ELOY — For the first time since 2017 the Thatcher Eagles ended the game on the wrong side of the score to a 2A opponent. Santa Cruz topped Thatcher 21-14 to end the streak. It was the first win for a Santa Cruz team over Thatcher since a 42-0 win in 1990.
The Dust Devils took the opening kickoff and capped the drive with a 6 yard touchdown run from David Avilez to take an early 7-0 lead.
The Eagles offense had a hard time getting going against a stout Santa Cruz defensive line but managed a Gavin Bryce 1 yard score to tie the game early in the 2nd quarter. Both teams traded possessions in the middle of the field before Marc Wren found Kyle O’Donnal on a 25 yard pass just before halftime and Thatcher took a 14-7 lead into the break.
Santa Cruz punched in a 2 yard Hunter Ogle run in the 3rd quarter but the PAT attempt was blocked and Thatcher held a slim 14-13 lead. The situation felt eerily similar to the 2016 playoff game between these two teams when the Eagles held on for the win.
That wasn’t the case however on Friday. Thatcher had the football with 3 minutes remaining in plus territory when the unthinkable happened. Thatcher coughed up the ball and Santa Cruz recovered with just less than three minutes on the clock.
Ogle lead the Devils to near midfield when QB Austin Hukill found a wide open Avilez for a 27 yard gain. The ball appeared to hit the ground and skip into the receivers hands but the officials called it a clean catch and it set up Santa Cruz for the game winning 3 yard Ogle run with 1:42 remaining.
Thatcher was penalized 14 times for 122 yards. Santa Cruz just half those totals.
The Eagles will have to regroup quickly to prepare for the Pima Roughriders who blew out Tombstone 42-6 on Friday.