Tag Archives: Cactus

Defense comes up big in Cactus win


Glendale Cactus has been riding its defense all season long. That didn’t change Friday night in a big Division III win at high-scoring Peoria Sunrise Mountain.

Sunrise Mountain was able to move the ball all night, but when it mattered most, Cactus’ defense came up big in a 49-28 win.

Cactus (7-2) held Sunrise Mountain to nearly half its season average and never gave up a lead it took just before halftime.

“To hold them to 28 points is a hell of a job,” Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said. “They’ve scored a lot of points against everybody.”

Cactus was able to score more in this one as it capitalized on some key Sunrise Mountain mistakes.

One play after Sunrise Mountain fumbled on its first snap of the second half, Cactus’ Jaylon James took a run in 22 yards for a touchdown to give Cactus a 27-14 lead.

Sunrise Mountain answered with a 13-play scoring drive to stay within a touchdown. But Cactus kept some distance as David Neel returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown and a 35-21 lead after a 2-point conversion.

Sunrise Mountain was able to mount another long drive to get back within a touchdown at 35-28, but Cactus’ defense gave up no more.

First, Cactus forced a fumble and turned it into James’ third rushing touchdown. Then on Sunrise Mountain’s next possession, two drive-killing sacks gave the ball back to Cactus.

Cactus ultimately had to punt, but Sunrise Mountain muffed it, setting up Cactus deep in Sunrise Mountain territory.

James’ fourth touchdown two plays later iced the victory and made the game look like more of a blowout than it was.

Sunrise Mountain (7-2) outgained Cactus by about 200 yards, but that was no comfort to Sunrise Mountain coach James Carter.

“We can’t have turnovers against a good team,” Carter said. “And we had too many missed tackles.”

Cactus’ defense stepped up big at the end despite playing most of the game without talented defensive back Anthony Alcala.

Alcala was ejected in the first half for throwing a punch at a Sunrise Mountain player in a tackle pile. He will have to sit out next week’s big game against Peoria Liberty.

Cactus bounces back against Thunderbird


It wasn’t the happiest weeks to be around the Glendale Cactus football team.

After last week’s 53-point loss to Scottsdale Saguaro, Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said the program was embarrassed, and he challenged his team to respond this week against Phoenix Thunderbird.

It took a little more than three quarters to do so, but Cactus finally got it together to erase a 10-point second-half deficit and hand Thunderbird a 21-17 loss in a key Division III game.

Cactus senior Josh Kindred ran back two long punt returns in the fourth quarter, and his second one set up Austin Marshall’s 4-yard touchdown run with four minutes left. That gave Cactus (4-2) its first lead of the game and proved to be the game-winner.

“I wanted to know how we would respond after we got out butts dismantled last week,” Fetkenhier said about the 67-14 loss. “But we found a way to win.”

For most of the game it appeared Thunderbird (3-3) was going to beat Cactus for the first since anybody on the sidelines could remember. Thunderbird’s offense mounted numerous ball-control drives and led from the opening possession until Marshall’s game-winning score for Cactus.

Things definitely looked up for Thunderbird in the third quarter when it held Cactus on downs at the 6 and turned it around for a 94-yard scoring drive to give it a 17-7 lead.

Thunderbird running back Kani Benoit, who had 177 rushing yards on 30 carries, capped the long drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

But instead of folding at that point, Cactus came alive. Quarterback Talil Yousufzai led it on an eight-play scoring drive immediately after Thunderbird’s TD to cut the deficit to 17-14.

Right after that, Kindred’s first long punt return of 55 yards put Cactus in field goal range, but it missed a chance to tie it when the kick went wide left.

But Thunderbird punted back to Kindred on its next possession, and this time he returned it 49 yards to right outside Thunderbird 20. Five plays later Cactus had the win.

Published at azcentral.com • Fri Sep 28, 2012


high schools

Transfer QB learning to lead Cactus offense

by Jason Stone

The offensive system at Glendale Cactus has always been quarterback-centered with past players such as Jonathan Beasley, Jon Stoner and last year’s starter, Michael Putko.
But if new starting quarterback Talal Yousufzai has the year most expect, the first order of business might be to get public-address announcers to learn how to say his name.
“I haven’t even ventured in how to pronounce it,” longtime Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said, joking. “I just call him Yugo, or Yugoslavia or whatever.”
Yousufzai, pronounced You-sef-Za, is now the man for the powerful Division III Glendale program, which came up just short of winning the school’s third state championship last year.
“I just try to break (the name) down for people so it’s easier,” Yousufzai said.
The junior transfer from Phoenix Washington passed for more than 2,600 yards and 26 TDs in 2011 before his family moved into Cactus’ enrollment zone during second semester last year.
But with Cactus’ complex system to master, the 6-3, 200-pounder is still a work in progress, Fetkenhier says.
“He is spectacular in some moments, and then there are moments where I know he’s frustrated,” Fetkenhier said. “The offense will come around. It’s just a matter of when.”
Fetkenhier said Cactus’ defense, which shut out five opponents last year, is clearly ahead of the offense as it prepares for Friday’s season opener.
Two players Cactus is counting on for big years are linebacker Zac Bradley and cornerback Anthony Alcala. Two former offensive players, backup quarterback Izzy Macias and wide receiver Dallas Allen, will play only defense for the first time as well.
With Cactus losing its top three wide receivers last year, Allen’s move to defense did not seem like a luxury Cactus could afford. But Fetkenhier said he has been so impressed with Alex Armbrust, the team’s fifth receiver last year, and a group of up-and-coming sophomores, that he was able to move Allen.
Cactus has an experienced offensive line back, including starting seniors Ryan Kern (center) and R.J. Deande (right guard).
It adds up to high expectations again even if this year’s team is a little more raw than some in the past.
“I’m never going to use the word rebuilding,” Fetkenhier said. “It’s just somebody else’s turn now. If you use the term rebuild we give ourselves an excuse.”
For the first time, Cactus will be traveling out of state for a game. It will play a team from Bakersfield, Calif., in a game in Los Angeles on Sept. 1.

