With their playoff hopes possibly in the balance, the Sunrise Mountain Miners desperately needed a spark Thursday night in their regular season finale against Cheyenne.
Trailing by seven points after three quarters, Sunrise Mountain turned to its workhorse running back and got a key turnover during its 19-point fourth quarter en route to a 26-14 home win.
Miners coach Chris Sawyers, whose team earned the No. 3 seed from Class 3A Sunset League, said it wasn’t easy against the inspired Desert Shields.
“(Cheyenne) played very well tonight,” he said. “We had plenty of distractions, and we just weren’t in the game early. We did what we needed to do, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Cheyenne led 14-7 after Joshua Washington’s 89-yard kickoff return to open the second half. But after four straight possessions ending in turnovers, the Sunrise Mountain offense finally came to life.
The Miners (5-4, 3-2) marched 45 yards in seven plays, capped by a 2-yard run from quarterback Tyree Hayes, to cut into the deficit. Placekicker Anthony Anderson’s PAT went wide left, so the Desert Shields kept the lead at 14-13 with 11:23 remaining.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Anderson hit a Cheyenne player in the back and teammate Jerold Person recovered for the Miners at midfield.
“By no means was that kickoff planned,” said Sawyers, smiling. “We told the kickoff team not to kick the ball deep after we gave up the long kickoff return for a score. The ball was just placed in the right spot, and we really needed the break.”
The Miners (5-4, 3-2 3A Sunset) took advantage of the lucky bounce, going 51 yards in 11 plays. On its near 5-minute drive, Sunrise Mountain relied on senior Trayvon Ward, and he responded with a 9-yard scoring run to make it 19-14 Sunrise Mountain.
Ward finished off the Desert Shields with his third score of the night — a 4-yard run — with just over two minutes remaining.
“In the first three quarters, we didn’t play playoff football,” Sawyers said. “But the final 12 minutes is what we will use to ride into next week. The players know what’s at stake, and we‘ll certainly be focused this upcoming week for the task at hand.”
Ward led all rushers with 129 yards on 28 carries for Sunrise Mountain. Hayes completed 15 of 23 passes for 172 yards, with Xavier Kyle grabbing seven for 79 yards and Te’andre Ward adding six receptions for 81 yards.
Joshua Rose found Anthony Walker on a 47-yard score for the lone offensive touchdown for (2-6, 1-4). Rose threw for 149 yards for the Desert Shields, with Walker having five grabs for 87 yards.