Last Friday: Falcons shock Ironwood in final seconds, 21-20, Capping three celebrations at home opener

Andrew Young's clutch touchdown pass, Michael Marchica's placekicking lift CSHS to season's first W
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Michael Marchica #8 Andrew Young (Quarterback #9)  Matt Sill #23

Players from l to r: Michael Marchica #8, Andrew Young (Quarterback #9) ,
Matt Sill #23

Photo by: Gina Brown

CSHS – Under “Friday night lights” at Falcon Stadium, there were more positives to celebrate than just the Falcons' unbelievable finish to their 21-20 victory over the (Glendale) Ironwood Eagles. As it would have been, Cactus Shadows' dramatic win, their first in the 2015 season, highlighted the Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

But close behind was the pregame ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly installed artificial turf playing field, a major project in “Rebuild 'The Nest,'” Cactus Shadows athletic facilities improvement program. CCUSD Governing Board members, Cactus Shadows Principal Dr. Steve Bebee and CSHS Athletic Director Mike Siwek were the representing officials. Congratulations to all who helped make this significant upgrade.

And, it was also “Future Falcons Night,” with Cave Creek Youth Football players proudly wearing game jerseys, their ticket to free admission. Well deserved recognition, I offer, for Falcon Football's “farm system.”

By this writer's “math,” I calculate that if Falcons' sophomore quarterback, Andrew Young, can stay injury-free, he'll be on track to make at least 27 starts, counting from next Friday night at Moon Valley through the final game of his senior season in fall 2017. But he may never again have the opportunity to quarterback a last seconds victory that will equal the excitement of last Friday night's home opener. What didn't show on the Falcon Stadium scoreboard was the incalculable boost to the young signal-caller's confidence. To Andrew Young, “Well-done!”

With the Falcons operating from the Eagle six, trailing, 14-20, at 14:44 of the 4th quarter, Young rolled left out of the pocket, looking for an open receiver in the Ironwood end zone. As he was about to be chased out-of-bounds, Young spotted junior Hayden Rummel separating from his Eagle defender and breaking back toward his scrambling quarterback. Relying upon instinctive athleticism, Young was able to flip a six-yard pass to Rummel for the tieing touchdown. CSHS, 20 – Ironwood, 20.

Enter sophomore Michael Marchica, stepping up for injured placekickers senior Brendon Long and Michael's older brother, Captain Antonio Marchica. Off a good snap by junior Joseph Emnett, and the sure-handed hold of Captain Matt Sill, Michael nailed the PAT, making him 3-for-3 in his untested role as the Falcons' No. 3 placekicker, proving to Coach Hudnutt that having two Marchicas is better than one!

With only 14 seconds left to play: CSHS, 21 – Ironwood, 20. Time for Falcon seniors to start getting ready to lead the post game singing of the CSHS fight song in front of the West Stands. Not so fast, Falcons! There are enough seconds remaining for Ironwood to move within range for a shot at a game-winning field goal.

Conventional football strategy calls for the Falcons either to kick off deep, risking an Ironwood long return, or try to bounce the football shorter and along the turf, hopefully “eating clock” in the process. But hold up, Falcon fans! Coach Hudnutt opts to surprise the run-back focused Eagles with an on-side kickoff. (As I opined in Sonoran News some years ago, “Hang around high school sports long enough and you're all but guaranteed to see things you'd never imagined!”)

Michael Marchica was far from done. Not only did he perfectly bounce the ball ten yards required; but then he recovered the doggone kick, giving the Falcons game-ending possession! If the voice of New York Yankees radio, John Sterling, had been doing Falcon Stadium public address, he might very well have exclaimed, “Thuh-uh Fal-cons WIN! Thuh-uh Fal-cons WIN!” And that, they most certainly did.

So now, Andrew Young & Company here's hoping that your one-for-the-ages opening home game win will give the Falcons a much-needed jump-start to stay on their flight path to a winning season.

And thanks to Coach Hudnutt for helping me report this unforgettable game.