SCHUMACHER/The Arizona Republic
(center) is chased by Chaparral's
Dustin Kleven (left) and Vince Marcantonio during a 4A
No. 1, heads to finale
PHOENIX - The Sunnyside football team has talked about getting back to
the state title game all season long.
The Blue Devils got their wish last night.
No. 5 Sunnyside (11-2) stunned top seed and previously unbeaten
Scottsdale Chaparral (12-1) with an impressive 16-7 win at Phoenix
College in the Class 4A state playoff semifinals.
For the Blue Devils, it was a chance to avenge a 20-17 loss last
year to eventual champion Chaparral in the semifinals.
"It feels great. We're in. I'm really happy for the
kids," said Sunnyside head coach Richard Sanchez. "Last
year, it was devastating. We took one week off and we went right back
to work. This is what we wanted."
Sunnyside will play No. 7 Glendale Cactus (12-1) at 12:07 p.m. next
Saturday at Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium for the 4A
It was the first win for Sanchez over Chaparral (12-1), which
defeated Sunnyside in the 2000 state title game and 41-14 earlier this
The battle between the state's two premier 4A teams - the Firebirds
also won state in 1999 and 2002 and Sunnyside was the state champ in
2001 - didn't disappoint.
Both came in with high-octane offenses, but it was defense that
ruled the game. Just 465 combined total yards were gained by the
Chaparral entered the game averaging 54.8 points per game and
boasting an 18-game winning streak. The Firebirds were held to one
score and 225 yards on offense.
Sunnyside quarterback Jaime Cota and receiver
George Garza took
care of the offense for the Blue Devils.
Trailing 7-3 in the third quarter, Chaparral lost the ball on a
fumble on the Blue Devils' 37-yard line. Five plays later, Cota
scrambled, dodged rushing defenders and hit Garza in the end zone for
a 25-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Cota found Garza again, this time for a
66-yard touchdown pass.
"We wanted this," said Garza, a junior. "We worked
all this summer to win the state championship, and now we have just
one more game to win it."
Cota, who finished 6 of 14 passing for 144 yards and two
touchdowns, is ready.
"I'm honored to be able to go to ASU," Cota said.
"We knew they were going to come out tough, but we knew we had to
play our game."
Sunnyside took an early lead after a rare interception by Chaparral
quarterback Darren Mougey.
He entered the game with 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions,
but he was picked off by Blue Devil Wally Altamirano minutes into the
game after the pass was tipped.
It helped build momentum for Sunnyside and set up a 30-yard field
goal by Richard Jimenez that gave the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead.
Mougey completed 10 of 27 passes for 134 yards.
"I just cannot believe it. I just know that interception set
the tone for us," Altamirano said.
Chaparral scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Billy Beran late in
the second quarter, a play that was set up by an interception of Cota.
Entering the locker room at the half, the mood of Sunnyside's
players did not reflect that they trailed 7-3.
Instead, an air of confidence surrounded them.
"It was some good competition at first, but after awhile we
knew we had it and we just started playing harder and harder,"
Sunnyside standout running back Xavier Smith didn't break loose for
huge gains, but got 106 yards on 22 carries - and a little extra work
Smith stood in at linebacker for starter
Marco Aranda, who tore his
medial-collateral ligament earlier this week.
But he wasn't about to take the credit.
"It feels great and the win means that our linemen picked it
up," Smith said. "We're really happy to be playing next
week. That's what we worked for in the summer with all those hot days.
That's why we made it."
Cactus advanced with a 31-8 victory over No. 3 seed Phoenix
Washington last night. The Cobras also knocked off No. 2 seed Peoria
Centennial last week.
No. 5 Sunnyside (11-2) vs. No. 7 Glendale Cactus (12-1)
What: Class 4A state football championship
When: Dec. 6, 12:07 p.m.
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe