PHOENIX - The season ended Nov. 2 for the Williams High School (WHS) football team after their first round state playoff loss at the Arizona Lutheran Academy Coyotes (9-2). The Williams Vikings (9-2) lost their postseason matchup against the Coyotes 49-28.
Even though the year ended with a first round playoff loss, it was still a successful year for Vikings football. The team matched its best overall record in the Jeff Brownlee era.
However, right from the kickoff Arizona Lutheran showed it was the better team dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
"We have one senior, the rest are sophomores on that front line, and you could just tell that Arizona Lutheran had more experience on the offensive and defensive line," head coach Brownlee said. "And that caused us problems for the whole game."
Brownlee said Arizona Lutheran is a great team, they came out right from the start and controlled the line of scrimmage and made Williams play catch-up the rest of the game. But he was also proud of how his team never quit and "played their hearts out."
The Coyotes jumped out to a 35-6 halftime lead. The only first half score by the Vikings was a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Brownlee to Oscar Nunez, and the Vikes missed their point after touchdown (PAT) attempt.
"At halftime we just told the kids to go out there and play with pride, and have some fun. We upped our intensity in the second half and our kids played much better as a result," said Brownlee. "As a coach I'm excited to see that our kids continued to play and not just put their heads down and take a beating. We were very competitive in the second half."
In the third quarter Brownlee connected to Nunez again, this time for a 13-yard touchdown. Kohl Nixon converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Brownlee. In the fourth quarter Brownlee scored on a two-yard rush, with Coty Baxter running for the two-point conversion. Later in the fourth, Brownlee had another touchdown run, this one for one yard. The Vikings failed on the two-point conversion attempt.
Williams ended up outscoring Arizona Lutheran 22-14 in the second half, but the first half deficit was just too much to overcome.
The Coyotes unconventional play style of onside kicking after every score never seemed to backfire as their defense held most of the time, even after consistently giving the Vikings good field position. The Coyotes did recover one onside kick in the first quarter however.
"We're not the biggest school, but we had a bunch of kids get together this year and put up some big wins against some local rivals; Sedona, Camp Verde, Chino, and Page," Brownlee said. "We had a fun season."
Brownlee estimates 26 kids came out for football at the beginning of the season and they ended the campaign with roughly 19 players. He said the lack of kids involved with the football program hurts their depth and he hopes more will come out next year.
"Somehow we need to get things turned around so kids want to be involved with sports. It helps their self-esteem and their character to be part of a team sport," said Brownlee. "Depth was a factor for us this year and we were just really young on the line. Nice thing about it though is that line will mature together and grow into a solid unit. Overall I'm very pleased. I know I just really want to get that first win in the first round there, but we're just not quite there yet."
Brownlee said he plans on coaching the Vikings until they kick him out and looks forward to further improving the team and developing quarterback Aiden Grantham into the starter next season. Senior quarterback Brownlee graduates in May.
Seniors Nunez, Adrian Solano, Daniel Baldwin, Cody Dick, and Alessandro Fadda also played their last game in a Vikings uniform.