Artichokes hold on to defeat Mesa

The Artichokes head into the playoffs on a high after a close win over Mesa on Saturday


Nicholas Tirella/Scottsdale Chronicle

Artichokes quarterback Tyler Bruggman drops back and aims for wide receiver Dion Martinez (offscreen) as offensive lineman Jalen Neal (75) loses his helmet and the pocket collapses.

Nicholas Tirella, Sports Editor

It was a dogfight to the end, but the Scottsdale Fighting Artichokes held on to defeat the Mesa Thunderbirds on Saturday night.

The 27-20 final score reflected a very close game with a tight finish. This game was crucial for the Artichokes to win in order to play in the Valley of the Sun Bowl for the third consecutive year. With this win  at Mesa, the Artichokes finish the regular season 4-4 with a chance to win the Sun Bowl, unlike last year when they lost to Nassau Community College.

Head coach Doug Madoski treated this game like any other and knew that the Thunderbirds were not to be taken lightly despite their 2-5 record.

“Mesa has lost some games that they probably shouldn’t have and I think we lost some games we shouldn’t have lost, but we knew it was going to be a dogfight, especially when you play this close to each other,” Madoski said.

On Saturday, the Artichokes played very well on both sides of the ball, and kept the game close. One problem for the Artichokes was the emotional component of the rivalry with Mesa, as many flags were tossed on both teams for unsportsmanlike conduct. The best thing that the Artichokes did tonight was not let up on the gas and not give up so easily, like they did in previous games this season. Saturday’s game came down to the fourth quarter, where the Artichokes were tied 20-20 with the Thunderbirds. Throughout the game, the Artichokes offense moved the ball and played with pace, but in the fourth, they really needed to score. The Artichokes had the ball around Mesa’s 40 yard- line with three minutes left, and on third down, quarterback Tyler Bruggman threw a deep post route to wide receiver Hiram Velez for the eventual game-winning touchdown.

“I feel like we preformed pretty good as a team,” Velez said. “Our offense still needed a couple unanswered points so we’re going to come out next week and work.”

The defense needed to stop the Thunderbirds from answering  the Artichoke touchdown and the ensuing drive was a crucial stand for the Artichokes. The Thunderbird quarterback threw a deep route and one-on-one, Artichoke defensive back DJ Olmsted intercepted the ball and sealed the victory.

“We tried to not hype it up so much and come out and treat it like another game,” Olmsted said. “We knew they were going to throw the ball and they were probably one of the better offenses we’ve seen all year.”

The Artichoke defense was good at rushing the pass and played a very physical game. However, they looked a little fatigued towards the end, letting simple Mesa dump passes go for big chunks of yards.

This Artichoke team seems to be back on track and aims to prove that by going to the Valley of the Sun Bowl and winning this year. The Artichokes will play the first round of the playoffs at home on Halloween night against Glendale Community College.