(right) makes it in the end zone virtually untouched for
a Blue Devil touchdown against Ironwood Ridge in the
Streaking Sunnyside rolls again
By Brian J. Pedersen
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
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
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
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
"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."