Corona’s football team may not have had the best of seasons, but the Aztecs definitely had an impact on the 6A state playoff scene with a come-from-behind 14-10 victory over Desert Vista last Friday, Oct. 27.
The Aztecs win on the Thunder’s home field not only moved Desert Vista out of the predicted No. 9 seeding in the 6A playoff series but totally took them out of the bracket seedings altogether.
Desert Vista is no longer one of the top 16-teams and will not be playing Nov. 3 when first round of the 6A state championship playoffs begins.
Junior quarterback Ryan Helt, who completed 18 out of 26 passes, for a total of 177 yards to five receivers, had help from the Aztec defense who intercepted the Thunder’s quarterback three times. Two of these passes ultimately led to Corona touchdowns.
Trailing in the first quarter 0-7, Brandon Gavel intercepted a pass returning it 55 yards to the Thunder 35-yard line.
Junior Ricky Pearsall caught Helt’s 20-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for Corona’s first touchdown. The point after kick failed leaving the Aztecs down one point, 7-6, midway through the first quarter.
Desert Vista scored a field goal before the end of the first quarter to go up 10-6, the only points scored by either team until the fourth quarter.
Nothing much happened offensively until eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Desert Vista’s 2017 playoff hopes went out the window when senior Aaron Arenas, playing in his last football game of his high school career, picked off an errant pass from the Thunder’s quarterback.
The Aztecs, fired up by the interception, used the change in momentum to march down the field scoring on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Helt to Gavel and take the lead for the first time at 12-10.
Corona went for a two-point conversion to force the Thunder into having to score a touchdown to win the game. Helt charged into the end zone to put the Aztecs up 14-10 leading to the spoiler loss for the Thunder but a great way to end the season for Corona football players and fans.
Altogether, the Aztecs offense combined for 271 yards, 94 rushing and 177 receiving.
Gavel led the team in rushing by carrying the ball nine times for a gain of 49 yards followed by fellow seniors Kobee Marion and Luther Saxton. Helt carried the ball four times for a total of 32 yards or an average of eight yards a carry.
Pearsall was the leading receiver with eight receptions for a total of 69 yards or 8.6 average yards per carry and one touchdown.
Marion was next with five carries for 46 yards followed by Gavel who only have two receptions for 45 yards or 22.5 yards per reception, on average. Gavel also scored one touchdown.
Juniors Josh Webb and Jaron Reval had receptions against Desert Vista.
On defense, senior Evan McQueen led the team with seven solo and five assisted tackles for a total of 12 while fellow senior Brooks Canfield had four solo and six assisted tackles for a total of 10 tackles.
Seniors Devan Tursini-White and Trey Bussler each had three solo and five assisted tackles for a total of eight tackles. Bussler had the only sack of the game leading to a seven-yard loss for the Thunder.
Senior Brian McCluskey and Reval each had six total tackles while junior Ben Rafalski was recorded with four solo and three assisted tackles. Rafalski was the third Aztec player to catch an interception against Desert Vista.
Although Corona’s seniors were honored at the last home game, Oct. 20, against Mountain Pointe, most enjoyed defeating Desert Vista more their last game of the season.
Additional seniors honored at senior night included Nathan Hemingway, Quinten Hunter, Ignacio Lopez, Xavier Burrell, Matt Cerwinske, Gabe Baca, Matt Gill, Eric Cota, Parker Christenson, George Redheffer and Justus Stockton.
Marcos de Niza and Tempe High School Football
The Padres defeated Tempe High School, 27-16, on Oct. 27 to secure the No. 9 seed in the 4A state championship playoff which started Nov. 3.
Marcos de Niza will play at Cactus Shadows, the No. 8 seed, in the first round. If the Padres won that game, they will most likely meet the No. 1 seed, Sunrise Mountain, on Nov. 10.
Tempe, playing their last home game of the season, had an 8-0 lead in the first quarter against the Padres with a two-point safety and a touchdown reception from quarterback Nathan Clayton to Isaiah Burner.
The Buffaloes, whose passing game started the game on target, lost momentum when penalties started to have an impact.
Tempe was called for roughing the kicker on a punt in the first quarter which would have given the ball back to the Buffaloes. Instead the Padres kept the ball and ultimately scored on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Marcos Moreno to senior Joren Davis to make the score 8-7.
Two interceptions in the second quarter ultimately led to two Padre touchdowns in the second quarter.
