Turnovers have plagued the Bradshaw Mountain High football team for most of the 2012 season, and its eighth game of the season was no exception.
The Division II Bears fumbled three times and quarterback Skylor Clinton was picked off twice as D-I Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor pasted Bradshaw 44-6 Friday night at Bob Pavlich Field.
"We just need to keep our heads up high," Bears senior Damian Otero said. "A couple things go wrong and we just start to hang our heads and drown ourselves in the plays that we fail. We basically just beat ourselves."
With the loss, the Bears' record dropped to 3-5 overall with three contests remaining in what's become a frustrating campaign.
O'Connor, meanwhile, improved to 3-4, winning back-to-back games against Prescott High last week at home and BMHS Friday in Prescott Valley.
In this inter-divisional clash, Bradshaw trailed only 13-0 at halftime before the wheels fell off quickly after intermission. O'Connor scored 24 points off turnovers in the second half.
First-year Bradshaw coach Adam Schiermyer said his team's minus-15 turnover ratio this season has haunted the Bears.
"If we want to win tight ballgames, there are two things we can't do: we can't have turnovers and we can't have mental mistakes," he said. "For the first half, what we talked about in the locker room is that we were in the ballgame and we were playing pretty tough. But if we want to move forward, we can't have these mistakes."
The Eagles outscored the Bears 28-6 in the decisive third quarter thanks to a couple of gifts.
BMHS fumbled away the second half's opening kickoff and O'Connor recovered at the Bradshaw 21-yard line. Eagles senior running back Tiger Scott needed just two carries to extend his team's lead to 20-0.
On the Bears' ensuing possession, sophomore tailback/wideout Colton Audsley coughed up the ball in Bradshaw territory, which led to another O'Connor TD. Less than three minutes into the third quarter, the Eagles pulled in front 27-0.
"We had mental breakdowns," Bears linebacker Taylor Moore said. "One section of the offense does good, and the other section of the offense breaks down, and they rotate back and forth. We always have someone making a mistake."
One of the lone bright spots for the Bears came with 9:15 left in the third when return specialist Damian Otero returned a kickoff 95 yards for his team's only TD of the evening. Otero at first sprinted up the middle of the field before cutting back along the left sideline for the score.
"When I scored, it was a real big spark," Otero said. "The team was celebrating. We were all up and we got hyped. And then I just don't know what happened. We didn't carry it onto the field in the next couple plays and drives."
In other words, Otero's brilliant play failed to lift Bradshaw's spirits.
O'Connor senior quarterback Jared Melson, who completed 10-of-20 passes for 155 yards and 2 TDs, drove the Eagles right back down the field, capping a 7-play, 51-yard drive with his 10-yard jaunt into the end zone on a well-executed pass fake.
In front 41-6 at the end of the third, O'Connor tacked on a gorgeous 47-yard field goal from kicker Alex Bohlman after yet another Bears fumble to begin the fourth quarter and the game was over for Bradshaw.
"We've just got to get over the hump," Schiermyer said.
Bradshaw plays host to Phoenix Barry Goldwater Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.