Crazy play helps Pioneers top Wildcats for second place in Northeast

Even though it was the day after Halloween, Friday’s important Northeast League matchup between No. 6 Canyon Springs and No. 8 Las Vegas featured plenty of strange plays.

Eight fourth-down tries, three double-reverse plays and two fake punt attempts.

But it was another play that will have those in attendance talking about for quite some time.

Canyon Springs’ Kyhren Howard picked up a loose ball following a blocked punt by Las Vegas and raced 63 yards for a touchdown, as the Pioneers clinched the second seed from the Northeast with a 21-14 road victory.

The Pioneers (8-1) will host Coronado next week in the opening round of the Sunrise Region playoffs. Las Vegas (5-4) travels to Basic.

On fourth-and-33 from the Canyon Springs 47, Las Vegas blocked the Pioneer punt. However, the ball bounced into the arms of Howard, who sprinted down the far sideline for the score and a 14-0 lead at the 3:14 mark of the third quarter.

“In all of my years of football, I’ve never seen a play like that,” said Canyon Springs coach Hunkie Cooper, whose team lost 44-43 to Green Valley last week in a game in which neither team punted. “Last week’s game was more like an arena football game, and then we have a play like this tonight. You always have to take advantage of situations, and that was a great example.”

As for Howard, he never hesitated once the ball went into his hands.

“All I knew to do was run, and run I did,” Howard said. “There was a wall of blockers in front of me, and I just followed them into the end zone.”

On the other side, Las Vegas stopped, thinking the play was over.

“It was a crazy play,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “I didn’t know what the ruling was until after the play. However, we make no excuses, we simply didn’t play well at all.”

But the Canyon Springs defense did play well, as the Pioneers held the Wildcats to 90 yards rushing. Las Vegas did score twice in a 1:10 span on a pair of Trevor Swenson touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

“My hat’s off to my defense,” Cooper said. “We have the best defense in town, and I’m totally convinced of that. Our defensive coaching staff does a great job getting that side of the ball ready to play, and they were impressive tonight.”

Canyon Springs quarterback Bradley Alexander ran for a score and threw a 20-yard touchdown to Marck Cassino. Zaviontay Stevenson led the Pioneer rushing attack with 83 yards on 27 carries.

Swenson threw for 173 yards, with TD passes of 8 yards to Kode Mwirigi and 10 yards to Sam Blackburn. Andrew Moreland had 75 yards on 16 carries for Las Vegas.

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