By John Phelps
Big plays were the name of the game Friday night between two of the hottest teams in Division V, Section IV. In the end, though, there was no bigger play than sophomore cornerback Gabriel LeBeau’s deflected pass in the end zone that preserved Tempe Prep’s thrilling 27-26 victory over visiting Scottsdale Prep at Chandler Valley Christian High School.
“I usually play cornerback and switched to safety and went to the corner of the end zone and it was all timing,” said LeBeau, who’s deflected pass came just after Scottsdale Prep scored with no time left on the clock and the decision to go for the two-point conversion and the victory.
“We’ve been working out and getting stronger and our practices have been more intense. We’ve also made some changes with the offensive line and have just been building confidence every week.”
Confidence is an understatement as Tempe Prep now has even more momentum with its seven-game winning streak. And with the victory Friday night, Tempe Prep clinched the section title and a spot in the state playoffs that begin next week.
There were many heroes on both sides this evening, including Tempe Prep sophomore tailback Isaiah Brittain, whose 94-yard touchdown gallop with 2:26 left in the third quarter put Tempe Prep (7-3, 7-0) ahead in what turned out to be for good.
Brittain, who also scored the game’s first touchdown on a six-yard scamper three minutes into the first quarter, finished with 177 yards on 15 carries.
“Wow,” was the first reaction from Scottsdale Prep fourth-year coach Will Munsil right after the two-point conversion in the end came up short. “Those were two teams in a shear battle. Both teams played extremely hard. It just came down to who made the big play at the right time and Tempe Prep did that.”
Scottsdale Prep (7-3, 6-1) was on a nice little five-game winning streak of its own coming into tonight and still has a good shot for a playoff berth even after the heartbreaking loss.
Tempe Prep came out like gangbusters in the first quarter. After Brittain’s opening score, brother Zachariah Brittain, a junior fullback, raced in from 40 yards for a 14-0 lead after the opening act.
Then it was Scottsdale Prep’s turn as it scored the next 14 points on the strength of two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Nick Smith, who tossed for 257 yards on 22-of-34 completions. Brittain first hooked up with junior wide out Ben McKeighan from 29 yards and then with senior wide out Matt Munsil from 15 yards and we had ourselves a 14-14 deadlock heading into halftime.
Scottsdale Prep took its first lead at 20-14 when senior running back Greyson Boyll dashed in from 10 yards out with 8:49 left in the third quarter. Tempe Prep then responded when senior quarterback Benjamin LeBeau darted in from 12 yards out for a 21-20 lead with 6:03 left in the third. Then four minutes later came Isaiah Brittain’s long touchdown run for a 27-20 Tempe Prep advantage.
Scottsdale Prep senior Jon Crowe later recovered a fumble off of a botched snap on a Tempe Prep punt attempt and there was one last chance to draw even or win with just 13 seconds left in regulation.
With no time on the clock, a hail mary from Smith to Munsil with three defenders on him was answered before the unsuccessful two-point conversion
“Since losing our first three games, our confidence has been growing every week,” said Tempe Prep coach Thomas Brittain. “We lacked a little consistency but did well enough in the battle of the trenches to pull out the win.”
In addition to his 94-yard touchdown run, Isaiah Brittain also recorded a big sack with Scottsdale Prep driving late in the fourth quarter. Junior outside linebacker Jonah Simminger also picked off two Smith passes.
Crowe also recovered two fumbles and Boyll picked off a second quarter LeBeau pass to lead the Scottsdale Prep defense.