By Alex Zener
Marcos de Niza’s football team is off to a great start this season with a 6-0 overall record and 1-0 in the 4A Desert Sky section.
Without Saguaro on their schedule, the Padres have outscored their opponents 255-41, defeating Vista Grande 41-0, Fountain Hills 42-6, Deer Valley 63-6, Amphitheater 55-7, Flagstaff 30-12 and Arcadia 24-10.
The Padres have four players who have attempted passes, but junior Braesen Leon has the most attempts, completing 54 out of 88 passes for a total of 937 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Junior Tegan Ligouri-Melendez has completed six of nine passes for 63 yards and one touchdown.
Senior Jamaal Young is the leading receiver on the team with 23 receptions for 405 yards and eight of the 17 touchdowns.
Two other seniors, Juan Lopez and Clinton Hopkins, have caught 14 passes for over 200 yards each. Lopez has scored five touchdowns and Hopkins has scored three.
The last one of the 17 touchdowns was scored by senior Mason Stromstad.
The leading rusher on the team is junior Lorenzo Alexander followed by junior Jamari Johnson.
Alexander has carried the ball 73 times for a gain of 454 yards and five touchdowns, while Johnson is next with 27 carries for 136 yards and one touchdown.
Altogether the Padres have scored 11 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Leon has scored three rushing touchdowns himself while Hopkins and Ligouri-Melendez have scored one each.
On defense, the Padres have four players who average over six tackles per game, including senior Xavier Bueno who averages over eight tackles a game followed by Stromstad with seven tackles per game, seniors Damian Gonzalez and Marcus Jones with over six tackles each per game.
Jones leads the team in quarterback sacks with four followed by Stromstad with two and seniors Davien Henry, Luis Pichardo, Paul Bueno and Jacob Armenta with one each.
The defense has come up with eight interceptions in five games. Senior Paul Garcia is the leader with three interceptions in the four games he has played gaining an average of 15.7 yards per interception.
Bueno has two interceptions while junior Pat Villa, senior Jireh Watson, and Lopez each have one interception.
On special teams, senior Damian Gonzalez has been busy kicking the ball off 38 times in the first five games for 2091 yards or an average of 55 yards per kickoff where 15 times his kicks have resulted in touchbacks.
Gonzalez has hit 29 of his 30 attempted PAT’s and hit four out of four field goal attempts to score a total of 41 points for the Padres.
Gonzalez was selected the Special Teams Player of the Game in the Padres win over Amphitheater on Sept. 23 when he contributed 13 points out of the 49 total points when he made seven PATs and two out of his two field goal attempts.
The Padres have been so dominant on offense that the punt kicker, Ligouri-Melendez, has only had to punt the ball 10 times. His longest punt was 52 yards, and his average was 38.4 yards.
The Padres have four games left to continue their quest to make it into the 4A playoffs.
Up next was Marcos’ home game Oct. 21 against Combs, a team in the same 4A Desert Sky section.
Combs, from San Tan Valley, is on a three-game winning streak, having barely defeated Bradshaw Mountain, 36-34, then Maricopa 49-23 and most recently Benjamin Franklin, 54-23.
On Oct. 28, the Padres are scheduled to play at Poston Butte, another San Tan Valley foe. The Broncos are currently 4-2 but they are a non-section opponent so losing to Poston Butte will not have the same impact on the Padres’ ranking for the playoffs as a team in the same 4A section.
Marcos will play a 4A Desert Sky team at Seton Catholic on Nov. 4 and then finish the regular season at home for senior night against another team in the same section, Arizona College Prep, on Nov. 10.