Sunnyside gets back in the game after trailing 14-2 in the first half as Mike Smith stomps over Salpointe defenders and heads to the end zone for a third quarter touchdown, making the score 20-16, Salpointe.

  RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson Citizen

Lancers tough enough


Salpointe outlasts the Sunnyside Blue Devils for the Class 5A South title.

MICHAEL CACCAMISE
Tucson Citizen

Not this time. Not at home. And especially not with the defense of a regional title on the line.

The Salpointe Catholic football team held off a second-half Sunnyside comeback attempt to win 27-16 in the Tucson Citizen Spotlight Game of the Week.

Last night's victory gave the Lancers their fourth straight Class 5A South Region title and revenge for losing at home to Sunnyside in last season's opening game.

"We're very, very fortunate that we came out in a great football game," said Salpointe coach Dennis Bene. "We're going to the playoffs with great momentum. I know how (Sunnyside coach) Richard (Sanchez) and those guys felt. I felt like that last year.

"This thing's kind of going back and forth. We're just fortunate to be on the top of it tonight."

Sunnyside (6-4, 4-1) and Salpointe (8-2, 5-0) should have first-round home games in next week's playoffs. Sunnyside will play in the 5A Division II playoffs, while the Lancers will test their mettle in the 5A DI tournament.

The big difference between two of the city's premier programs was Salpointe's ability to move the ball through the air.

The Lancers completed two fewer passes than Sunnyside, but threw for 83 more yards to go along with two touchdowns.

Salpointe quarterback Max Fritz completed 7 of 12 for 142 yards, two scores and one interception. Despite finishing with minus-7 rushing yards because of four sacks, Fritz still scored twice on the ground.

"Hats off to Sunnyside. They played a great game against us," Fritz said. "My receivers were making catches and the line gave me time to throw."

Salpointe led 14-2 at halftime after Fritz ran in a touchdown from three yards out and connected with Mark Schneider on a 29-yard scoring pass, both in the second quarter.

The Lancers piled it on out of the gate in the second half. Fritz found Matt Ransom up the middle for a 59-yard touchdown on the sixth play of the third quarter for a 21-2 lead.

Sunnyside came rolling back three plays later as Mike Smith broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run. The Blue Devils' next possession nearly ended in a punt, but they recovered it after officials ruled that Salpointe returner Levess Eafon touched the ball.

The Blue Devils took advantage of the call, scoring a few minutes later on a 6-yard run by Smith.

Sunnyside, trailing by six, saw a late possession end when quarterback Sammy Olivas was sacked by Eafon.

Eafon, who ran for 82 yards, finished with two sacks on defense.

Salpointe took over with 4:48 left, and milked almost four minutes off the clock before Fritz scored on a 1-yard keeper to end the Blue Devils' hopes.

Smith finished with 152 yards and the two touchdowns to lead Sunnyside. Olivas completed 8 of 17 for 59 yards, one interception and was sacked four times.