Sunnyside Victorious Over Chaparral, 17-7

<b>Jaime Cota</b> was on fire when it mattered most Friday night on the Southside of Tucson. He was 7-of-8 on third downs as Sunnyside held off a second half surge by the Firebirds to up their record to 2-0. The two teams have won the last four 4A state titles as Sunnyside took it in '01 and '03 and Chaparral ended on top in the even years. After the game, <i>Old Pueblo Preps</i> caught up with Jaime and star DT from Chaparral, <b>Ekom Udofia</b>. Udofia has a final six schools list.

The talents of four main players decided the outcome of the game Friday night. Unfortunately for Chaparral, they only had one of them in Udofia. Ekom was the do-everything player for the Firebirds on the evening. Sunnyside did anything they could to contain him and they did an adamant job on a few occasions, but Udofia overpowered the smaller Blue Devil lineman most of the game. He went against double-teams all evening and completely plugged the middle so anytime Xavier Smith had a lengthy run, it was to the outside. It was not always a fair fight in regards to Udofia's battle against the Blue Devils. The Devils' O-lineman were rolling into his ankles, holding him, and doing anything they could to try to keep him from being dominant. It did not work.

Ekom did not have a lot of stats, but without him the game would have been much different for Chaparral. He completely took away the middle of the field all night and any successful play Sunnyside had was to to the outside on sweeps, counters, and roll-out passes. After viewing him in person, it is apparent why Udofia is so highly-regarded and has his pick of schools. We caught up with him after the game.

"We didn't have a great game tonight," said Udofia of his squad. "We did not play like I know we can. I do think that we proved we can play with Sunnyside, though. We hung in there even though they probably have the best quarterback in the state. He was completing third-and-longs against us all night. I was pretty happy with my play but I am upset that we weren't good enough to get a win. Our offense really struggled."

Ekom will be taking his first trip tomorrow, but it is unofficial. "I am going to Stanford to watch them play against San Jose State and see my brother (redshirt freshman OL/Udeme Udofia). I will leave for the airport about halfway through our film sessions."

Stanford is one of the final six schools he is considering. "My coach and I have set-up official visits to Miami, USC, Stanford, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. I would say that Miami, 'SC, and Stanford are my top three."

Do the home-state Wildcats still have a shot? "Oh definitely," he said emphatically. "I am visiting there for the Wisconsin game. I will do everything with the other recruits like it is an official visit. The only thing is that I have to pay for it."

The problems the Blue Devils posed for Chaparral on the night were three-fold. Xavier Wright, Jaime Cota, and receiver Nathan Vega played big when it mattered.

Cota was 11-of-24 for 220 yards and a TD. He made plays with his feet all night including his nail-in-the-coffin pass when he hit wide receiver Wally Altamirano for a 31-yard touchdown with 2:11 in the game. On the play before, Smith had a 20 yard run. Those were the only two plays the Devils needed to put the game away after taking over the ball on the Firebirds' 39-yard line. 'X' also had his biggest run of the night going for 20-plus yards when he had a 26-yard scamper for the game's first TD with not much time left before the half.

Xavier is easily Sunnyside's best defensive player. He is at his best when he is playing near the line, stopping the run and rushing the passer. He knocked down a few passes on the night, recovered a fumble, and made a plethora of tackles. Xavier does not look as comfortable when he is backing into coverage. He obviously has talent to play safety or running back, but at this point, as expected, he looks more natural in the offensive backfield.

Despite not catching a touchdown, Nathan Vega came up with clutch receptions all evening from Cota. We would not be surprised to see Nathan receive some sort of college attention as the season goes on. At 6-0, 185 he has decent size and his hands are superlative. Vega also has a knack for getting open and is obviously money when it matters.

Even thought they beat their state arch-nemesis, the Sunnyside players and head coach were discouraged by their performance. When one reported asked head coach Richard Sanchez if he had a feeling the Blue Devils would be going for a third state title in four years after beating arguably their two toughest opponents (5A Salpointe last week), he was not so positive. "We did not play our best tonight. I do not think we improved from the Salpointe game and it is time to get back to work."

Immediately after the game, the Sunnyside team captains demanded the whole team head straight to the locker room, so the only ones to stay behind for interviews were Sanchez and Cota. "They were giving us tight coverages all night and we were able to exploit that and take advantage of that," said Cota. "Chaparral is a great team but we didn't play very well at all and are disapointed in our performance."

Jaime then updated us on his recruitment. "San Diego State and Northern Arizona are showing the most interest right now. I did receive a phone call from Boise State the other day. I would say those are my top three."

Jaime and Smith will be at the UA-NAU game tonight.

Sunnyside takes on Goodyear Millenium next week while Chaparral faces Peoria Centennial.

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