When you lose by a narrow 28-24 margin, as was the case for Division II No. 1 Centennial, one play can usually be singled out as the turning point.
For the Coyotes, however, there were a dozen different reasons they were not able to overcome a very tough and well-coached No. 3 Tucson Ironwood Ridge team on Friday night in Tucson.
"You have to give it to (Ironwood Ridge). They caused turnovers tonight. They were the better team," said a dejected Centennial coach Richard Taylor.
"Sometimes I just think things are meant to be."
Despite a total of six fumbles, three that were turned over to the Knighthawks, eight sacks against, two interceptions and two blown pass coverages that led to a pair of touchdowns, the Coyotes were still in the game until the end somehow.
Staring at a 28-17 deficit after a Tyler Williams-to-Julian Figueroa 14-yard TD pass with 10:16 left in the final quarter, the Coyotes looked as if a comeback wasn't meant to be.
But Centennial's Jalen Ortiz stepped up, as he has done so many times in his career already, and took a short screen pass from Tre Grant 88 yards for paydirt with 6:55 remaining to bring the Coyotes back to within 28-23.
Instead of going for a two-point conversion to possibly move to within a field goal, however, the Coyotes elected to kick a PAT and remain at least a touchdown away.
This would be a factor as time ticked away.
First, after forcing the Knighthawks (6-0) to a four-and-out on their next series, Centennial started their drive at the Ironwood Ridge 49-yard line with 5:14 left.
And despite a false start penalty, the Coyotes managed to get as close as the Ironwood Ridge 31-yard line before Grant was sacked by Jake Matthews who forced a fumble which was recovered by Gordon Longville.
But Centennial still had life when the defense made two stops on the Knighthawks down the stretch.
Taking over at their own 15-yard line with 1:16 to play, Centennial needed to march 85 yards and started off with three successive plays for 36 yards total.
But with time ticking away, and not timeouts to take, Grant was forced to look to the endzone from around midfield.
It wasn't to be.
"We had a lot of chances to win the game but we made a lot of mistakes," Centennial offensive lineman Spencer Nathe said. "Our coaches did their thing but we did not execute. We just have to learn from our mistakes and we will be alright."
Those mistakes started early.
After rolling down the field using its punishing ground game, the Coyotes looked to take an early 7-0 lead.
But the first of several missed snaps led to Centennial settling for a Joe Navarro 23-yard field goal.
The hosts responded with 5-play, 86-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard Williams run and a Ironwood Ridge 7-3 lead with 2:27 left in the first quarter. A 75-yard Williams-to-Figueroa 75-yard bomb set up the TD.
A fumble by Centennial (5-1) led to another Williams TD run just 2:05 later, and suddenly it was a 14-3 game.
When Williams (20 carries, 36 yards, 5-of-7 for 132 yards 1 TD) scored his third straight rushing TD with 9:23 left before half, an upset by Ironwood Ridge not only was becoming a reality, but it was starting to look like a certainty.
But Grant would stop the bleeding when he found Xavier Villaneuva (4 catches, 61 yards) from 25 yards out with 2:45 left in the half to trim the deficit to 21-10.
A Grant-to-Ortiz 25 yard TD strike with 2:12 left in the third quarter got the Coyotes back in business, setting up the final quarter drama.
And while many of the Coyotes' faithful will look to a series of botched quarterback exchanges in the first half as the main problem for the Centennial woes, the reality is center Tyler Elam was a warrior.
After breaking his hand last week, the junior was forced to snap left handed this week, his off hand, something he has never had to do.
The real reason the Coyotes suffered its first loss to a non-Phoenix Metro team in more than years (14-0 during that stretch) is that on 11 of the 13 drives the Coyotes were on offense in the game, there was at least one sack, penalty, turnover or combination.
You just can't beat well-coached, well disciplined teams playing like that.
Offensively, the Coyotes still managed to out gain the Knighthawks by a 361-306 total, and that included 76 minus yards on sacks against Centennial.
Defensively, after yielding 182 yards of total offense to the Knighthawks in the first half alone, the Coyotes clamped down much better in the second half giving up just 124 yards with 84 of those coming on three plays.
The difference defensively was in large part to the insertion of Marcus Farria into the Centennial lineup after halftime.
The Coyotes' standout defensive lineman had been out for the first five-and-a-half games of the season due to discipline and injury but was a major force when he took the field in the second half.
Ortiz finished the night with 106 yards rushing (on 17 carries) and another 125 receiving (on 3 catches).
Matthews had a huge night for Ironwood Ridge, recovering two fumbles, grabbing one interception and several sacks all the while grabbing two balls on offense for 48 yards.