Cottonwood coach Cecil Thomas told his players that a frustrating first half didn't necessarily mean the game was over.
"I said, 'We're not dead'," he said after the Colts scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to upset 4A's second-ranked East 30-29. "I tole them, 'We're going to win this ball game.'"
A fake punt, fumbles, an on-side kick recovery, a last-second field goal, almost constant rain, and hundreds of screaming fans the meeting between these two region rivals had everything a football fan could want in a game.
"It was a playoff atmosphere tonight," said East coach Aaron Whitehead. "That was a great game."
The Colts were down 15-6 at half-time despite rushing for 147 yards and passing for 127 in the first half. East played an impressive first half with 136 yards rushing and 29 yards passing, and they owned the momentum and the lead at home.
Thomas challenged all of his players to do more, but he especially asked more of his offensive linemen.
"I really challenged those guys, and they did a great job," he said. "I've said all along, if we give our guy time, he can do some things."
Both teams struggled early in the third quarter, especially offensively, but Cottonwood managed to capitalize on an East fumble with a 48-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard pass from Steve Romero to Rich Tukuafu with 7:26 left in the quarter.
The Colt defense held East to three plays, but then Isi Sofele, who carried the team on his back in the first half and earned a rushing touchdown in the first quarter, dropped the punt and East's Alex Barney recovered the ball. That led to an East score when Parker Cracroft ran for a five-yard touchdown.
Cracroft was huge for the Leopards with143 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. In the second quarter, Cracroft also threw for a touchdown in the Leopards' fake punt play in which he threw to Jacob Morrison.
Thomas used junior varsity kicker Chris Cutis in the second-half in hopes of making some of those kicks the Colts missed in the first half.
"We had to make a change there, and he did a good job," Thomas said.
East owned a 29-12 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but these Colts love a little pressure.
Romero ran in a touchdown from five yards out when he couldn't see a receiver open at 8:55 in the quarter. Then he threw the two-point conversion to Charles Nunn to make the score 29-20. Romero utilized all of his receivers in the fourth quarter especially, Nunn, Tukuafu, and Pat Jones.
With 1:05 left, Romero hit Tukuafu on a 22-yard pass play, with Cutis's kick bringing the Colts within two at 29-27.
Cottonwood attempted an on-side kick that was recovered by Jason Lundquist and then Romero completed two passes to put the Colts within field goal range with less than 20 seconds on the clock. Cutis entered the game and hit the field goal, giving the Colts the one-point advantage."It was sweet," said Thomas of the win that creates a four-way tie for first place in the very competitive region. Asked what his favorite play of the game was, he said with a smile, "All of them. I'm real proud of my guys."