high school football:

The return of one player all it takes for Foothill to change fortunes

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Steve Marcus

Foothill High School’s Thomas Fisher-Welch (18) carries the ball into the end one for one of his three touchdowns against Silverado during a Desert Regional quarterfinals game at Silverado Friday, Nov. 11, 2019.

Fri, Nov 8, 2019 (9:57 p.m.)

The Foothill football team needed a big play. The Falcons were pinned inside their 15-yard line against host Silverado today in the Desert Region quarterfinals and needed more than 10 yards on third down.

A quick pass was thrown to Thomas Fisher-Welch, who appeared to have no place to run. Then he outraced the defense in taking the ball more than 90 yards to the Silverado 2.

Three plays later, Fisher-Welch caught a touchdown pass to give the Falcons a two-touchdown advantage on the way to a 20-7 victory. Fisher-Welch scored all three of Foothill's touchdowns on passes from Parker Riggin, proving yet again his value to the Falcons.

Foothill entered the postseason on a two-game losing streak — a double-overtime heartbreaker against Green Valley, and a head-scratcher last week at Chaparral. The defeats were each by one point.

And in both, Fisher-Welch missed with an injury. Back in the lineup, the Falcons powered through to the regional semifinals for the second straight season.

"That's our main guy on offense," coach Vernon Brown said. "You could see the difference."

Fisher-Welch wasn't the only notable contributor to return. Sophomore running back Kendric Thomas, a partial participant the past two weeks, gained tough yardage all night as the featured back, tallying 116 rushing yards. It was like Foothill had a totally different team.

"We finally got Fisher-Welch back. He and I are a good duo," Thomas said. "Our full team is finally back. We are going to enjoy playing with each other these last few weeks."

The Falcons defense, a strength all season, certainly answered the challenge of stopping Silverado's accomplished rushing attack. Aginae Cunningham, who led the state with nearly 1,800 rushing yards, managed one touchdown but was mostly bottled up. Silverado only had one serious scoring threat, and that came courtesy of a long kickoff return to set up a short scoring run from Cunningham late in the first half.

"Our defense rose to the occasion," Brown said. "We knew they had to run the ball to beat is, but (run defense) is our strength."

Foothill advances to next week's semifinals to face Liberty, which won the regular season meeting between the schools 38-0. The Falcons will need more than Fisher-Welch, Thomas and a great defense to hang with the Patriots.

But, then again, anything can happen in November high school football, and the Falcons have momentum. They also have a healthy lineup.

"Liberty is loaded from top to bottom," Brown said. "We have to do things they may have never seen before. We pretty much have to play a perfect game, to be honest with you."

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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