Pinnacle comes back from halftime deficit to advance in playoffs

What an opening night of playoff action. There were upsets, there were blowouts and there were close ones. Of course, it wouldn’t be playoff football without a little crazy, now would it?

My night started on the West side with some 5A playoff action as No. 1 seeded Centennial hosted No. 16 seeded Sunnyslope to open the playoffs.

The Coyotes got going quick with a pick-six by Eric Cire Fields II on the first play of the game.

From there Centennial would keep it rolling, scoring two more touchdowns in the first quarter to take a commanding 21-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Centennial won this one 49-10 to advance to the quarterfinals where they will take on No. 8 seeded Cienega next week after the Bobcats topped No. 9 Marana 49-28.

My next stop on the night was planned for up the road from the Coyotes, but over in north Phoenix the No. 2 seeded Pinnacle Pioneers were struggling in the first half against the No. 13 seeded Desert Ridge Jaguars down 17-10 at the half, so I shot around the 101 to check out what was happening.

“(Desert Ridge) came out and had a little wrinkle that we hadn’t seen,” Pinnacle head coach Dana Zupke said. “They came out and ran a triple option, so we were scrambling a little bit in the first half. They did a great job in game planning for us and we had to adjust on the fly.”

The Pioneers found the end zone as I walked up to even up the game at 17. From there, they found their rhythm and kept it going, getting the 38-17 win and avoiding being one of the upset games here in the opening round.

“All the coaches said (at the half) we got to go out and we got to get another score and tie it up,” junior quarterback J.D. Johnson said. “We all trust in each other. We knew we were going to pick it up, so we were feeling pretty confident.”

When Johnson was called upon for the first time as the backup at the beginning of the season in a big game against Mountain Pointe, Zupke said he had complete faith in the junior to get the job done. 

That confidence Zupke has in Johnson didn’t waver throughout Friday night’s action.

“Every quarterback is going to go through some times where they’re going to struggle and they’re not going to find their rhythm and stuff early on,” Zupke said. “A different team, playoff jitters, everything is a little bit new. I think he worked through that on the field and got his feet underneath him in the second half.”

With the gritty win, Johnson said he knows now what the Pioneers will need to do to keep moving forward and it starts with getting things going fast.

“We can’t come out slow anymore,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to keep rolling and pick up this momentum and just keep going.”

Pinnacle will host No. 10 seeded Red Mountain next week in 6A quarterfinal action. Red Mountain edged No. 7 Queen Creek 37-34 to advance.