The Aztecs started their first possession against Desert Ridge on Oct. 7 with a kickoff return by Brandon Gavel to the Aztecs’ 37-yard line. The gain proved fruitless when they were unable to capitalize on this good field position to sustain a drive or score a point until the third quarter.
Corona was ultimately defeated at home by Desert Ridge, 27-14, falling to 3-4 on the season but did have some positive aspects to build on for the rest of the season in the third quarter.
After trailing the Jaguars 20-0 to start the second half, Corona’s defense found more opportunities to slow down Desert Ridge’s offense, and the Aztecs were able to score some points on offense in the third quarter.
Kobee Marion surprised the Desert Ridge offense and gave the Aztecs a boost of energy when he jumped in front of a Jaguar receiver early in the third quarter to intercept a pass. Marion never looked back, running 60 yards into the end zone for a pick-six, giving the Aztecs their first points midway through the third quarter. Austin Delany scored the point-after kick.
Trailing 20-7, Corona’s Jacob Clemons got into the action less than a minute later when he snagged the Aztecs’ second interception of the night.
Quarterback Austin Helt wasted no time in hitting Ricky Pearsall for a 22-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to six points at 20-14.
The Jaguars’ third turnover happened on their next possession when Corona’s Cobe Allen recovered a fumble with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Aztecs were unable to capitalize on their latest takeaway and had to once again rely on junior kicker Kaden Riforgiate to punt the ball away, ending the quarter behind 20-14.
Although Corona’s defense continued to play better in the fourth quarter, Desert Ridge managed to score another touchdown to defeat the Aztecs 27-14.
Corona has three games left, which they will most likely have to win in order to have a shot at playing in the post season.
The Aztecs should match up well against the Gilbert Tigers when they play at Gilbert on Oct. 14. The Tigers are 1-6 so far this season, only winning one game so far.
The Aztecs should have an uphill battle, though, when they were due to play at currently undefeated and No. 1 Arizona-ranked Mountain Pointe on Oct. 14. The Pumas are ranked No. 21 nationally by maxpreps.com and score an average of 48 points a game.
Corona’s last regular season game is Oct. 21 at home against Desert Vista. The Thunder currently have the same season record as the Aztecs, 3-4, but score on average close to 10 more points per game.
Marcos de Niza football
The Padres broke their two game losing streak, gave their coach an historic win and put themselves in position to have an opportunity to play to make it to the 4A state championship finals by defeating No. 9-ranked Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, 34-21, on Oct. 7.
A few weeks ago, with a 4-0 start to their season defeating teams by an average of 27 points per game, Marcos seemed to be on the right track to fulfilling their goal of getting another chance at winning a state championship.
The then-No. 2 ranked Division 4A Padres looked to have all the necessary players and personnel to make it happen.
They had a star quarterback in Nazareth Greer, who was averaging over 350 yard a game passing the ball.
They had a new head coach, Paul Moro, who was one game away from his 331st career head coaching win—a win that would tie him with Vern Friedli for most career head-coaching wins in Arizona high school football history.
They had a balanced offense, with at least 8-10 receivers to catch Greer’s passes, including Marcus Naisant, Jordan Johnson, Jesse Guzman, and Christian Trevino. They had at least one good running back to move the ball on the ground and keep their opponents’ defense off balance in senior Zyayre Moss.
They had a swarming defense responsible for 13 quarterback sacks, 265 total tackles, three interceptions and four blocked field goals with the likes of Mario Gastelum, Marcus Green, Alex Torres, Anthony Gomez-Nicastro, Luis Alvarez, Luke Barnes, Rudy Balderamma, Joe Chavez, Anthony Steinpreis and Tyshawn Britton on the field.
Then, in week five of the regular season, the unexpected happened. The Padres lost to Casa Grande, a team that had not won more than two games in three of its last 10 seasons.
Marcos football fans are probably still shaking their heads wondering how Casa Grande not only managed to intercept Greer three times but outscore the Padres 27-13 to defeat their team in the fifth game of the season on Sept. 23.
Maybe the Padres just had an off night; maybe they were overlooking the Cougars, 2-2, with their minds on the upcoming game against Saguaro on Sept. 29.
