By Lonnie Stevenson
Friday night marked the end of the high school football career for seven Senior Knight’s football players: Tyler Thompson, Ryder Spencer, Adian Vargas, Tucker Stephenson, Robby Schaper, Kenny Ponthieux and Bradly Stauffer.
The Lake Havasu High School seniors were recognized prior to the game along with their family and a few special friends in some cases.
The senior football players, along with members of the LHHS Spirit Line, were recognized prior to the game along with their family and a few special friends in some cases.
Senior members of the band and color guard were recognized during halftime ceremonies.
Once senior night ceremonies were completed, it was time to play the final game of the 2023 season against the Buckeye Union High School Hawks. The 10th ranked Hawks came into the game looking for a big win and possibly host a first round 4A playoff game.
Defense highlighted the opening quarter of football as both teams had marginal success on offense but neither team was able to score in the opening quarter.
That would soon change on the first play of the second quarter when Buckeye quarterback Zachery Bennett connected with Easton Kerr on an 18-yard touchdown pass to put the visitors up 7 – 0.
Havasu was able to answer late in the quarter with 3:45 left before halftime on a nifty 9-yard run by Tristin Andrade to tie the score at 7 and swing some momentum over to the home team’s side of the field.
But that momentum would be short lived as Buckeye senior Darius Haskin took the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to put the visitors back up 14 – 7.
To the credit of this young Knights team that has shown some great growth of late, winning two of its last three games. Havasu, led by recently promoted Sophomore quarterback Halo Jump and a great 50-yard run by junior Gavin Briggs, put the ball on the Buckeye 1-yard line.
Three plays later, senior Tyler Thompson tied things up at 14 each with a 2-yard run with 1:11 left before halftime.
Havasu attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff that went out of bounds at the 50-yard line, giving the Buckeye offense great field position.
On the next play, Bennett was able to connect with Haskins, who knifed his way through the Havasu defense into the endzone and gave the lead back to Buckeye 21 – 14.
During Havasu’s next possession, an errant pitch toss from Jump ended up in the hands of Buckeye and gave them the football again on the 25-yard line.
And once again, Bennett was able to connect with Haskins with a pass in the corner of the endzone and extend the Buckeye lead to 28 – 14 at halftime.
In the second half, Havasu was just unable to put much together on offense meanwhile the visitors added 3 more touchdowns for a final score of 49 – 14.
With the loss, Havasu falls to a final record of 3 – 7.
After the game, head coach Karl Thompson met with his players as a group then went to many of them individually with a smile, pat on the shoulder pads and a hug.
“I love these guys and the way they have fought all year long,” said Thompson. “We’ve had to move some people around and many of these players have grown and learned what it’s going to take to play varsity football.”
Some of these players will now go on to play in a winter sport while some will take a few weeks off then get back into the newly renovated weight and training room.
“This team took on the No. 1, No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, No. 9 and No. 17 ranked teams in 4A along with the No. 1 team in 3A this year,” said Thompson. “They never backed down from anyone and gave me everything they had. Now we just need to grow in the offseason and be ready to go next year.”
Havasu did not have enough players to field both a JV team and a Freshman/Sophomore team and instead focused on the younger team and developing those players this year.
“I’m excited for next year and bringing back so many of this year’s team, with the experience they have gained this year, and some of the talent we have on the Freshman/Sophomore team,” added Thompson.
On a personal note, Coach Thompson’s oldest son Tyler was one of this year’s graduating seniors and along with younger brother Trevor, Thompson was able to have both boys one last time on the field together.
“It was definitely a special night on a personal level,” Thomson said. “They’ve played together on youth football and travel baseball teams but yes, this was our last year of football together. I probably didn’t enjoy as much as I’m going to cherish the memories later in life.”
On a night in which seniors were celebrated, during pre-game festivities, they shared some great memories and stories about their time together in their recorded speeches. A few tears later, it will be the memories that these seven seniors and family members will cherish the most.