The Corona del Sol Aztecs (2-5) looked to get back into the win column and keep their 6A playoff chances afloat with a win over the Mountain Pointe Pride (5-2), but sank 38-13 after a disastrous second half.
The Aztecs established a 13-7 halftime lead, but were outscored 31-0 in the second half, 17 points came in the third quarter after committing four consecutive turnovers.
“We don’t turn the ball over tonight and we win,” coach Jake Barro said. “It’s that simple.”
Corona controlled the first half and played with swagger. Quarterback Connor Ackerley had his way with the Pride secondary despite missing top receiver Raiden Vines-Bright due to injury. On the opening drive, Ackerley hit Zuri Glenn for pickups of 30 and 22 yards before running back Jason Mustacchia punched in the score.
The Pride answered with a touchdown of their own with help of running backs Christian Clark, a Texas commit, and Randall Parker.
The Aztecs were able to pick off the Pride and capitalize before half after Ackerley hooked up with Glenn for a score with under 10 ticks remaining.
But the night quickly unfolded in the third quarter. The Pride cut into the Aztecs’ lead with a field goal, then the Pride forced an interception…then another…then stopped the Aztecs twice on fourth downs.
Four weeks ago Barro stood alone, staring at the scoreboard after getting trounced by the Chandler Wolves. He said he reflected, fully absorbing the feeling of the 42-0 defeat. However, Barro said the fashion of the loss to the Pride outweighed that.
“Yeah, it’s a lot more frustrating when you do it to yourselves,” he said.
“We’re in a good position coming out of halftime and we just turned the ball over,” Barro said. “That’s the story. You can’t give a team like that extra possessions, and we did. It’s a tough 14-point swing that we just couldn’t afford.”
The Aztecs were not out-classed nor was there a disparity in talent, but again self-inflicted wounds plagued Corona.
The Aztecs were down three offensive linemen, and it showed as the game went on. During the first half, Ackerley was able to sit back and pick and chose in the pocket. During the second half, not so much. He was pressured and hurried, leading to errant throws and was sacked three times.
Barro said he expects to have key players back, including Vines-Bright back as the Aztecs host Brophy College Prep in a must-win game to keep their playoff chances alive.