Sahuaro wins section after Buena knocks off Sunnyside; Cienega almost makes it backby Andy Morales on Nov. 02, 2013, under Sports
Sahuaro beat Buena, Buena beat Cienega and Cienega beat Sahuaro. With each team finishing 4-1 in Division II/Section II, a winner had to be decided and “head-to-head” was not going to work.
Each team had a lot at stake heading into the final regular season game. Sahuaro was already in the state playoffs but they went into their game against Cienega Friday night knowing that a win would guarantee them a home game in the state playoffs.
Cienega knew they had to beat Sahuaro and have Buena lose to Sunnyside to earn the automatic bid that came with a section championship. Without the trophy, Cienega had almost no chance of getting an at-large berth with five losses to their name.
Buena had no chance of winning the section title but they knew a win over Sunnyside might be enough to get them from 17th to the top 15 and an invitation to play at Scottsdale Chaparral next Friday night.
With each section getting an automatic bid to the 16-team bracket, room has to be made for the weakest section, Section 4. The Section 4 champion will mostly likely take the 16th seed and play at Salpointe when the seedings are released at 9 am Saturday morning during the AIA bracket show.
Buena had no chance at the section championship because the second tie breaker after head-to-head is decided by the win percentage in your division and Sahuaro wins that easily.
Sahuaro started out strong and built a 14-7 lead over Cienega at the half but the Bobcats battled back for the 29-19 win. Holding up their end of the bargain, the Cienega faithful searched for news on what was happening down in Sierra Vista between Buena and Sunnyside.
News came that Sunnyside had taken a 23-21 lead over Buena with 34 seconds left. That was the good news but the good news was tempered by the fact that Sunnyside elected to kick an extra point rather than go for a 2-pt conversion.
The good news turned to bad after Buena’s Seima Groves kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired to rip out the hearts of Cienega. After a year of disappointment and battling back from the brink, Cienega’s post season ended on a kick made some 40 miles away.
The Bobcats gave up the control of their playoff destiny after they started out 1-5 but they battled back with wins against Sunnyside, Nogales and Desert View to set up an improbable playoff game against Sahuaro. In fact, Cienega was basically playing a playoff game every week just to survive.
They more than survived.
“I learned a lot about myself,” explained Cienega coach Nemer Hassey.
“I have never been 1-5 my whole life. The coaches and players could have pointed fingers at each other and we could have easily folded but we didn’t. We stuck together and kept on swinging. I am really proud of them and I did learn a lot about myself as a coach. This has been the most rewarding season of my career believe it or not,” he added.
Senior Cole Sterns was a monster in the first half for Sahuaro. He pulled down 100 yards and a touchdown pass to pace the Cougars but Derik Hall got things started with a 15-yard dash up the middle to give Sahuaro a 7-0 in the first quarter but Cienega quarterback Adriell Alvarado hit tight end Alec Daniels on a short pass to even things up at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Cienega watched game film of Buena’s loss at Sahuaro and they knew turnovers would be killer against the Cougars and a fumble at Sahuaro’s 11 yard line ended their first chance to take the lead later in the quarter.
Laramie Brown took advantage and he found Sterns on a 29-yard touchdown moments later to go up 13-7 at the half with missed extra point.
Omar Lloyd intercepted Alvarado three plays into the second half and Hall made Cienega pay with a 5-yard scoring run to go up 19-7 after a 2 pt conversion failed.
Sahuaro features a dual running back attack with Hall and Jerry Ruiz combining for over 1,200 yards on the season. Brown is closing in on 1,800 yards passing and Sterns went over 1,000 yard mark for receiving Friday night.
All cylinders were clicking but Cienega found a groove and they stormed back. Francisco Dicochea ripped off a 27-yard dash to set up Will Walker at the 2-yard line and Walker scored to make it 19-14 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Sterns looked like he hauled in a 42-yard touchdown on the next drive but the play was blown dead when Sterns was whistled for stepping out of bounds prior to catching the ball. Instead, Sahuaro was forced to punt and senior Christian Nash put Cienega up 22-19 after he ran for a 48-yard score and then a 2-pt conversion was completed.
Alec Daniels picked off Brown on the next drive and Nash pulled off a 25-yard run to put Cienega up 29-19. Sahuaro drove down for one last shot but a fumble ended the threat.
Sahuaro earned the section championship but it may have come at a steep price if they find themselves traveling next Friday night.
Here is what might happen with the brackets are released on Saturday in Division II:
Salpointe will get the top seed.
Sahuaro can go either up or down depending on the seeding formula but a top finish seems unlikely.
Mountain View may have shot themselves into the top eight.
No knowing how far Tucson High will fall but they should be safe.
Ironwood Ridge will be watching the selection show very closely. Had Buena missed the field goal, Cienega may have bumped the Nighthawks from the playoffs.
Buena would have sneaked in.