Home Coyote Spotlight Rare Air: Rookies Reach for the Sky in 19-14 Win Over Thunder

Rare Air: Rookies Reach for the Sky in 19-14 Win Over Thunder


(ANZA) — After nearly 52 minutes of physical, dominating, shut-out football, the ‘Darkside Defense’ of the SoCal Coyotes gave up two quick scores to allow the visiting San Diego Thunder a late opportunity to make it interesting, before closing out a 19-14 victory over a second-straight playoff-caliber opponent.

It was the Coyotes first win over the Thunder in franchise history, as they improved to 3-1 in the nation’s top-ranked LaBelle Community Football League. But the Coyotes led the entire way, and the game shouldn’t have been close.

“We’re just very young,” said head coach J David Miller. “We’re still learning how to put great teams away. But this class of rookies has unbelievable skills. They’re only beginning to trust and understand each other, and they’re getting more confident and better with every snap. They won a little ugly there at the end, but that beats losing pretty.”

After a three-week bye, the rusty Coyotes showed their youth, repeatedly self-destructing in the red zone — two dropped touchdowns, a fumble crossing the goal line on another, and a holding penalty that reversed a fourth. For most of the afternoon, the suffocating Coyotes defense, led by linebackers Devin Jones, Cade Cowdin and Robert Caldwell, totally stifled the Thunder, and forced five turnovers. Fierce pressure came from Jeremiah Spicer, Cedric Cox and Javonte Brown.

The SoCal offense easily controlled time of possession with long drives that also pounded the Thunder on the ground. Both Rashad ‘The Franchise’ Roberts and Stevie Will (pictured) had 15-yard touchdown receptions from rookie quarterback Michael Karls, who completed 15 of 28 for 173 yards. Will led all receivers with five catches for 65 yards, while James Calhoun had two circus grabs for 42. Dan Kelly kicked a pair of field goals from 26 and 32 yards. The Coyotes running game produced 111 yards on 30 carries.

Karls rushed 17 times for 58 yards; S back LeRon Wilson carried 10 times for 39 yards, and DeMario Brown rushed three times for 14 yards. But after another turnover gave the Thunder the ball with eight minutes to play, a blown coverage resulted in a flash 87-yard touchdown. The Coyotes marched down for another apparent score, but fumbled on the goal-line, and San Diego answered with a second score with 21 seconds left in the game.

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