Numerous coaches, faculty and players used one word to describe the 2019 Walden Grove football team: “Legacy.”
In the first round of the Class 4A playoffs, the fourth-seeded Red Wolves hosted No. 13 Casa Grande (8-3), but Walden Grove (9-2) fell short 26-19 in Sahuarita on Friday night.
“Great group of kids. No group of kids won this many games in a season. No group of kids won as many games in a career as these kids,” Walden Grove coach Corey Noble said. “We’re laying the foundation for where we go from here.”
Walden Grove jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter following a fumble recovery in the end zone, which resulted in the Red Wolves piecing together a drive that was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alex Lopez to his twin brother Jordan Lopez.
After Walden Grove’s defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Jordan returned a punt 25 yards to set up the Red Wolves just outside the red zone. A 32-yard field goal gave Walden Grove a double-digit lead and the Red Wolves were on track to avenge their regular-season loss to Casa Grande in September.
Casa Grande took charge from there, however.
The Cougars caught momentum and took a 14-10 lead at halftime due to quarterback Angel Flores’ 20-yard touchdown run and 61-yard deep ball to wide receiver Damion Allen.
Flores tacked on two additional rushing touchdowns in the second half.
With Walden Grove down by 14 and facing a fourth-and-long, Alex Lopez threw a 31-yard hook-and-ladder pass to Ty McDermott which was pitched back to Jordan Lopez for a touchdown.
“Our coaches told us we were gonna run that play and we practice once a week so we were ready for it,” Lopez said.
Walden Grove couldn’t convert the onside kick, which iced the game. The Red Wolves finished the season with nine wins, which no other team in program history has done, and won the 4A Gila Region championship.
“The guys in this senior class are gonna have all the records for everything,” Noble said.
“I think this is the best team in Walden Grove history. I’ve seen ‘em all and hands down, this is the best one. Some of the best players and young men — they’re gonna go on and have great college careers. Their story is not done.”