Published at azcentral.com • Aug. 21, 2012

high schools

Ironwood frosh leads list of state track winners

by Jason Stone

Some runners call track’s 800 meters the hardest race to complete. It is not a sprint, nor is it a distance run, making it tricky for some.
That does not apply to Ironwood freshman Leah Ybarra.
In only a handful of races, Ybarra went from randomly trying the event to state champion.
Ybarra won the 800-meter dash at the 5A state track and field championship at Arizona State University last week after picking up the event midway through the season “to help the team score some points.”
Normally a 100-meter sprinter, Ybarra has never lost an 800 race.
“I’m still really surprised,” the 15-year-old Ybarra said.
Ybarra held off city-foe Shelley Splittberger of Deer Valley in the 800, winning with a time of two minutes, 14.56 seconds, just .15 of a second ahead of Splittberger.
Ybarra wasn’t the only local state champion in the 800.
Mountain Ridge’s Reese Byerrum won his second consecutive boys 800 title by turning in a time of 1:52.09. He outpaced Deer Valley’s Chris Tabanico, who finished third at 1:56.00.
Ybarra and Byerrum helped their teams finish the highest among local schools.4c50a16f6c0e7.image
Ironwood’s girls finished with 36 points to take fifth as a team, behind South Mountain, Desert Vista, Flowing Wells and (Mesa) Mountain View.
Mountain Ridge’s boys finished in a tie for 12th.
Ironwood and Deer Valley’s boys teams nearly collected some state champions.
Ironwood’s Paul Gill took second in the high jump and actually tied the mark for highest jump at 6 feet, 10 inches. Teammate Skylar Hagg finished third in the long jump with a leap of 21-10.
In addition to Tabanico’s third-place finish in the 800, Deer Valley received a third place from Jason Thier in the discus.
Among local 5A girls, Ironwood was bolstered by points in six events beside Ybarra’s win.
The 4×100 relay team took third, while the 4×400 team finished fourth. Sarah Reeves picked up points in the triple jump (fifth) and long jump (sixth), while Kelsey Klein was sixth in the high jump and Valerie Scott took sixth in the 100 hurdles.
The 4A races at Mesa Community College crowned Greg Lacey a two-time champion.
The junior at Glendale High School, defended his state championship in the long jump and added the triple jump title to his resume.
Lacey leaped 22-6½ in the long jump and 44-8 in the triple jump to help Glendale finish 11th as a team, the highest of all local 4A boys teams.
Lacey’s brother, Craig, also picked up points with a fourth-place finish in the shot put.
Cactus and Apollo picked up points without winning any events.
The Cobras got a sixth-place finish from Josh Butler in the 800, while their 4×800 relay team took sixth.
Apollo’s Prince Amukamara (fourth in the 100) and Monti Washington (eighth in the high jump) scored the Hawks’ points.
In the 4A girls race, Cactus’ Jessica McDonald followed up a triple championship in last week’s Wells Fargo Region meet with a state title in the 400 to help the Cobras take second as a team.
McDonald turned in a time of 55.26 seconds in the 400 to win by half a second over Lake Havasu’s Meaghan Ryan.
McDonald also took third in the 100 and 200.
The Cobras were also helped by a second-place showing from Katherine Allen in the high jump. Allen leaped 5-4 to lose to Agua Fria’s Linda Ubah by two inches.
The Cobras’ 4×400 relay team also took second, while Cactus’ 4×100 relay squad ended up seventh.
Sophia Guerrero was fourth in the shot put to round out Cactus’ scoring.
Apollo, Glendale and Independence each had one state girls placer.
Precious Amukamara was sixth in the 200, while Dominque Mayberry was third in the 300 hurdles for Independence and Fantina Santiago was eighth in the discus for Glendale.

Published at glendalestar.com • May 22, 2005

high schools

Prep teams battle for state positioning

by Jason Stone

Bats will ping and guns will sound as local baseball, softball and track teams get into playoff form this week.
As of Tuesday morning, a handful of local baseball and softball teams were still alive for their respective region championships, prior to next week’s state competition.
Cactus softball, looking for its third-straight 4A championship before conferences are split next year, will host the championship of the Wells Fargo Region Friday.
Deer Valley, meanwhile, ended as the top softball team in the 5A Northwest Region and earned the No. 1 seed at the postseason tournament. Mountain Ridge finished second.
In baseball, Mountain Ridge has the No. 1 seed for this week’s 5A Northwest Region championship series against Goldwater, the team that upset the Mountain Lions in regionals last year.
Ironwood, meanwhile, entered the 5A Desert West Region tournament as the No. 3 seed.
Track and field championships for the Northwest, Desert West, Desert Sky, Skyline and Wells Fargo regions will also be held this week as teams get one last chance at qualifying for next week’s state meets.

Published at glendalestar.com • May 4, 2005