Lots of folks, except perhaps the fans and football players of No. 2-seeded Marcos de Niza, were probably hoping for another cliff-hanger between the Padres and the No. 7-seeded Chaparral Firebirds when they met up for the second time this season in the quarterfinals of the Division II state football playoffs Nov. 9.
The game was close in the first quarter and mostly exciting throughout, but it did not compare to the last second 29-27 win the Padres pulled off against Chaparral early in the regular season. Josh Eckley evaded tacklers and rushed 11-yards to win that game with no time left on the clock.
This time, Eckley along with Mauriece Lee and Paul Elvira on offense and senior defensive back Priest Willis and junior defensive back Dominique Fenstermacher on defense, made sure their team did not have to pull off any last minute heroics to move on to their semifinals match against Ironwood Ridge.
After the Firebirds struck first with a field goal in the first quarter, Lee broke free and left Chaparral’s defense in the dust to sprint 80 yards for the Padres first score of the game.
Even though the Firebirds came back to score a touchdown and briefly led 10-7 in the first quarter, they never got any closer than 12 points in the fourth quarter. The Padres, who scored seven total touchdowns, built a 35-10 lead in the first half and never looked back.
Lee, named offensive player of the game, ran the ball for 286 yards on 20 carries scoring four of the team’s seven touchdowns.
Elvira, named overall player of the game, was instrumental in helping Eckley, who only threw the ball 14 times against Chaparral, vary the offensive and keep the Firebirds’ defense off balance.
Elvira caught five of Eckley’s nine completed passes for 132 yards. Two times he leaped above his defender’s outreached arms to catch the pass and score a touchdown. Another time he snagged the ball out of the air for a catch in the red zone that eventually set up another touchdown for Lee.
Eckley, the team’s escape artist, once again proved how valuable it is for a football team to have a quarterback who can scramble and run with the ball, if needed. Eckley kept the ball 18 times rushing over 80 yards and scoring one touchdown.
Kicker Jaron Jones did his job making all seven of his point-after kicks.
The Padres defense was focused and determined. They not only held the Firebirds scoreless in the second quarter and tallying 59 total tackles but they came up big in the interception department.
Senior Derek Craig and junior Logan Palmer each had five solo and eight and nine total tackles respectively, but this game may have been a preview of what’s to come for junior Fenstermacher who had six solo tackles and three key interceptions.
Fenstermacher’s three, out of the Padres’ total five interceptions, were in the second half on a relatively cold windy night. Each one had the same effect on the Chaparral offense as dumping a cooler of ice water, usually saved for the unsuspecting winning coach’s head, on any scoring drives the Firebirds were attempting to mount.
Willis, named defensive player of the game for his pass defense, also saved a potential second-quarter scoring drive by Chaparral when he intercepted a pass in the red zone.
Senior Josh Kirkwood gave the defense another boost when he intercepted another Chaparral pass and blocked a field goal.
Up next the Padres were due to play Nov. 16 in Tucson against Ironwood Ridge, the only team to beat them this season. The Nighthawks have exactly the same record as Marcos de Niza, 11-1.
Previewing the game based on stats provided by maxpreps.com, it appears that the Padres, on paper, anyway, should have an advantage in passing yardage (257 to 113 average), total yardage (495 versus 400) and tackles (77 to 43). Both teams score in the 40’s per game.
The only area that the Nighthawks surpass the Padres is in rushing yardage (238 to 288) which may be why the Padres, averaging only 25 carries per game in the regular season, seem to have focused on rushing the ball more in the post season where they have averaged close to 45 carries a game.
Matter of fact, the Padres, who averaged over 200 yards rushing against teams in the regular season, actually had negative rushing yardage, -18, against Ironwood Ridge on Sept. 21.
Ironwood Ridge may feel it has the advantage of playing at home in Tucson and knowing that they beat Marcos 35-27 in Tempe earlier this season.
It will be up to the Padres and their coaching staff to overcome these obstacles to move on to the Division II championship game Nov. 24 against the winner of the other semifinal matchup: Salpointe Catholic versus Centennial.
Girls Soccer — Corona’s girls soccer team, with 16 returning players, nine of them seniors and starters from last season, is ready to get this new season underway and to show other Division I teams what they are made of.
“I am really excited about this season,” said coach Matt Smith. “We have a great senior class that is not only talented and committed but also has a great attitude.”
The team has eight seniors committed or being recruited to play at the next level in 2013 including Kelsey Cartwright, Steph Petre, Olivia Montoya, Zoe Martinez, Taylour Rohme, Emily Matthews, Kate Halligan and Tori Haun.
“Kelsey, Olivia and Steph are some of our returning starters who have received a lot of recognition in previous years,” said Smith. “I believe Zoe is set up to have a huge year for us creating and scoring out of the midfield. Taylour and Lexi Bounds form a great goalkeeping combo for us.”
Matter of fact, coach Smith thinks the Lady Aztecs’ main strength may be their defense and goalkeeping but he says they also are a good technical team with a number of players who can shoot the ball.
One of the best assets this team may have going for them is chemistry.
“We have a group of players who started playing together when they were really young and seem to intuitively know where each other is on the field,” said Smith.
