upset by Coronado, given a challenge by last place Chaparral and surrendered nearly 50 points in losing to Foothill — the Gators are in a favorable spot for the playoffs.
They beat Sierra Vista 26-21 earlier in the season.
“We put Maaliek in there and got him loose a little bit,” Castro said. “He has done a real good job all year long of waiting his turn, and coming in at the end of the game and giving us a different gear.”
Noah Hawthorne had a short touchdown run to open the scoring and Garrett Castro threw a touchdown to Charles Milana for a 12-0 lead.
Basic twice in the first half moved the ball deep into Green Valley territory, including inside the 5-yard line in the final minute of the first half. Each time, though, Basic had to settle for field goals from Torres Miller.
“(Henderson Bowl) is something our kids always look forward to and (the Basic) kids always look forward to,” Castro said. “It is a big rivalry. It is your chance to leave a mark on history and get your score on that trophy. The added deal with the playoff scenario definitely made our guys work a little more.”