Artichokes win Valley of the Sun Bowl

The Artichokes ended the 2015 football season on a positive note with a thrilling win

The victorious Artichokes hold up the Valley of the Sun Bowl trophy.

Nicholas Tirella, Sports Editor, Scottsdale Chronicle

The Scottsdale Fighting Artichokes football team won the Valley of the Sun Bowl on Saturday evening against Minnesota’s Central Lakes Raiders, completing a successful late season turnaround in thrilling fashion.

The 42-34 final was representative of the game’s offensive nature. This game was a shootout and a tough battle all the way through until the final minutes. Neither team gave up on either side of the ball and both teams played extremely well. The Artichokes trotted out victorious in the Valley of the Sun Bowl thanks to contributions from running back Armond Weh-Weh, wide receiver Shaquan Curenton’s aerial heroics and linebacker Brian Keyes’ defensive leadership. In the first half, both teams exchanged touchdowns in a back-and-forth affair and neither team secured the momentum. The Raiders led at halftime after a fumble recovery and subsequent touchdown run, and the Artichokes headed into the locker room with their heads down.

“Halftime, we came back and said were the number one defense in the conference so we came out and we did just that,” Keyes said.

Weh-Weh finished the game with 17 carries for 175 yards and two touchdowns, while Curenton ended the game with nine receptions  for 147 yards and two touchdowns. The Artichokes going into halftime needed to find motivation to win an even game against the Raiders.

”We said that this is the last one,” Weh-Weh said.  “We’re going to fight for each other each and every down and we’re not going to let anything get in our head and let us down.”

The Artichokes defense only let in one touchdown pass before the fourth quarter started and dug deep to ensure that the Raiders wouldn’t score again. Keyes ended the game with 12 tackles and the game-clinching interception. The defense was good throughout the game, letting only a couple of deep Raiders passes. The defense also overcame several penalties, which crippled them in last year’s Valley of the Sun Bowl.

“Penalties did hurt us a lot and in the end we have to be disciplined and keep fighting,” Keyes said.

The Artichokes had their ups and downs on Saturday but the team stayed together and came back from a halftime deficit. Players on the team admitted that they should have won some games where the odds were not in their favor. As the season progressed, the Artichokes improved and got better every game and it showed in the Valley of the Sun Bowl.

“At the end of the day, what they did is impressive at this level,” head coach Doug Madoski said. “When you go and lose four games in a row like that, a lot of times you really start finding out what you’re made of as a person. A lot of those people in those situations start quitting and these guys stuck in there and stuck together and the nice part is that they found a way to go out and be successful.”

The Artichokes achieved their goal from the beginning of the season: they got back to the Valley of the Sun Bowl and won it.