Pioneers overcome sluggish start, storm back to top Skyhawks

Canyon Springs was well on its way to suffering its first loss of the season Friday at Silverado.

Already trailing 8-3, the third-ranked Pioneers opened the second half by fumbling away the ball on their first offensive snap, setting up a score that put the Skyhawks up 16-3.

But the Pioneers circled the wagons and stormed back behind a pair of key fumble recoveries and a two touchdown receptions from Jordan Davis to outscore Silverado 27-6 over the final quarter-and-a-half and down the Skyhawks 30-22 in the Northeast Division opener for both teams.

The Pioneers (5-0, 1-0 Northeast) had had gotten off to sluggish starts in the first half of all five games so far this season, and while addressing his team after the game Friday, Pioneer coach Hunkie Cooper rubbed his head and said to his team: “You guys are going to kill me.”

“I think this season we have played five games, but only really ‘played’ about 10 quarters,” said Cooper. “But it seems adversity brings out the best in us.”

Davis hauled in two second-half touchdown receptions and finished with seven catches for 128 yards to power the Pioneers’ rally.

But the key to the comeback was a pair of fumbles that happened in less than a minute and turned Canyon Springs’ fortunes around in the fourth quarter.

Silverado (1-4, 0-1) led 22-16, and the Pioneers faced the task of overcoming a fourth-and-12 at the Silverado 39.

Quarterback Bradley Alexander rolled right and fired a pass to Kajuan Casey on the right sideline inside the 10-yard-line. Casey made the catch, but as he ran towards the goal line he was stripped of the ball at the 3.

For a moment it appeared Silverado had thwarted the scoring threat, but as the loose ball bounded into the end zone, Canyon Springs running back Greg Banks dove on it for a touchdown to put the Pioneers ahead 23-22 with 8:39 remaining in the game.

“I just saw the ball on the ground and tried to make a play,” said Banks, who also had a 3-yard TD run in the second half for the Pioneers. “I just had to step up for my team and do what I could to help us win.”

Then two plays into the ensuing Silverado drive, running back Jarrett Alipio was injured while being tackled and fumbled, and Joe Jackson recovered for the Pioneers.

On the next play, Alexander lobbed a 20-yard TD pass to Davis to put the Pioneers up by 8 with 7:48 to play, and Silverado never threatened again.

Alexander threw for 234 yards on 14-for-25 passing for the Pioneers.

Alipio led Silverado’s rushing attack with 33 carries for 168 yards. His 2-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run with 3:06 left in the second quarter gave the Skyhawks their first lead, 8-3

Canyon Springs’ fumble on its first offensive play of the second half, set up a 14-yard TD pass from Armani Jones-Sailor to Rohan Walters that gave Silverado a 16-3 lead with 7:33 left in the third quarter.

Walters had two catches for 83 yards for the Skyhawks.

“Silverado is doing a great job of building their program,” Cooper said. “They are good football team. They sure gave us all we could handle.

“But in the end we showed the perseverance and the character, and I’m proud of my team for that.”