Anthony Steinpreis intercepted one Tempe pass and Keandre Greer the second.
The Buffaloes did manage to score another touchdown by Burner to add six more points.
Then Amaru Johnson sacked Moreno once again in the end zone for an additional two points but those were the last points the Buffaloes would score.
The first half ended with Marcos up 20-16.
Tempe’s quarterback Clayton was reinjured in the third quarter and carted off the field to the hospital which put a damper on the players and fans.
Omari Rogers took over at quarterback but was playing that position for the first time in something other than practice. His regular position is free safety and wide receiver.
Tempe was not able to overcome penalties and the loss of their quarterback on the night they were honoring their seniors.
Marcos scored one more touchdown when Moreno rushed into the end zone for the 27-16 win.
Tempe’s seniors included Jaren Walker, Cameron Peters, Isaiah Bruner, Dominick Harper, Stevie Maddox, Moses Ruiz, Jorge Arredondo, Luis Llamas, Malik Fitch, Jesus Beltran and Jaime Marmolejo
Corona Volleyball Defending State Championship Title
Over the next two weeks Corona’s girls volleyball team will be playing in the 6A state championship playoffs in the hopes of defending the state championship title they won in 2016.
With a 38-2 record, the only two losses coming against Xavier in tournaments, the Aztecs have been a steady team on the court all season
“We have played very consistently over the season, trying to play clean volleyball no matter the opponent,” said head coach Ben Maxfield.
Instrumental to a successful run through the playoffs to the championship finals will be several key players including junior outside hitter Brooke Nuneviller, senior setter Abby Meyer, senior opposite Emma West, sophomore outside hitter Madelyn Noble, senior middle blocker Alyssa Wissinger, sophomore middle blocker Sadie McRae, and defensive specialists senior Allie Wade, junior Kacie McCain and sophomore Becca Morse.
Nuneviller leads Corona’s team in kills at over five kills a set culminating over 500 kills in 103 sets during the 2017 regular season plus she is terrific playing defense with over 430 digs or 4.2 digs a set.
Nuneviller’s 430 total is 141 digs over the next player, Morse, who accumulated 290 digs in only 71 sets or 4.1 digs a set.
Noble and West will be needed contribute to the team’s success on the outside hitting and blocking. During the regular season they tallied for 250 and 225 kills respectively along with 41 blocks for West and 32 blocks for Noble.
McRae and Wissinger, at the middle blocker position, will be needed to handle the brunt of the blocking plus take the pressure off the outside hitters by being successful attacking in the middle. During the regular season, McRae accumulated 58 total blocks and 116 kills in 101 sets.
Wissinger came on strong late in the season totaling 47 total blocks and 191 kills in only 76 sets.
In the Aztecs 3-2 win over Mountain Pointe, in the last match of the regular season, Wissinger had 18 kills second only to Nuneviller with 23.
“Alyssa Wissinger and our setter Abby Meyer have really started to connect as setter-hitter,” said Maxfield. “Having Alyssa produce helps take a lot of the pressure off our pin hitters to score all the time.”
Meyer not only reads the defense and sets up the offense for the Aztecs, she is good at earning points with her serving. Meyer leads the team in service aces with 59.
McCain is next with 38 aces playing in 89 sets.
Altogether, the team has served 283 aces in 107 sets averaging 2.6 aces a set.
“We work really hard to win the Serve-receive/ Serve battle and have been successful in doing that,” said Ben Maxfield. “Kacie McCain has provided us a lot of points off her serve.”
Wade, will be needed to play defense on back row. She has played in all 103 sets, is the third leading digger on the team with 265 digs or 2.6 digs a set and 41 aces.
“Allie Wade has done a great job for us in a “utility” position,” said Maxfield. “She has been passing very well and continues to grow comfortable in playing right back defense, a totally new position for her.”
Corona faced the No. 16 seed Skyline in the first round Oct. 31 and the winner between No. 10 Valley Vista and No. 7 Horizon in the quarterfinals Nov. 2.
The semifinals will start at 5:00 p.m. Nov. 7 and the finals at 7:30, Nov 9, at Mesquite high school.
“State playoffs should be fun this season,” said Maxfield. “I really think that the top six teams all have a legitimate shot of winning it all.”
The top six, in order of seeding, are Xavier, Corona, Mountain Pointe, Millennium, Perry and Hamilton.