Sunnyside quarterback Jamie Valdez (6) finds an opening and heads upfield in the Blue Devils' 21-14 win over Ironwood Ridge.

XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen

SUNNYSIDE 21, IRONWOOD RIDGE 14

Devils pounce on Nighthawk mistakes



JESSIE VANDERSON
Tucson Citizen

Jovan Stevenson's hands and legs are valuable assets.

The versatile senior halfback rushed for one touchdown and scored two others on pass plays to spark Sunnyside to a 21-14 win over host Ironwood Ridge on Friday night in a Class 5A Division II state quarterfinal game.

Sunnyside will play a semifinal game Nov. 30 against No. 1 Peoria Centennial at a neutral site. Centennial beat the Blue Devils 34-0 in last year's state title game.

Friday's win came three weeks after Ironwood Ridge beat the Blue Devils 15-14.

"I knew they were going to key on me in the run game, so all week at practice I worked hard on running my routes and catching the ball," said Stevenson,
who has orally committed to play next year at Oregon State. "I have been trying to connect with (quarterback Jamie Valdez) a little bit more."

Sunnyside's defense stopped Ironwood Ridge twice on fourth down in the final quarter to protect the lead.

The Nighthawks' final offensive threat was snuffed out when quarterback Christopher Carlson was nailed for no gain on a bootleg run on fourth-and-1 from the Sunnyside 19 with 1:03 left to play.

"We read the play wrong. It was just a breakdown on our part," Carlson said.

Ironwood Ridge led 14-7 at halftime, but Sunnyside punished the Nighthawks with touchdowns for two costly mistakes in the decisive third quarter.

Stevenson shook free of coverage on a third-and-6 play for a 72-yard score with 4:09 left in the quarter to tie it at 14.

Stevenson, who finished with 104 receiving yards, caught the ball from Valdez in full stride.

"We knew coming into the game that we were going to have to use him to catch the ball and run the ball," Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez said.

On Ironwood Ridge's ensuing possession, a bad snap caused punter Adrian Ruiz to be tackled at the Ironwood Ridge 1-yard line.

Stevenson roared through a hole on the right side on the next play to make it 21-14.

Stevenson, who plays wide receiver when the Blue Devils use a spread offense, scored on a 25-yard pass with 1:42 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 7.

Ironwood Ridge quickly responded to take the halftime lead. Carlson threw a 37-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Jay Helixon with five seconds left in the half.

Jake Fischer led Ironwood Ridge with 112 rushing yards.

"Sunnyside swarmed to the ball. They often changed to a 50 front a lot of the time," Fischer said. "Physically, they were a lot tougher this time."