Coaches are always interested in how their team responds to adversity or momentum switches.
Tempe High football coach Brian Walker got to witness that from his Buffaloes Friday night in a rivalry game with down-the-street McClintock.
After giving up a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the second period that pulled McCllintock within 14-12, the Buffaloes couldn't have responded much better. How does 28 consecutive points and 35 after the visiting Chargers nearly tied the game.
All told a 42-point second period turned a close game to a rout as Tempe beat its longtime rival for the second straight season, 69-38, at Bruce Harper Stadium.
Leading the way in the contest that saw the teams combine for 1,045 yards of offense was Tempe quarterback Emanuel Gant. Gant, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior, passed for 354 yards and five touchdowns. He ran for a another TD and completed scoring passes to four different receivers. He completed 14-of-25 passes and could have logged more yards and completions has it not been for a half-dozen first-half drops by receivers.
“For Emanuel, the sky's the limit,” Walker said. “He has the size, the arm, he's coachable. I wouldn't want any other quarterback in the state.”
Gant and Tempe (3-0) kicked into high gear after Gant had scored on an 8-yard run to make it 14-6 with 12 seconds elapsed in the second quarter. McClintiock responded with Vinny Robles 90-yard kickoff return that stunned the Tempe sideline, but only for about 90 seconds. Gant marched the Buffs to the first of four unanswered touchdowns with his first TD pass — 19 yards to Sebastian Watkins to make it 21-12.
Tempe wasn't just about the pass. Transfer running back Kam'ron Johnson dashed 56 yards for a touchdown with 7:07 left in the quarter to improve the lead to 28-12. Two more Gant TD passes — one each to Osvaldo Gomez (36 yards) and Massiah Smith (51 yards) — and the game was out of reach at 42-12. The teams traded TDs in the final three minutes of the half. McClintock's Dominic Orona tossed a 53-yard pass to Juwan Vinson and Johnson scored the second of his three rushing TDs with 12 seconds left in the half to make it 49-18 Johnson's night wasn't too shabby as he rushed for 15 times for 146 yards.
“I don't think I've seen a 42-point quarter, unless it was a couple years ago against us,” Walker said. “I'm the special teams coach, so it's my fault they scored on that kickoff. …. I should have never had us kick it deep.”
McClintock (2-1) had an early opportunity to set the tone for the second half. The Chargers recovered a Tempe fumble on the kickoff and had a first-and-goal at the Tempe 3. A motion penalty – one of 15 flags thrown on the Chargers Friday night — helped Tempe forge a goal-line stand and the Buffaloes stopped McClintock on fourth down at the 1.
Four plays later, Gant hooked up with Quntion Garrett on a 94-yard catch-and-run TD to open the second-half scoring. Gant tossed a 34-yard TD pass to Garrett on the next possession to make it 62-18 midway throught the third period.
McClintock didn't have a poor night on offense — aside for some costly penalties that nullified two TDs. McClintock totaled 486 yards, 300 on the ground. More than half that rushing total came in the final period against Tempe's back-ups.
Orona, a converted wide receiver this season, completed 10-of-21 passes for 186 yards, one TD and threw one interception. He also rushed for two TDs. Orona entered the game having thrown for 537 yards and eight TDs.