Once the all the Homecoming ceremonies were done, Chaparral’s football team finally got going.
Sheik Fofanah ran for two touchdowns while TyRay Collins and Trayvius Hodge added scoring runs apiece as the host Cowboys beat Desert Oasis 28-7 on Thursday.
The game was tied 7-7 at halftime as converted quarterback Cedric Allen fueled a surprising Diamondbacks passing attack. But Chaparral (5-1) eventually pulled away behind a relentless three-headed ground game.
Collins had a key 33-yard punt return late in the third quarter to set up his own go-ahead touchdown run. From there, Chaparral wore down Desert Oasis (0-5) as Fofanah reeled off scoring runs of 30 and 25 yards in the fourth quarter.
For the Cowboys and the coaching staff, this particular game was especially meaningful. Before the start of the contest, Chaparral conducted a ceremony where the program retired the No. 20 jersey number of former football, basketball and track standout Richard Nelson, a 2016 graduate who was shot and killed on Jan. 24, 2017 while attempting to break up a fight involving a family member.
An orange star featuring the No. 20 was painted on the 20-yard line and Cowboys football coach Paul Nihipali said it would be re-painted at every home football game — for at least the rest of this season.
Richard Nelson always a Cowboy pic.twitter.com/4ppoUAhdVC
— Chaparral Cowboys (@gochapsports) September 28, 2017
“He was a big part of our program and was a great leader,” Collins said. “A lot of us looked up to him, including me. I still do.”
Whether it was the emotional tribute to Nelson before the start of the game or the Homecoming activities, Nihipali felt his team “came out flat.”
Part of it was because the Diamondbacks altered their offensive attack to include more of a pass element. Allen, a wide receiver who was starting at quarterback, finished 9-for-14 passing for 175 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Allen did have issue in handling snaps out of the shotgun formation, leading to some fumbles, lost yardage, and a key turnover. But the senior used his mobility to step up and make some deep completions, and delivered a 39-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Sylhauss Saumalu to tie the game up in the first quarter.
Chaparral made some line adjustments and got rolling in the third quarter thanks to its backfield. Between the speedy Collins (11 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD), the bruising fullback Hodge (11 carries, 58 yards, 1 TD), and the talented sophomore Fofanah (eight carries, 86 yards, 2 TDs), the Cowboys offense scored three touchdowns in the second half to cruise.
“We went into halftime, said some things and made some adjustments,” Nihipali said. “We turned the ground game and our offensive line played better.”