Phoenix Central turned a 12-point halftime deficit into a 33-19 win over Phoenix South Mountain, handing the 5A school its first loss of the season.
Central, of 6A, got big performances from wide receiver-defensive back Jose Escalera, who caught two touchdowns and intercepted two passes, and quarterback Andrew Taylor.
The game was called with just under three minutes to play and Central with the ball and the lead. Running back Alonzo Cortes had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after helmet-to-helmet contact on a running play, and was transported to a hospital.
Cortes gave a thumbs up as he was wheeled out of the stadium between two rows of teammates.
South Mountain (4-1) started well, with Cesar Caperon returning an interception 35 yards for the game’s opening touchdown. Later, Jeremiah Williams hit Dontae Lee for a 20-yard TD pass and Xavier Palmer crossed the goal line from a yard out for a 19-7 lead.
A pair of 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Central helped South Mountain get its third score.
But that would be all for South Mountain. Injuries to Williams (ankle) and top running back Marlon Noralez (elbow) grounded the offense, and Central’s offense got rolling in the second half.
Taylor threw two scoring passes to Darryl Knighton and another to Escalera. He also ran for a touchdown with 4:09 left in the third quarter.
Central improved to 2-2.
Escalera totaled seven catches for 162 yards, two touchdown receptions, plus two interceptions. His touchdown catches went for 80 and 53 yards.
Escalera finished with two touchdowns and two interceptions leading Phoenix Central to a 33-19 win over Phoenix South Mountain.
Jose M. Romero/Special to azcentral sports
Marlon Noralez had 90 rushing yards before leaving the game with an elbow injury.
Central’s Cosmas and Eloi Kwete were forces on defense, getting in the backfield for sacks and tackles for losses frequently.
Andrew Taylor, only a sophomore, threw an interception on his first pass of the game. He went on to 9-of-15 passes for 263 yards, three scores and a rushing touchdown.
QUOTES OF THE GAME
“The actual positive is we get to see how we really are. Are we bullies, are we good when we’re rolling high, or can we bounce back?” – South Mountain co-head coach Mark Carter.
“4-1, we’ve won more games than South Mountain has in the last three or four years, so now we have that winning mentality.” – South Mountain co-head coach Marcus Carter.
“His feet are moving, his hands are moving. Hopefully it’s just a little crick in the neck and he’s good to go.” – Central coach Jon Clanton on Cortes
“He was a man tonight. The senior stepped up for us. We needed him and that’s what he’s supposed to do.” – Clanton, on Escalera.
We’re getting better every week. That’s our goal, is to win five straight.” – Clanton.
STAT OF THE GAME
South Mountain gained 205 yards of offense in the first half, 41 in the second.
South Mountain hosts Phoenix Camelback in its 5A Union conference opener on Sept. 29, after a bye. Central plays at Camelback next Friday.