With 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter Friday and Basic clinging to a 3-point lead over visiting Canyon Springs, the Wolves decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 on the Pioneer 33.
If the Wolves failed to make the first down, Canyon Springs would have had a final shot to pull off the playoff upset.
But quarterback Aeneas McAllister didn’t fail on the read-option play, faking the handoff to running back Sean White to draw in the defense before bolting left and galloping 24 yards to the 9. The run allowed the Wolves to run out the clock and preserve a 20-17 victory in the Division I Sunrise Region quarterfinals.
Basic (9-1) will travel to Silverado (7-3) next Friday at 7 p.m. in a Sunrise semifinal game.
McAllister, who rushed for 110 yards and threw a touchdown pass in the game, said on the game-clinching play, he just read the defense and made the play.
“I saw the defensive tackle came in on the guard, and I saw he was going to take the running back right on the line of scrimmage,” McAllister said. “So I just pulled the ball and took off.”
That was in contrast to the prior drive, where McAllister was marked inches short of a first down on a 3-yard run in which he appeared to make enough yardage for the first. Instead, he was marked inches short, and Canyon Springs took over with 2:30 left.
“Not everything goes your way, but as long as we keep fighting and stay in it, we can do anything,” McAllister said. “We just had to keep executing and keep believing in our brothers on the field. And I always have faith in our defense.”
His faith was rewarded exactly one play later.
Canyon Springs quarterback Tre’von Dean, who had flustered Basic’s defense the entire game with scrambles for positive yards, slithered away from the Wolves rush an rambled for first down yardage. But Tayjean Thomas hit Dean from behind and jarred the ball loose, and teammate John Funaki recovered for Basic to end what turned out to be the Pioneers’ final threat.
The Wolves limited the Pioneers to 205 yards of offense and forced three key turnovers in the game.
“That was too close. Much closer than we wanted, “said Dean, who led Basic with six tackles. “He’s a good quarterback, but all of his yards were on busted plays. That was our fault.”
Dean finished with 126 passing yards and 79 rushing yards for Canyon Springs (3-7).
Sean White delivered what turned out to be the game-winning score for Basic, as his 5-yard TD run with 6:30 left in the third quarter gave Basic a two-score lead, 20-10.
“I just knew that I had to come in for my team and make a play,” White said. “I knew at that moment the ball needed to be in my hands.”
But Canyon Springs wouldn’t go away. Dean tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Aubrey Washington with 3:25 remaining in the third period to cut the lead to 20-17. The play was somewhat controversial as it appeared Dean was well past the line of scrimmage when he unleashed the TD pass, but no flag was thrown.
The Pioneers then drove into Basic territory twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game or take the lead, but could not cash in. An interception by Basic’s Xavier Cuduto thwarted one drive, and the Wolves defense forced Canyon Springs to turn the ball over on downs to stop the next.
Basic looked like it was in control early in the game, jumping out to a 10-0 lead after Deondre Ishman hauled in a 29-yard TD pass from McAllister in the first quarter and Montana Gomez tacked on a 21-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
But the Pioneers answered with a 14-play, 59-yard drive, capped by Marcell Selmon’s spectacular diving grab in the endzone off a 20-yard TD pass from Dean that got Canyon Springs on track.
White said the Wolves may have learned a playoff lesson while outlasting the Pioneers.
“We feel good. But we know now we can’t take it easy in practice just because we beat a team during the season,” White said. “When it is the playoffs, it is a completely different game. It just depends on who wants it the most.”
With a Silverado team that Basic already defeated up next, McAllister agreed.
“As long as we take practice serious, and we practice hard, we can beat anybody,” he said.