The Phoenix All-Stars overcame a slow start and avenged a heartbreaking loss last season with a 14-9 win Friday over the Chicago Land All-Stars in the AYF National Championships in Orlando.
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Phoenix, a 17-14 loser to Chicago on a late field goal last season, was slow out the blocks. Chicago had 65 yards total offense in the first quarter. Phoenix had 9. But all Chicago had to show for it was a missed field goal.
The second quarter started no differently. Pinned deep in their own territory after a goal-line stand at the end of the first, Phoenix managed just 1 yard in six plays, getting a first down on a pass-interference penalty only to turn the ball over at the 12 on an interception.
The Phoenix defense stiffened, holding Chicago to a field goal. And when Doc O'Connor took a short pass from Bryce Perkins and turned it into a 40-yard touchdown for Phoenix, momentum was with the Arizonans.
That shifted in a little over a minute and a half. Chicago scored on a 43-yard TD run, Phoenix blocked the conversion attempt, and it was 9-6 Chicago.
A short punt on the next possession set up Chicago with good field position. James Scott intercepted a pass, however, with 1:20 left.
Phoenix made it to the Chicago 38 on a Perkins pass to Jackson Loney, who made a sensational catch, for 21 yards. When Perkins completed a 17-yarder to O'Connor a play later, it looked like a late-half threat. But the play was called back for holding, and the half ended 9-6.
The second half belonged to Phoenix, beginning with the first series after intermission. After receiving the kickoff, Ryan Velez gained 19 yards on the second play, and Perkins carried five straight times, once on a scramble, for 32 yards, then passed the final 9 to Branson Tibbs for the TD.
Phoenix led 14-9 with 5:15 left in the quarter, and Chicago hadn't touched the ball yet in the second half. When they did, Phoenix stalled a seven-play drive by inches on a fourth-and-4, taking over at their own 28 with 38 seconds in the quarter.
The Phoenix defense, led by bone-crushing linebacker Zac Archer, took over the game in the fourth quarter. They gave up just 36 yards and had two takeaways, one of a strip by Archer and recovery by Braden Kartchner and the other on an interception by Daniel Mahan.