Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 | 11:42 p.m.
Nick Daniel terrorized Canyon Springs as a linebacker at Green Valley last year, helping the Gators end the Pioneers’ season with a close playoff victory.
Daniel was again a key component in a matchup between the two teams on Friday night — only for the other side. Daniel, whose family relocated to the Canyon Springs zone, had eight tackles and two sacks against his former team, leading a strong defensive effort in a 24-22 victory for the Pioneers.
“He was one of the biggest issues we had last year,” Canyon Springs coach Gus McNair said. “He was a problem for us, but now he’s flying around and doing it for us. Absolutely, he had this one circled.”
Canyon Springs got out to a 12-0 lead despite its offense barely seeing the field. Junior Trayvion Rainey returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, before the Pioneers added another field-spanning score in the first quarter.
Green Valley drove to the red zone, but senior linebacker Keyvon Lakes intercepted a pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of two takeaways for Lakes on the night, and five total from the Canyon Springs defense.
Lakes was the lone defender with more tackles than Daniel, as he piled up 12 stops.
“Defense was just phenomenal tonight,” McNair said. “We’re still fighting hard to get into a rhythm offensively.”
But the offense came up big when required. Down 14-12 at halftime, Canyon Springs scored the first two touchdowns of the second half to secure a victory.
First, senior running back Jayvion Pugh finished a long drive with a 10-yard touchdown rush. A few drives later, senior quarterback Xavier DeLong broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown run.
Daniel and the rest of the defense was able to hold Green Valley out of the end zone until the tail end of the game.