After a couple of blowout losses to begin the season, the Lake Havasu football team finally got on the win column with a 21-7 victory over Buckeye at Lee Barnes Stadium on Friday night.
Five first half takeaways from the Knights defense and rushing scores from Donny Fitzgerald and Isaac Stopke propelled Lake Havasu to their first home victory since 2018. It was also senior night for the Knights.
“It’s really exciting for our seniors to get that win, it’s been awhile since we got one for senior night,” Lake Havasu head coach Karl Thompson said. “Those guys have worked really hard. They’re very very deserving. Buckeye was a great opponent. We knew they were going to be a good team coming in.
“Defensively, when you have five turnovers in the first half, it’s huge. So we were able to keep in the game and guys were able to do stuff. Offensively, we started clicking, great job of running the ball," Thompson said. "Offensive line, tremendous job doing things. [Issac] Stopke, he had a heck of a night. Him and Donny [Fitzgerald] were a great 1-2 punch back there, but it was a total team effort.”
The Knights scored their first touchdown with 2:53 left in the second quarter on a 1-yard run from Fitzgerald on a quarterback keeper. The extra point was blocked and Lake Havasu went into halftime with a 6-0 lead.
There were two opportunities for the Knights to score in the first quarter after driving the ball towards Hawks territory on the 25 and 23 yard lines in their first two possessions of the game. Lake Havasu fumbled on its first drive and turned the ball over on downs on its next drive.
Before Fitzgerald’s touchdown, the Knights’ defense forced four turnovers with three fumble recoveries and an interception. The defense picked off Buckeye quarterback Tyler Hill for its fifth takeaway before halftime. Quinten Anderson was responsible for the first pick while Evan Smith had the late second quarter interception.
“Week one and week two, we were really just lacking [in turnovers] and we weren’t picking it up,” senior defensive end Jon Justice said. “This game, we really picked up the intensity. A lot of the seniors, this means everything to them and for our guys to come out like that and put in that much effort, I really appreciate that to the bottom of my heart.”
Lake Havasu’s only scoring opportunity in the third quarter came after a large gain on a run from Stopke. The Knights turned the ball over on downs a few plays later on the 21-yard line in Hawks territory.
After Buckeye turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter, Stopke and Fitzgerald led the Knights ground game all the way to a 23-yard touchdown from the former with 5:29 left to play. Lake Havasu converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Fitzgerald to Cody Pellaton.
“Isaac is something to watch, he’s only a sophomore,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s going to do big things in the future and he honestly set up the run game for me as well. So big props to Isaac.”
With 2:54 left to play, Fitzgerald extended the Knights lead 21-0 after diving for the pylon to cap off a 20-yard touchdown run and his second of the night.
Lake Havasu lost the shutout when Buckeye scored a late touchdown with 1:54 left.
The Knights’ win broke an eight-game losing streak for Lake Havasu dating back to last season and it was the team’s first home victory since defeating Deer Valley 31-24 on Oct. 5, 2018.
“Since my sophomore year, I have not gotten a home game win,” Justice said. “I tore my ACL last year. That really sucked. It was great getting back on the field and getting this dub.”
Lake Havasu (1-2, 1-0 4A Southwest) will travel to Buckeye for another 4A Southwest Regional matchup against Youngker next Friday night.