#10 Eastern Upends #7 Glendale
Thatcher, AZ --
The tide is turning in the WSFL. A league long dominated by Snow College (Utah) and Glendale better make room for Eastern Arizona College. The Gila Monsters (NJCAA No. 10 ranking) made a statement Saturday night by beating the No. 7 Glendale Gauchos 21-13 in Thatcher. It was EAC's first victory over Glendale since 1997. Monsters' quarterback Pat Riley put Eastern on top five minutes into the first quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Jones. The Gauchos scored the next 10 points on a 22-yard field goal by Bryan Bonilla and a 16-yard reception by Tyrell Grant-Johnson from Brian Wiedeman. Eastern (3-0) was down 10-7, but on the ensuing kickoff after the Grant-Johnson touchdown, Monsters running back Milton Myers left several Glendale defenders in his wake on the way to a sensational 80-yard kickoff return for a score. The crowd at John T. Mickelson Field was drawn to frenzy as EAC took a 14-10 lead into the locker room.
It was the Monsters defense, however, that stole the show. The Gauchos (1-1) managed only a third quarter field goal in the second half, and preseason first team All-American defensive end Devlin Bayne converged on Wiedeman in the fourth quarter with linebacker Dan Foster to force a fumble near the Glendale end zone. Bayne fell on the ball in the end zone for a Monsters touchdown with 3:04 remaining in the game. The defense stood strong to hold on for the 21-13 win.
A win over perennial power Glendale was an extremely important step for the EAC program. "It's the biggest game I've ever had in my life," Bayne said. "It feels great. I think we're going to win the (national) championship this year. That's our goal." Bayne was a terror on the defensive side of the ball, as he racked up 15 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a score. Foster (12 tackles, sack) was also all over the place and in the Gauchos' backfield most of the night. "That was a big victory for us," Eastern head coach John O'Mera said. "Our defense played real well. "Offensively, we definitely made some mistakes, but we were good enough to hold on and get a big win."
Riley was named the conference special teams player of the week after averaging over 48 yards per punt, downing a punt on the 1-yard line and gaining 30 yards on a fake punt in the Glendale game. The win moved the Monsters from No. 10 in the country to No. 7 in the newest NJCAA football poll. “(The game plan was) to hit them in the mouth and play tough, physical football and establish Eastern Arizona as a power in Arizona — and we at least made the first step (tonight),” O’Mera said. EAC turned the ball over four times (two INTs, two fumbles), but also forced three Glendale turnovers. Defensive back Jay Grant picked off Wiedeman in the fourth quarter and returned the ball 19 yards. Riley completed six of 12 passes for 86 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also picked up 67 yards rushing on 14 carries. Jones had four receptions for 61 yards and a score. The Monsters’ next game is at home Saturday against conference foe Phoenix College at 6 p.m.
Written by Brian Wright
Eastern Arizona Courier