POLACCA, Ariz. - In one of the most exciting games in Hopi High football history, the Bruins beat rival Tuba City 20-18 Sept. 14.
Hopi High improved to 2-2. The Warriors dropped to 2-2.
Hopi led most of the game, Tuba City came charging back to tie, Hopi took the lead with less than three minutes to go in the game, Tuba City scored a touchdown with 26 seconds remaining, but couldn't score the conversion points which would have tied the game.
Blake Sekaquaptewa was the work horse for Hopi as the running back gained 149 yards on 38 carries and scored two touchdowns. Sekaquaptewa leads the area in rushing and receiving yardage.
Hopi High Coach Steve Saban also credited Sekaquaptewa with leading the defense with key tackles and neutralizing the Warriors top offensive player.
Coach Saban was thrilled with the victory.
"It's always good to beat Tuba City this time of year, especially this year because they were heavily favored and we were missing six starters," the coach said.
Two starters quit and the others were missing due to injuries or academic ineligibilities.
"We'll be fine in the coming weeks. We just need to plug some holes," Saban said. "Our kids stepped up against Tuba City and took advantage of getting playing time."
Coach Saban said the last minute nail biter was a good game to be part of and a great game for the fans. He said it came down to execution because when Hopi scored the conversion points after the last touchdown it put extra pressure on Tuba City.
Saban has been coaching for four years and he felt that this victory was among his best.
"It was a big win for the program," he said.
Coach Saban said the Bruins played well on offense, but need to be more consistent. He added that they would have won the previous week against Ganado if not for the turnovers. He said their game plan was to get four to five yards a crack in order to play ball control.
Coach Saban said the Hopi defense also played well, but missed interception opportunities by dropping three potential interceptions.
"Tuba City has a good offense, but Blake helped us neutralize them," he said.
Coach Saban said the Bruins special teams need work as some of the new players don't quite have their timing down.
He said Hopi High football has a chance at a great season if they stay healthy and academically eligible. The problem is that the Bruins don't have a lot of depth if they lose players.
"We have a good shot at making state if we win out," he said.
Neither team scored in the first period, but toward the end of the quarter Hopi started a 68 yard nine play scoring drive.
Sekaquaptewa keyed the drive with a 12 yard run and a 28 yard screen pass reception. However, it was Clayton Howard scoring on an eight yard pass from Alan Joshevama for the score with 9:43 left in the second period. A pass failed for the conversion points, but Hopi led 6-0.
About eight plays later, Sekaquaptewa recovered a fumble at the Warrior 17 yard line. Four plays later, Sekaquaptewa cracked in from the four yard line. A run failed for the conversion points attempt, but Hopi led 12-0 with 4:28 left in the half.
Tuba City recovered a fumble on the Bruin 13 yard line with 2:09 left in the half. Hopi held the Warriors for the first three plays, but Tuba City scored on a five yard pass to Eric Tunney with 54 seconds left in the half. The conversion pass attempt failed, but Hopi led 12-6 at intermission.
After Hopi failed to move the ball on the first possession of the third period, Tuba City moved 60 yards on four plays for a TD on a 46 yard pass to Cruz Silas. Again, the pass failed for the conversion points, but the score was tied 12-12 with 7:55 left in the third period.
About midway through the fourth period, Clayton Howard intercepted a pass and Hopi took over at the 31 yard line. Seven plays later, Sekaquaptewa scored on three yard TD run. This time, Joshevama connected with Howard on the pass for the conversion points as the Bruins led 20-12 with 2:53 left in the game.
Tuba City wasn't done. The Warriors used a long pass play to put the ball deep into Hopi territory. Tunney then scored the TD on a five yard run. On the conversion attempt, the Hopi defense sacked the Warrior quarterback in the backfield to assure the victory.
Coach Saban tells his players to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
"The body is a temple. We work hard to get into shape. If the players use drugs or alcohol, it nullifies that," he said.
Coach Saban also makes sure that his players attend tutoring twice a week and have team tutoring once a week.
"We pull grades and assignments, make sure they do their work and then deliver it. That way there is accountability," he said.