Cienega High quarterback Jimmy Monaco (left) is chased down by
Matt Berrellez (36) during last night's 4A state
playoff game. Sunnyside beat Cienega 21-20 at Desert View
STATE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Sunnyside dodges upset
Cienega falls short
It's a shame someone had to lose.
In a hard-fought football game, upstart Cienega High School fell
just yards short of an upset in a 21-20 loss to Sunnyside in a
first-round Class 4A state playoff game last night at Desert View
After scoring on a 2-yard keeper by quarterback Jimmy Monaco with
17 seconds left in the game, Cienega, trailing by one, faced a tough
decision. Go for the win or play for overtime?
In their first state game, the Bobcats went for the win. But a run
to the right off a fake kick by Sergio Velasco was stopped at the
"We went for the win at the end, and I'd do it again,"
said Cienega coach Nemer Hassey. "I didn't want to go to overtime
with them because we were so beat up and we were just holding on by a
"I'm proud of our guys. We're a second-year program, and we
just took Sunnyside to the wire."
For the Blue Devils, who want to regain the state title they won
two years ago, it was a serious wake-up call.
"(Cienega) played an excellent game. We made a few errors, and
I'm sure they feel they made a few errors," said Sunnyside coach
Richard Sanchez. "But the bottom line is, there's no more power
points involved. It's win one and advance.
"I'm not very happy with our performance, but we'll take the
win and see if we can improve."
No. 5 Sunnyside (9-2) will host No. 13 Cottonwood Mingus on Friday
in a semifinal game.
The Blue Devils wouldn't have won last night without running back
He finished with 230 yards rushing on 18 carries and reached the
end zone twice.
With the game knotted at 14 in the fourth quarter, No. 11-seed
Cienega saw a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Monaco to Maurice
Wells called back on the team's sole penalty of the game.
That Cienega drive ended when Monaco was sacked for a loss of 16
yards on fourth down, handing the ball to Sunnyside.
Smith stepped up, breaking free for a 81-yard touchdown that would
be the winning score.
"I've got to give it to my line for the yards I got today, and
I hope they bring it up next week," Smith said. "We need to
pick it up if we want to win a championship."
Cienega's defense shut down the Blue Devils' passing game, holding
quarterback Jaime Cota to 4-of-13 passing for 32 yards.
Meanwhile, it was Cienega's passing that kept the game close.
Monaco, who had 146 yards on 11-of-18 passes, was solid all game.
He ran for a 48-yard touchdown scramble before the half, then
completed a two-point conversion pass to Roger Velasco to send the
teams to the locker room tied at 14-14.
Cienega's Brandon Lopez, a running back/linebacker who has orally
committed to the University of Arizona, finished with 118 rushing
yards on 32 carries and a touchdown.
"I'm sad because we could have won that game," Hassey
said. "But I'm just so proud of our guys. They set the tone for
Cienega football for years to come. I'm very sad that it's over,
because they are a great team."