Green Valley coach Brian Castro thought his team’s 21-point halftime deficit Friday night was because of self-inflicted wounds.
The only damage the Gators did in the second half was to Sierra Vista.
Seventh-ranked Green Valley scored 26 unanswered points in the second half to claim a 26-21 victory over the visiting Mountain Lions.
“I told them going in at the half that everything that happened to us we did to ourselves,” Castro said. “That’s a good football team over there. I’m not taking anything away from them. But we made a lot of mistakes on both sides of the football and on special teams. We’ve got to play a complete football game.”
The Gators (3-0) needed a spark in the second half and found it in junior running back Maaliek Duncan.
Duncan had six carries in the first half but carried the load in the third quarter, rushing for three touchdowns to get the Gators back into the game. He finished with 216 yards on 20 carries.
“He’s kind of got a little second gear that some of our bigger guys don’t have,” Castro said of Duncan, listed at 5 feet 6 inches and 150 pounds. “When he does break a tackle, he’s got the speed to go a little bit.”
Duncan showed that speed on two consecutive carries in the third quarter. On the first, he looked to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but then somehow emerged from the fray and streaked downfield for a 70-yard TD run that cut the lead to 21-14.
“He’s a tough dude,” Castro said. “He keeps his legs churning. You’d think a little guy would get tackled by the first guy, but he does a good job of keeping his legs going and finding a way.”
On the first play of the next possession, Duncan took the handoff, patiently waited for the play to develop and sprinted 49 yards up the middle for another touchdown. The Gators missed the extra point, leaving Sierra Vista with a 21-20 lead with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
The Gators came out and pounded the football, rushing for 262 yards in the second half and finishing with 323 yards on the ground. That total is even more impressive considering the team lost 39 yards on two first-half fumbles.
“We did some things that are pretty uncharacteristic in the first half,” Castro said. “We turned the ball over and did some stupid things with it. And we knew we had to get back to the running game in the second half, and we did that. And thank God our offensive line showed up to play.”
That strong offensive line play continued on the team’s winning drive. Green Valley ran the ball 11 times on the 15-play, 85-yard scoring drive. Noah Hawthorne, who had 20 carries for 121 yards, capped the drive with a 14-yard scoring run with 3:24 left.
“We had our heads down at halftime, but we just came back,” Duncan said.
Along with the running game, the Gators did a great job defensively in the second half. After allowing Jordan Solomon to complete 12 of 16 passes for 218 yards in the first half, they limited him to 5 of 20 in the second.
“Those guys, they played their butts off in the second half,” Castro said of his defense, which sacked Solomon four times.