Aztecs top Gilbert to put playoffs within sight

Written by Graham Eversden, Staff Writer

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With three weeks left in the regular season and sitting just outside of playoff position, Corona needed a big win and they got it, defeating Gilbert, 24-16.

The Aztecs were ranked 19th in the state before the game. With only the top 16 teams qualifying for the playoffs, they needed two wins in their last three games to make the playoffs. With this win, it takes the pressure off next week’s game at nationally-ranked Mountain Pointe.

“We’re going to play our best,” junior defensive back Brian McCluskey said. “Our plan is to make the playoffs and we’ll see what we can do next week.”

The defense started out slow, giving up touchdowns on the Tigers’ first two possessions. After that, they found their groove. They surrendered only three points over the remainder of the game.

“We had to rely on the defense,” senior quarterback Austin Helt said. “We knew in the end they would come it clutch and win the game for us.”

After controlling the game for much of the second and third quarters, the Aztecs failed to put Gilbert away. Gilbert drove 85 yards with under a minute to go but the Corona defense held strong, forcing an incompletion on fourth-and-goal.

“We let them hang around when we had a chance to put them away and all of a sudden it turned into an exciting game,” Head Coach Richard Mettlach said. “We have to make plays when we have the chance.”

Corona plays its final two games on the road against Mountain Pointe and at home for senior night against rival Desert Vista. A win in either game would likely lead the Aztecs to their first playoff game in Arizona’s top division in eight years.

The Aztecs aren’t focused on the playoffs just yet.

“The mindset is to go back to work,” Mettlach said. “It’s a tough test next week. We’re probably playing the top team in the state and we will have to be better than we have been to even have a chance.”

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