After perhaps the biggest win in school history, what do you do for an encore? You do it again.
Nogales stunned Peoria Sunrise Mountain early touchdowns, and then its relentless defense controlled the remainder of the contest, shutting out Sunrise Mountain’s offense and leading Nogales to a 22-8 win in the Division III quarterfinals.
With the second straight upset victory, Nogales faces second-seeded Queen Creek in next Saturday’s semifinals at Gilbert Campo Verde.
“Last week was the state championship, tonight was the national title and next week could be the Super Bowl,” said a euphoric Nogales head coach Vince Villanucci, talking about the significance of the playoff successes to Nogales.
Nogales’s defense silenced Sunrise Mountain and its various offensive weapons. Nogales used a staunch run defense and a hard-hitting secondary to contain Sunrise Mountain stars Elijah Castro and Neiman Snead. Castro and running back Corey Brown found little success rushing the ball, and Snead chalked up 120 yards rushing, but was kept out of the end zone.
Nogales’ Nick Colgate came up with two interceptions and had a key fourth-down pass breakup in the endzone late in the fourth quarter as Sunrise Mountain attempted to make a comeback. Colgate’s teammate in the secondary, senior safety Chris Valencia, delivered some punishing hits early in the game to help stifle the Sunrise Mountain aerial attack.
Sunrise Mountain (9-3) never scored on offense, and only got on the board late in the contest on a Ryan Wood interception return for a touchdown.
Nogales (10-2) jumped out to a 22-0 halftime lead on the strength of three touchdown passes from quarterback Marcel Renteria, two of which went to senior running back Brian McCarty. Renteria finished the game 15-for-23 for 232 yards with three touchdowns and one interception and McCarty had nine receptions for 178 yards.
Nogales’s good-sized contingent of fans that made the 200-mile drive north rushed the field following the victory.
“It’s amazing. Unexplainable,” Colgate said about the win as Nogales fans surrounded him on the Sunrise Mountain field. “I just want to keep going.”