The Sabercats, at that time 6-0, are ranked No. 1 in 4A and No. 2 in the state. They are the three-time defending state champions who defeated the Padres in the 2015 championship finals.
Regardless, the win Oct. 7 against Cactus Shadows not only gave the Padres momentum and a boost of confidence heading into their last three games of the regular season, but it gave Coach Moro his 331st career win and the record- breaking tie with Friedli.
The game was much closer than the score appeared throughout the first three quarters, but Greer had a good night, passing over 300 yards for two touchdowns.
Naisant, who caught five passes for close to 100 yards, scored two touchdowns. One was a 64-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter; the other was a 36-yard reception from Greer to tie the game at 14, all in the third quarter.
Defensive back Chavez gave the Padres an energizing boost and the first lead of the game when he recovered a Falcon fumble on the very next play from scrimmage and ran it in for a touchdown.
Kicker Krysten Muir converted her third extra-point kick of the nights to put Marcos up 21-14.
The Falcons would tie the game again at 21-21 midway through the third quarter before Guzman caught a 17-yard pass from Greer to take the lead once again at 27-21.
Greer took over in the fourth quarter and the ultimate win, after the Padres were pinned at their own 1-yard line, with a 99-yard time-consuming drive that culminated in Greer’s 15-yard run into the end zone for a 34-21 victory.
If the currently ranked No. 4 Padres stay focused, they should be able to get a win at No. 21-ranked Seton Catholic on Oct. 14 but the next game, on Oct. 21 at No. 3 ranked Higley, looks to be more challenging.
The Padres finish off their regular season at home, Senior Day, Oct. 28 against Tempe.
The 4A state playoffs start Nov. 4 at the higher seed. As of Oct. 4, the Padres were the No. 5 seed behind Saguaro, Sunrise Mountain, Catalina Foothills and Higley.
Corona girls volleyball
Corona’s girls volleyball team brought home the second place trophy at the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions held in Phoenix, Sept. 28-Oct. 1. The No. 2-ranked Aztecs were the top finisher among the over 20 Arizona schools that participated.
The Aztecs, now ranked No. 14 in the Xcellent 25 Writers Poll, defeated five teams, three from out of state, to make it into the finals against the No. 3-ranked team in the nation out of Louisville, Ken., Sacred Heart.
“We had a good tournament,” said Coach Ben Maxfield. “We played consistently throughout but our solid passing enabled us to run a very efficient offense.”
Senior Libero Camryn Tucker was partly responsible for the solid passing, with close to 50 digs at the tournament. She is leading her team with over 250 digs so far this season.
Taking advantage of the great passes by not only Tucker but Brooke Nuneviller, with 46 digs, and Erica Ronda, with 43 digs, were Corona setters Madi Ruem and Abby Meyer. Ruem and Meyer combined for 135 assists at the Tournament of Champions, which ultimately led to 182 kills.
Nuneviller, the kill leader on the team over the season, did not disappoint, tallying 61 kills during the tournament. Her highest total was 16 kills in a three-game match again Mater Dei from Santa Ana, Calif. She also had 11 aces and seven blocks.
Ronda had an all-around good tournament as well, with 43 kills, nine aces and two blocks.
“We have continued to steadily improve our blocking over the course of the season, which was an added bonus during the tournament,” said Maxfield.
Combining solo and block assists, Corona had a combined 55 blocks at the tournament.
Middle blocker Lauren Forte was a force in the middle, accumulating 12 total blocks and 43 kills during the tournament. Forte leads the team in blocking, with close to 70 total blocks so far this season.
The Aztecs’ steady improvement over the season and performance at the Nike Tournament of Champions may have them peaking at the right time.
Corona has only five remaining games after being scheduled to play at Desert Vista on Oct. 12 and at home against Mountain Pointe on Oct. 14.
“Our experience at the Nike Tournament of Champions will continue to give us confidence that we can do really well in the state tournament,” said Maxfield.
Corona will have two home games next week—Desert Ridge on Oct. 18 and Gilbert on Oct. 19, before they are scheduled to complete the second of back-to-back matches against Gilbert in an away game Oct. 20.
The Aztecs will play at home the last two games of the season. First comes Highland on Oct. 24, then Mountain Pointe Oct. 25. The state tournament starts Nov. 2 at the higher seed.