The Lady Aztecs will start the regular season against arch rival Desert Vista on Nov. 29 at the Tempe Sports Complex followed by a match at Desert Ridge starting at 2 p.m. Dec. 1. Dec. 3-7 they will play in the Tempe Diablos Classic where they may end up facing off against Highland, Hamilton or Xavier, the three teams Smith thinks will be Corona’s main competition this season.
Aztec Lacrosse — The Aztec Lacrosse team is currently having its Fall Ball session where returning players will get a chance to work on their skills and any new players will be taught the basic lacrosse fundamentals so they will be prepared for the when the regular season starts in February.
Besides working on skill development during Fall Ball, where practices are usually from 6-8 p.m. at either the Tempe Sports Complex or Benedict Sports Complex, the players will participate in two scrimmage events this winter according to coach Cliff Prausa.
Residents in the Warner corridor have the opportunity to participate in the fastest growing sport in America by joining the Aztec Lacrosse Club. The team is currently accepting registrations for their 5/6 & 7/8 grade teams that will play in a spring league. No experience is necessary! For more information about the club or the spring team, go to www.aztecyouthlax.com or contact Cliff Prausa at firstname.lastname@example.org. Coaches – The lacrosse club also needs coaches so if you are an ex-player and interested in staying involved with the sport, contact Cliff Prausa.
Corona Cross Country — Corona’s cross country teams did better than expected at the Division I state meet. The girls team finished fifth and the boys team took third place with two runners placing in the top five.
“We are extremely pleased to have placed both the girls and boys teams in the top five,” said coach Ari Rodriguez. “It was a huge improvement over last year.”
Junior runner Nathan Rodriguez crossed the finish line in third place with a time of 15:57.736 or 18 places higher than he placed last year.
“Nathan improved his time by 45 seconds from last year,” said coach Rodriguez. “He was 21st last year at state but the course was a little different so it’s hard to really compare times.”
Ryan Normand came on strong towards the end of the season as did Patrick Cullings. Normand finished fifth, Jake Whitney 12th, Cullings 63rd and Alex
Frantz was 64th, rounding out the top five runners for the Aztecs.
“Normand is the most improved varsity runner and the second ranked junior in the state, right behind Nathan,” said Rodriguez. “Jake and Alex, as our seniors this year, can always be counted on to help the team have a strong finish.”
“Cullings broke his arm over the summer skateboarding and came into the season completely out of shape,” said Rodriguez. “He slowly moved up the rankings as the season progressed.”
On the girls team, senior Hallie Swenson was the first runner for Corona to cross the finish line. Hallie’s sister, Mason Swenson, only a freshman was the second CdS runner. The Lady Aztecs had Hallie finish 12th, Mason 28th, Victoria Haun 29th, Kelly Naumann 41st and Sammie Moore 42nd.
“The girls team had an outstanding run at state only missing out on fourth place by two points,” said Rodriguez. “We are so impressed with Mason’s improvement over the season. We will be looking for her to be our leading runner next year.”
It may be hard for the Aztecs to top this season’s accomplishments but the coaches and team have no doubt they can still improve.
“Everyone on the team bettered their performance from last year and, of course, next year we are going to try to improve even more,” said Rodriguez. “We hope to be going for the gold for both the girls and boys team by the time the state meet comes around.”
Corona State Swim/Dive — Corona’s boys and girls swimming team have some young swimmers who should show steady improvement over the next two seasons. This season, however, with an injured Chloe Hacker and so many freshman and sophomores on both the boys and girls team, Corona’s boys team finished 21st and the girls team 22nd.
Hacker, who hoped to win her third straight Division I state diving championship, was hindered by a shoulder injury the last part of the season and had not fully recovered by the state meet. Although Hacker still placed first in every meet, like the Tempe City Meet, leading up to state, she ended up fourth at state.
Freshman Karilyn Quon had a great freshman season culminating with a 10th place in the 200 IM, 15th in the 200 Medley Relay and 20th in the 500 Freestyle. Teammate Nicole Holly was 28th in the 100 Fly. Holly also swam with Quon in the 200 Medley Relay along with Amy Hong and Myah Kamani.
The boys team had two relays compete at the state meet both finishing in 12th place.
Ryan Riley, Brandon Haws, Chris Tate and Rick Riley swam the 200 Freestyle relay for the Aztecs while Matt Hurst, Trace Langley, Ryan Riley and Nick Quon swam in the 400 Freestyle Relay.
Nick Quon also swam for 12th place in the 100 Backstroke and 18th in the 200 IM while Tate was 23rd in the 100 Fly and Ryan Riley was 24th in the 50 Freestyle.
Hurst, who also qualified for two individual events at the state meet, placed 26th in the 500 Freestyle and 30th in the 200 Freestyle.
High School Boys Rugby — The Tempe Rugby Club, 2010 and 2011 Arizona High School State Champions, begin practice for the 2013 season on Tuesday Nov. 27. The club is welcoming new players. No experience is necessary. The high school team is comprised of students in the 9th through the 12th grades. Practices are twice a week from 5:45pm to 8pm at Tempe Diablo Park on the northeast corner of Roeser and 48th street. Please contact James at 480-330-8324, Dave at 602-763-1899, Scott at 602-763-5480 for more information.