RENEE BRACAMONTE/Tucson Citizen

Sunnyside's George Garza goes head to head with Flagstaff Coconino's Michael Young in the fourth quarter of last night's state playoff game.

Blue Devils win after No. 1 QB hurt


State playoff game turns into a rout, even though signal caller Jaime Cota has to sit.

JESSIE VANDERSON
Tucson Citizen 

Sunnyside played through adversity twice.

The No. 3-seeded Blue Devils overcame an early deficit and a big injury to defeat visiting No. 14 Flagstaff Coconino 47-6 last night in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Coconino stung the defending 4A state champions by scoring on a 74-yard run by quarterback Will Campbell on the third offensive play.

Sunnyside responded by driving on its ensuing possession to score on a 5-yard keeper by quarterback Jaime Cota to take a 7-6 lead at the 5:55 mark of the first quarter.

It was the beginning of 47 unanswered points that helped Sunnyside win its 23rd straight.

Midway through the second quarter, the big "A" once again came calling.

Cota was sidelined for the rest of the game with a badly sprained right ankle after a rough tackle at the end of a 41-yard scamper to the Panthers' 21-yard line.

"We talk about it all the time - that this is not a game of individuals," Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez said, "That when one guy goes down, the person that goes in has to pick it up."

Cota, who will be held out of practice for a couple of days, is expected to play in Sunnyside's second-round home game against Scottsdale Saguaro on Friday.

Anthony Duarte, Cota's backup, answered the emergency call well.

The Blue Devils finished the drive under Duarte, a sophomore, scoring on a 36-yard field goal by senior kicker Carlos Encinas.

Duarte hit senior wide receiver Nathan Vega on a 24-yard touchdown pass during Sunnyside's next possession, helping provide a 17-6 halftime lead.

"I was a bit nervous throwing the football, but I trusted my line that they would block," Duarte said.

The Blue Devils got a big spark in the second half from reserve running back Jovan Stevens and its swarming defense. Stevens, a freshman up from the junior varsity, took the second-half opening kickoff 60 yards to help set up a 1-yard touchdown sneak by Duarte.

"I decided I had to get it done," said Stevens. "At halftime, coach said we needed some big plays in the second half."

The Blue Devils sealed the game with two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Garcia, a senior defensive back, scooped up a fumble after a catch by the Panthers' Duke Bell, and returned it 5 yards for a score.

Wally Altamirano scored for the Blue Devils less than two minutes later.

Altamirano, a senior defensive back, grabbed a ball left on the turf in the Panthers' backfield and sprinted 38 yards for a touchdown to turn the game into a rout at 40-6 with 10:37 left.

"We made a lot of mistakes on their first drive, but we came back and hit them hard," said Altamirano, a safety.

Senior David Morales, who rushed for 45 yards on six attempts, added a 1-yard touchdown. Xavier Smith, the Blue Devils' senior star back, had 98 yards on 21 carries.

From his outside linebacker position, Smith helped limit the Panthers to 145 yards rushing and 66 yards passing.