By Alex Zener
Six games into the regular season with a 5-1 overall record, the Aztecs seem to have recaptured some of the magic they had two years ago when they went 8-0 in a shortened season, due to COVID, before losing in the post season to Hamilton.
Corona’s only loss so far has been to Chandler in the second game of the season. The Aztecs rebounded after that 50-0 loss to the Wolves to defeat Perry, 21-13; Sunnyslope, 37-9; Shadow Ridge, 45-14; and Mountain Pointe, 35-28.
The Aztecs’ 45-14 win against Shadow Ridge may have gotten the team noticed in the media, especially when the passing of junior quarterback Connor Ackerley and receptions by sophomore Raiden Vines-Bright and junior Zuri Glenn made the Maxpreps.com highlight reels for the weekend of Sept. 30.
Ackerley, who completed 15 of 22 passes for a total of 415 yards and six touchdowns against the Stallions, made No. 1 in Maxpreps.com’s Longest Passes highlight reel for his 95-yard touchdown pass to Vines-Bright.
Glenn only caught two passes against Shadow Ridge from Ackerley, but both were big catches. His 71-yard touchdown reception from Ackerley made Maxprep.com’s No. 1 in the Big Time Touchdown highlight reel. His second reception was an 80-yard touchdown pass.
Vines-Bright also had a second receiving touchdown against the Stallions, while juniors Crew Swearingen and Cameron Guess each had one receiving touchdown.
The Aztecs moved the ball on the ground over 100 yards against Shadow Ridge, with senior Jovin Gomez as the leading rusher with 13 carries for 55 yards.
Senior Jonathan Kubat carried the ball only four times but made big yardage averaging almost 11 yards per carry. His longest gain was 35 yards.
Corona’s defense was active, holding the Stallions to only two touchdowns, with senior Aalijah Burn as the leading tackler and a total of nine tackles, followed by junior Brandon Holmes who had four solo and four assisted tackles for a total of eight.
Three players had seven total tackles, including junior Isaiah McKay who led the team in solo tackles with six. Senior Marcel McKay had three solo and four assisted tackles, while junior Elijah McKay had two solo and five assisted tackles.
Junior Ty Abella and Isaiah McKay each had a quarterback sack, while junior Key’von Thomas had the only interception. Senior Myles Larsen recovered a Shadow Ridge fumble.
Senior kicker Carston Kieffer got to show off his kicking ability, scoring a total of nine points, six point-after kicks and one 45-yard field goal, while averaging 63.6 yards in six kickoffs where five of these six resulted in touchbacks.
The Aztecs needed to rely more on their ground game in their 35-28 win against Mountain Pointe on Oct. 14 with three of their five touchdowns scored running the ball.
Kubat was the leading rusher with 23 carries for 86 yards scoring two touchdowns, while Ackerley ran for 35 yards and one touchdown.
Ackerley was able to complete 17 of his 27 attempted passes for a total of 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Glenn caught three of those passes for a total of 87 yards and one touchdown while Swearingen caught six passes for 66 yards and one touchdown.
Senior Bennett Marsler was the second leading receiver on the team, catching five passes for a total of 76 yards or an average of 15.2 yards a catch.
Holmes gained 100 yards for the Aztecs on four kickoff returns where he returned one ball for a 33-yard gain while Thomas returned three Mountain Point punts. His longest was for 37 yards.
On defense, Burn led the team in tackles with five solo and six assisted for a total of 11 tackles followed by Gomez with 10 assisted tackles.
Senior Tristan Shafer had two solo and six assisted with two tackles for loss and a quarterback sack which resulted in an 18-yard loss.
Junior CJ Suiter had seven total tackles while seniors Ryne Cook, Trey Fanene and Matt Orthmann each had six total tackles.
Junior punt kicker Malcolm Flynn punted the ball two times against the Pride, averaging 37 yards a punt while Kieffer was five for five on PAT kicks.
With four games left in the regular season, three of those in Corona’s 6A Central section, the Aztecs have a good chance to make it into the post season playoffs.
The Aztecs had what looked on paper to be a winnable game against Desert Vista on Oct. 21, but the Thunder will no doubt be motivated by the chance to spoil Corona’s chances to make it into the playoffs.
Desert Vista currently has a 1-5 record only defeating Verrado from Buckeye. The Thunder has lost to two teams, Perry and Mountain Pointe, that Corona defeated.
One advantage Corona has is that the game against the Thunder on Oct. 14 was to be a home game as will Oct. 28 against Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez has a current 3-3 record. The only team both the Champions and Aztecs have played is Mesa. Cesar Chavez lost to Mesa on Sept. 16, 47-28, while Corona defeated Mesa, 24-10, the first game of the season on Sept. 2.
The last two games of the regular season will be away games: Nov. 4 at Desert Ridge, a 6A Central section game, and a non-section game at Casteel in Queen Creek on Nov. 10.
The Aztecs will honor their seniors the last home games of the season, Oct. 28.