GILBERT - #3 seed Williams Field ended Mountain Ridge’s playoff run Nov. 26 as the Black Hawks routed the #11 Mountain Lions 52-17 to continue onto the 6A semifinals.
Junior quarterback CJ Tiller led the Black Hawk offense to put up 42 points in the first half. Tiller went 17-for-24 with 358 passing yards before being taken out of the game with 6:21 remaining in the fourth quarter after a dominant performance.
“It's amazing how much quarterbacks grow every year,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said. “He's made gigantic strides from this year to a year ago.”
Tiller came into the game sick, but said he had to stay prepared mentally if his body couldn’t perform physically.
“I just trusted my guys, I trusted my line to do their jobs. It just came down to trust that first half,” Tiller said. “The second half, we came out a little shaky. I think everyone was just so excited, but we did good and I’m happy we got the win.”
Williams Field will head to Scottsdale to face the #2 Chaparral Firebirds Friday and the winner will head to the 6A Division championship game.
Mountain Ridge struck early with a successful field goal attempt from senior kicker Braeden Lacombe to go up 3-0 midway through the first quarter. That would be their only lead of the game.
The Black Hawks defense forced three turnovers. The first came early in the second quarter, with the defense forcing the ball out of senior running back Ryan Finch’s hands leading to a touchdown pass the next play, putting the Black Hawks up 21-3.
“The defensive staff puts a ton of time in. The amount of mental reps and the mental tendencies that they make sure they have down, it's a lot of effort they put into (themselves),” Campbell said.
Despite going three-and-out on the first drive of the game, Williams Field managed to score the very next possession, putting up 35 points in the second quarter and only punting three times all game.
The Black Hawks weaponized senior running back Aziya Jamison, who was targeted twelve times, accounting for three of Williams Field’s seven touchdowns on the night.
“We call him bruiser because he always leaves bruises on other people. I got three great D1 running backs,” Tiller said. “I love having them, it’s just another threat to have.”
Utilizing their running game, Jamison and junior running back Joshua Dye combined for 230 yards, with Jamison carrying the load with 172 yards
“They didn’t run a crazy defense. Nothing that I wasn’t familiar with,” Tiller said. “It was just doing our jobs and not having any assignment errors, and we did just that tonight.”
The Mountain Lions opened the game loose, eating up the clock on drives. As the game progressed, dropped passes and a couple of fumble recoveries by the Black Hawk defense would prevent the offense from keeping any momentum going.
“I'm really happy for the boys. They put together a complete game which we've been looking for for a while on both sides of the ball,” Campbell said. “We made plays and did some good stuff.
Entering the game as the No. 11 seed, head coach Doug Madoski is excited for the future of Mountain Ridge football.
“I think the future’s bright. You’re not going to build a football program overnight,” Madoski said. “If you stay true to the process, and we continue to grind and work on it, I think there's a bright future here at Ridge for us to keep building this team up.”
Entering his third year as the head coach, Madoski took a program that hadn’t had a winning season for 10 consecutive years and drove them to the playoffs.
“The message for the juniors is to continue to fill that legacy, continue to step into their shoes. You wanna make sure you have the progression. The senior class stepped up in immense ways,” he said. “You have kids that were potentially looked at as NAIA football players at the end of this season to Division I scholarships and preferred walk-ons at Power Five conferences.”
Ashley Stevens is studying for a Master's degree and majoring in sports journalism at the Walter Cronkite School for Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. Read more of her work here
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