VAL CANEZ/Tucson Citizen

Sunnyside's David Morales (right) makes it in the end zone virtually untouched for a Blue Devil touchdown against Ironwood Ridge in the fourth quarter.

Streaking Sunnyside rolls again 

By Brian J. Pedersen 

Sunnyside's sideline is like any other in high school, college or professional football. 

As expected, team members jump up and down and become animated while shouting out at the players on field. 

And then there's Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez. On Friday night, he more closely resembles an impartial observer who just so happened to be within arm's length of the field. 

"I don't get excited on Friday nights, I get excited during the week," said Sanchez, after his defending Class 4A state champion Blue Devils rolled to a 49-7 victory over Ironwood Ridge to move closer to clinching another Sonoran Region title. 

Sunnyside (8-0, 5-0), which is headed back to Class 5A next year, improved to 32-0 in region play since moving to 4A in 1999. The Devils have won 35 straight region games dating to 1998, as well as 20 straight overall and their last 14 against Southern Arizona opponents. 

It was hard for Sanchez to find any fault with the effort Sunnyside put forth Friday, though the architect of two state titles in the previous three seasons could find something - allowing 111 yards and a late touchdown in the fourth quarter, maybe? - to work on. 

The Devils averaged more than 10 yards for each offensive snap, gaining 516 yards on 51 plays against a Nighthawks defense that came in allowing only 167 yards per game. 

Sunnyside was so in control and so confident in its abilities that it rested UA-bound tailback/linebacker Xavier Smith and his nagging turf toe injury with five minutes left in the second quarter and just a 14-0 lead. 

The rest of the Devils starters, though, played much of the game, resulting in the Nighthawks (6-2, 4-1) having to defend against the pass in the fourth quarter. Sanchez scoffed at the idea of his team trying to pad its stats or run up the score. 

"Our starters had an opportunity to play a whole game," Sanchez said. "We've got to get our starters into playing shape - that's the bottom line." 

Senior quarterback Jaime Cota, already having a career year, had his best game yet. He was 21 of 25 for 319 yards and four touchdowns, and he also scored on a 1-yard run and threw a pass for a two-point conversion. 

"He's a great quarterback, he knows how to make his reads," said receiver George Garza, who had eight catches for 129 yards and a TD. 

The Devils would clinch a playoff berth with a victory at Rincon/University (7-1, 4-1) next week. Overconfidence might be Sunnyside's biggest remaining opponent. 

The Devils were defending champs and went 10-0 in the regular season in 2002, dominating everyone along the way, but fell 20-17 to Scottsdale Chaparral in the state semifinals. 

Sunnyside's state title teams, in 2001 and last fall, seemed to thrive on being an underdog after losing handily to more-polished opponents early in the season. 

"I don't think that will be a problem this year," Sanchez said. "This is a little different group. If we get beat that's because somebody played better." 

Garza said: "There's no (such thing as) being too confident. You've just got to come out each game and work hard."