Panthers Uphold Tradition

November 10, 1977

Ensphere

 

LEADING IN:  This year’s rivalry game was played at a new locale, the brand new Ensphere, commonly known as The Dome and formally the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.  Both teams were using it as their home field on Friday nights, more so Flag High (Coconino still had Cromer Stadium, Flag High didn’t really have a home field anymore).  Having maxed out the seating capacities of old Lumberjack Stadium and Cromer Stadium, the 15,000 seats at the Skydome seemed to be more than enough to house a high school game.  Quite the contrary, fans from both schools would manage to fill the Dome to capacity for many years when the rivalry game came around.  Quoting Flag High coach Hadley Hicks, “Our kids loved playing in the Dome.  The locker room facilities were beautiful, the artificial turf which covered the field was a pleasant change from grass.  My only complaint was the noise!  Even a small crowd made the calling of audibles very difficult.  When Flagstaff High School and Coconino High School football fans jammed both sides of the 15,000 capacity Dome, the place was a mad-house!”

 

Winslow had already clinched the AA North title, so there were no playoff implications going into tonight’s game.  Hicks’ Eagles were sporting a 7-2 record and looking for win #8, which would have equaled their total in ’76.  Bill Epperson led Coconino to a 5-4 mark and came into the game as the decided underdog, the writers at the Daily Sun predicting a three-touchdown blowout.  After only eight years of playing one another, the clear-cut favorite had only won once, and the notion that the underdog-favorite concept could be thrown out was already a given for the rivalry series.

 

THE GAME:  The favored Eagles seemed to have control in the first quarter and were in position to score, but as senior tailback Kelvin Gill burst through the line on an off-tackle play, the Panthers D stripped him of the ball, and defensive back Loren Hills recovered it on the Coconino 4.  The Panthers ended the scoring drought in the second quarter with a 10 play, 61 yard drive, culminating with Jesse Crawley’s one-yard dive and Art Kerrick’s extra point.  The Eagles got their first score in the third quarter; Coach Hicks rolled the dice on a fourth-and-ten from the Coconino 11, and his son, quarterback Steve Hicks, hit his other son, receiver Mike Hicks, for the touchdown (Arizona Daily Sun editor Paul Sweitzer had coined the phrase “Hicks to Hicks to Hicks for Six”).  Coconino's All-State linebacker Ron Stalnaker, however, made the play of the game on the extra point as he blasted through the line to block Duane Portwood’s PAT attempt.  That made the score 7-6, and though Flag High had just scored, Coconino still had a slim lead.  The triple-Hicks combination nearly worked again for a 70-yard scoring strike, but it was called back for offensive pass interference.  The Panthers ground down the fourth quarter with Crawley and David Fredericks running right up the gut of the Eagle defense and quarterback Tim Salem completing key passes when needed; Crawley barreled in from four yards out, and though Kerrick’s PAT attempt was blocked by Flag High’s Robert Dowell, the Panthers had a full touchdown lead late in the game, a lead that proved to be the final score.           

 

Coconino 13, Flagstaff 6

 

AT THE END OF THE DAY:  Though the 6-4 Panthers failed to make the playoffs, Epperson was thrilled to have beaten his crosstown rival.  “That game tonight means as much to me as any state championship.  It was a season that might have been, but this was as satisfying a victory as we’ve ever had.” 

 

Jesse Crawley’s 130 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns were impressive, but Flag High’s Coach Hicks pointed out it was Coconino’s dominance at the line of scrimmage that made the difference.  “That’s where they won it.  They outplayed us there.  They beat our offensive and defensive lines.  It was the line that was making the holes.  Anybody could have gone through them.”     

 

SCORING SUMMARY

 

1

2

3

4

F

Coconino

0

7

0

6

13

Flagstaff

0

0

6

0

6

 

CHS:  Crawley 1 run (Kerrick PAT)

FHS:  M. Hicks 6 pass from S. Hicks (kick blocked)

CHS:  Crawley 4 run (kick blocked)

 

TEAM TOTALS

Coconino

 

Flagstaff

13

Score

6

15

First Downs

13

178

Rushing Yards

96

8-5-2

Passing (Att-Comp-Int)

14-4-1

55

Passing Yards

60

233

Total Offense

156

1-1

Fumbles-Lost

3-2

3

Turnovers

3

4-36.5

Punts-Average

3-40.3

3-35

Penalties-Yards

3-35

 

Original story by Rick Velotta of the Arizona Daily Sun; November 11, 1977 

Hicks, Hadley.  So You Wanna Be a Legend.  So Did I.  Bloomington, IN:  WestBow Press, 2010; p. 271-272.  Online.

 





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