Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 | 11:26 p.m.
Chaparral defensive back Quintrell Randle leaped into a crowd of players in his own end zone and intercepted the ball just as the final horn blared.
The senior was playing in the third “Cleat Game” of his varsity career, and with that interception sealed a perfect record and ensured that Chaparral would keep the cleat trophy as he graduates.
“The feeling is priceless,” Randle said, nearly at a loss for words. “Playing for it as a senior only happens once, so it’s priceless.”
Randle and the Cowboys held off a late Eldorado comeback attempt to win 21-13 and keep the cleat (a trophy made from former NFL star Merlin Olsen’s bronzed shoe) for the fourth-straight season.
“It’s so fitting,” Chaparral coach Don Willis said. “I told our seniors tonight that they’ve been a part of teams that have won it for three years, but everyone is going to want to know what you did as a senior. Did you keep the cleat?”
Eldorado struck first in the game with a two-yard touchdown run by Michael Perez.
From that point on, it was the Meshach Hawkins show. The Chaparral running back scored on touchdown runs of 18, 13 and four yards to give the Cowboys a commanding 21-7 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“He’s special,” Willis said. “He has those skills that you can’t coach. He’s going to get better as the season goes. Not only is he great for us on offense, but he brings it on defense every night.”
Hawkins finished with 115 yards rushing and a sack on defense.
Eldorado quarterback Jalen Malone helped claw his team back into the game in the fourth quarter. He finished with 230 passing yards and a three-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to 21-13 after a failed point after.
The Sundevils had a late drive inside Chaparral’s five yard line, but the Cowboys defense made a goal-line stand to maintain the lead. Eldorado would get one final chance, but Malone’s Hail Mary attempt on the game’s final play was intercepted by Randle.
“This game means a lot to not only our football kids, but our whole school,” Willis said. “It also means a lot to our alumni who went here. If you talk to somebody who went to Chaparral, the first thing they want to talk about is the cleat and if we’re going to keep the cleat.”
Willis has coached in Southern Nevada for awhile, but this is his first season at Chaparral and his first time experiencing one of the most historic rivalries in town.
“It’s bigger than I thought it was and more intense than I thought it was,” Willis said. “Those Eldorado kids played hard tonight and you could see how hard they wanted it. We matched that, and our grit and toughness got us out of some tough spots tonight. I think that goes to show how important that trophy is to these two schools.”
Late after the game, Chaparral players were still hoisting the bronze trophy above their heads, leaping in jubilation as chants of “The cleat stays home” echoed into the east valley night sky.