ASU beat Red Mountain 39-27 on Friday, November 3rd. ASU came into the game fresh off an 82-0 dismantling of UTEP. Red Mountain on the other hand came into the game after a 29-19 loss to Belmont Shore the previous week. The game was played back at the Dorsey fields, reseeding was completed the previous week.
UTEP had not offered much of a challenge and the NAU game was more of an exhibition most of the A-side players only saw 30 minutes of action. Red Mountain, as one of the better teams in the valley, represented the first significant challenge of the season for ASU.
ASU was more or less unchanged, the front row was Nick Booz, Ethan Walls and Isaiah Fatigoni. The 2nd-row partnership of Carter Carlson and Nick Davies was also unchanged despite Davies being sick in the buildup to the game. In the back-row, Taniela Sikalu came in on the blindside for Kaden Ellison who moved into the backline. Landon Lahdony and Pearse McNamara retained their spots at openside and Number 8 respectively.
In the backs, Jacob Hurl and Teague Perez started at 9 and 10 respectively. In the centers, Kaden Ellison moved from Blindside Flanker to 12; replacing the injured Matt Loeffler. Bennett Ronay retained his spot at 13. Evyeni Gavriilidis and Will Quinn started on the wings and Graham Ferguson played at fullback.
The 1st half was back and forth. ASU had a try ruled out in the opening minutes, Mcnamara made a break down the right wing and offloaded to Hurl, supporting on the inside. However, the touch judge ruled Hurl’s foot went into touch as he dived for the corner. It would be down that same edge that ASU opened the scoring, some quick hands from Fatigoni put Carlson in space down the wing, and Carlson duly scored under the posts but not before stepping the fullback in the in-goal.
Red Mountain would hit back with a try of their own through a series of pick and goes close to the line. From the kickoff Red Mountain fumbled the ball into touch. From the resulting lineout, Ronay scored under the sticks after a slick backline move. Again though, Red Mountain scored through more close-range pick-and-goes. ASU had given away several penalties in their own half four of them inside their 22 and were perhaps lucky not to have a player in the sin bin for persistent infringement.
ASU would put the kickoff out of play but Red Mountain gave away two penalties both at the scrum. The 2nd penalty was within the range of Graham Ferguson who slotted his kick at goal. ASU went into halftime up 17-10. ASU had the edge in the scrums and dealt with the kicking game of Red Mountain well.
ASU started the 2nd half very similarly to how they ended the 1st half with Ronay scoring his 2nd of the day from a scrum. Ferguson added two more penalties before Ethan Walls was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle. After a series of penalties inside their own 22 Red Mountain scored through another series of close-range drives.
ASU remained under pressure for the next passage as fatigue set in and players began to fall off tackles. Red Moutain scored the next a series of missed tackles allowed Red Mountain to score under the posts and draw within 5 points. After a bit of chaos on the following restart, ASU packed a scrum on Red Moutain’s 22. Hurl got his try exploiting an unmarked blindside to score under the sticks and put the game to bed.
ASU’s first test of the season was passed with flying colors. Solid defense and clinical attack saw them to victory, despite having less possession and being asked to defend in their half for much of the game.
The attacking lineouts were so nearly perfect going ⅞ from on the day while on defense they forced three turnovers including two steals. While at the scrum ASU made a mess of Red Mountain’s pack routinely driving them back and were able to milk two penalties.
The goal-kicking of Ferguson, who was a perfect 7/7, offers a new method of getting points. In previous years ASU had reliable goal-kickers but the option of taking points went unused.
Despite the 12-point victory the game also gave ASU some work-ons. The attack seemed a bit disorganized during phase play. While that didn’t stop ASU from scoring some 39 points, notably, only one try came from phase play while the remaining three came from a set piece.
Perhaps a bigger concern was fitness in the closing stages 14 of ASU’s 26 missed tackles came in the final 10 minutes. While some dropoff is expected in the latter part of the game doubling the missed tackle count is worrying.
ASU's next game is against U of A. The B sides will square off this Thursday, November 8th at the Dorsey Fields (510 S Dorsey Ln) kickoff is at 7 pm. The final game of the season is against Scottsdale Blues on Friday, November 17th that game will also be at the Dorsey Fields.