Sergey Shayevich / Arizona Daily Star

Sunnyside running back Philo Sanchez runs towards several Phoenix Greenway defenders. Sanchez's 41 carries in the game set a state record. He finished with 184 yards.

Sunnyside routs Greenway

Paul Coro
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 9, 2001

With the Tucson Sunnyside mariachi band's sweet sounds serenading them from the corner, south Tucson's favorite family made their way toward each other at midfield of Sun Devil Stadium.

There was coach Richard Sanchez, the man who left the helm of Sunnyside's five straight wrestling state champions to construct a football power out of scraps.

At the other end of a long embrace was his son, Philo, the tailback who put the finishing touches on dad's pet project.

With Sanchez's 184 rushing yards, Sunnyside overwhelmed Greenway 28-6 for its first Class 4A football championship Saturday.

"We started it together, and we had this dream since he took over," said Philo Sanchez, who set an all-class state title game record with 41 carries. "Even though people told him it would be too big of a job and that it couldn't be done, we knew we could do it."

Sunnyside, finishing at 13-1 just like the 2000 runner-up, walked off as the winningest big-class Arizona program of the past two years after coming into the game with a sense of belonging. It took 19 seconds to establish that as Greenway (11-3), the 10th seed playing in its first title game in the school's 26 years, gave away seven points in the first of many costly early missteps.

After a nice Ben Ali kick return to the Greenway 37, Sunnyside cornerback Joey Warren read a quick-drop hitch and picked off the pass for a 41-yard touchdown return that pulled the seat from under Greenway before its fans even got settled. Greenway coach Mike Brown ripped himself for even making the call.

"I think it hurt the team more than it hurt me," Brown said.

It would not be the last time Greenway's alignment went awry.

There were miscommunications on early passes, handoffs and pass coverage. There were two dropped passes and tardy throws on two potential touchdowns. All this came in a first half that Greenway still nearly made tight.

Sergey Shayevich / Arizona Daily Star

Sunnyside 28, Greenway 6
Sunnyside Blue Devil teammates hoist the 4A State Championship trophy Dec. 8, 2001. 

Warren, who broke up two first-half passes in the end zone, again put Sunnyside in the end zone when he beat two defensive backs on fourth-and-7 for a 32-yard score and 13-0 lead midway through the first.

But Greenway came up empty on two drives into Sunnyside territory, the last one ending on a third-down incompletion from the 11 on the half's final play.

"Everything was a step off," Brown said. "Playing on a Saturday was different. Our kids were dying. It wasn't the conditioning, but we just weren't used to playing in the sun."

Any window for Greenway's moment in the sun was shut at the start the second half. Behind a dominating line and Sanchez's killer cutbacks, Sunnyside opened the third quarter with a 15-play, 61-yard drive that ate up 8:02, thanks to 12 Sanchez runs.

"I thought it would be a lot tougher," Sunnyside guard Ned Norris said. "We just stuck it to them."

Sunnyside's defense, overhauled from last year and then again after a season-opening loss to Scottsdale Saguaro, held Greenway to 3 yards a rush and 7-of-22 passing. It was not hailed like the 2000 unit that gave up seven points a game, but it had a shutout going with Greenway only totaling 100 yards until a late TD drive.

But that couldn't keep the smiles off the faces that were forlorn a year ago. Sunnyside quarterback Victor Cuñes showed off the championship ring he had drawn on his finger, promising not to wash it and to put the real one on a different finger.

"I was sitting down crying last year, and now I'm standing here eating candy, just amazed at what my team did today," Cuñes said.