IT took only three plays and a little more than a minute for the visiting Coconino Panthers to jump out for early lead over the defending 4a state champs in Sunnyside. Super-athlete Will Campbell caught the Blue Devils Defense napping on 3rd and 2 when he broke off a 74 yd run on a QB sneak giving the 14th seed Panthers a 6-0 lead. However the extra point was blocked and that was what the rest of Coconino's night would look like, as Sunnyside would chalk on 47 points in defense of their state championship.
Sunnyside answered right back behind Jaime Cota and Xavier Smith, marching 75 yards, capped off by a 5 yd keeper by Cota for the score, giving Sunnyside the lead 7-6. That was all the Blue Devils needed as they poured it on the Panthers for the remainder of the game. Sunnyside fans and coaches received a little bit of a scare in the 2nd quarter when star QB, Jaime Cota, went down with an ankle injury after scrambling off for fifty yards to the Coconino 20. Cota sat the remainder of the game but said he would be good to go for next weeks match up.
The Blue Devils followed the Cota run by adding on three points behind the strong left leg of Carlos Encinas from 36 yds out making the score 10-6. Sunnyside wasn't done however, as back up QB Anthony Duarte delivered a strike to Nathan Vega who made a fantastic diving catch for a 24 yd score in the corner of the end zone. Sunnyside 17 Coconino 6 at the half.
Sunnyside went back to business as usual to open up the 2nd half. Jovan Stevenson ripped off a 60 yd kickoff return to the Coconino 26 on the opening possession leading way to a one yard scoring plunge by Duarte on a sneak. The Sunnyside offense would relax after that as the wrath of the Blue Devils D showed its ugly face in an impressive 6 minute span that drove the nails into the Coconino coffin. On the Panthers opening possession, QB Will Campbell was mauled by nearly the entire Sunnyside D-line for a 12 yard sack and a safety. After a great goal line stand by the Panthers on the following possession, they tried to pull a quick one on 4th and 3 deep in their own territory, when a fake punt took a turn for the worse When Campbell, who is also the punter, connected with a receiver near the first down marker, but he was stripped of the ball and Sunnyside's Aaron Garcia scooped it up for a 2 yd return and a touchdown.
Sunnyside's Defense wasn't done yet. Only a few plays later, Wally Altamirano snatched a fumble in the Panther's backfield and scurried for 38 yds to pay dirt, putting the Blue Devils up 40-6 early in the fourth. Sunnyside was able to tack on 16 points with the offense watching from the sideline as the defense took control. The Devils added one more score before the night's end as they ran out the clock making the final score Sunnyside 47 Coconino 6.
Bottom Line: Sunnyside started the 2nd part of their journey back to Tempe on the right track with a convincing win over a good Coconino squad. The Blue Devils are looking tough and playing their best ball of the season right now. They face a challenge next week in Scottsdale Saguaro who is arguably the best team they will have faced thus far. Jaime Cota should be good to go next week for Sunnyside as the Sabercats travel to Tucson in what should be a great match up. Saguaro is going to have their hands full on both sides of the ball, but they are also playing their best football of the season. This one should be exciting!
Game Balls: You have to give it up to Xavier Smith. The kid was all over the field on offense and defense all night long. He finished the night with 100 yds on 21 carries and wreaked havoc on Will Campbell on the defensive side of the ball. The entire Sunnyside D deserves some love. The front 7 pressured Campbell nearly every time he dropped back to pass and shut down a lightning quick runner in tailback Michael Young, while the defensive backs accounted for two TDs of their own on fumble recoveries. For the Panthers, Campbell played as hard as I have seen anyone play, in hopes of upsetting the Devils. The kid never comes off the field and he gave Coconino their only points on the 74 yd scoring run.