Ben Swarts, left, and Michael Short of I-Ridge meet at Sunnyside quarterback Adrian Lucero to force an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter.

kelly presnell / arizona daily star

I-Ridge stuns Blue Devils

Cherry's 185 yards, 2 TDs lift Nighthawks
By Casey Crowe
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.27.2007

Any thoughts of a region championship are now officially faded memories for the Sunnyside football program.

The Blue Devils, reeling from a forfeit and playing without standout quarterback Jaime Valdez, were stunned 15-14 by a bruising squad from Ironwood Ridge on Friday night.

That turns the Nighthawks' showdown against Mountain View next week into the 5A-II Southern Region title game.

"We need to go back to work, get our kids back into the right frame of mind," said Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez, alluding to a turbulent week for the Blue Devils' program. "There are things that need to be worked out."

The Blue Devils (7-2, 0-2) were forced to forfeit an Oct. 19 win over Mountain View because they used an ineligible player.

In that contest, Valdez was the star, totaling nearly 400 yards on offense.

But the Sunnyside quarterback was nowhere to be found Friday. He did not practice with the team this week, but Sanchez said after the game that Valdez will return — eventually.

"(Valdez) will be back," said Sanchez, who did not specify why his quarterback did not suit up. "I can't say when he'll be back, but he will be."

Ironwood Ridge (6-3, 2-0) running back-defensive back D'Juan Cherry was the star of the evening, scorching Sunnyside for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

"No doubt, we came into this one expecting ourselves to win this game," said Cherry.

After a scoreless first quarter, Cherry found the end zone on a 6-yard sweep, complete with a precise cut away from a lunging defensive back with 9:22 left in the second.

Ironwood Ridge then faked the point after attempt with a perfect shovel pass from holder Steven Radler to running back Adrian Brahler. It gave the Nighthawks an 8-0 lead.

The two-point conversion turned out to be the difference.

"That (two-point) conversion … was it," said Cherry. "Unexpected. (Sunnyside) was not expecting that."

But the Blue Devils responded right away.

On their next play from scrimmage, running back Jovan Stevenson took a handoff from quarterback Adrian Lucero straight into the heart of the Ironwood Ridge defense.

After blowing through the line, Stevenson journeyed 80 yards untouched to make it 8-7.

After an Ironwood Ridge fumble at the Sunnyside 3-yard line, the Blue Devils charged 97 yards on seven plays, highlighted by a 28-yard sprint from
Stevenson with 2:20 left in the quarter to make it 14-8. That was the score at halftime.

But in the second half, the Ironwood Ridge defense began to key on Stevenson, loading the line with too many bodies to block.

He was held to 32 yards in the final two quarters, after racking up 117 in the opening 24 minutes.

With just under seven minutes to play in the third quarter, the Blue Devils coughed up the ball on their 12-yard line, and the Nighthawks pounced on the loose ball.

Three plays later, Cherry rumbled 2 yards across the goal line for what proved to be the game-deciding score.

"It was a gusty effort," said Ironwood Ridge coach Gary Minor. "That's a tough team we played. That was an extremely physical football game both ways."