Tempe Marcos de Niza had tilted the scoreboards with points in its first three games, averaging 63 points per contest. But Friday night at Laveen Cesar Chavez, Marcos de Niza had to win with defense.
Marcos de Niza (4-0) held Cesar Chavez to 33 yards of total offense in the second half and survived an ankle injury to standout quarterback Josh Eckley in a 23-15 Division II Section VI win.
Eckley passed for 161 yards with a touchdown and interception in the first half, then missed most of the second half. But he got in for one key play in the third quarter, a 20-yard crossing route completion to Malique Sharp that went for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
Jake Lagunas took over for Eckley at quarterback after rushing for 57 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Lagunas netted 26 rushing yards and 26 passing yards in the second half, but also threw an interception that Cesar Chavez defensive back Melvin Lewis returned for a touchdown with 3:07 left in the game.
Cesar Chavez (0-4) scored first when Ivan Jones capped off the first drive of the game with a 5-yard touchdown run. Then Cesar Chavez forced the first of two turnovers on downs with its defense and Marcos de Niza committed several penalties to stall drives in the first half, giving Cesar Chavez hope for the upset.
But Marcos de Niza got on the board when Eckley avoided a sack and found N’Keal Harry for a 56-yard touchdown with 9:15 left in the second quarter.
Marcos de Niza got a safety with 5:03 to play to take a 23-7 lead. Its defense recorded three sacks, two interceptions and two fourth-down stops.
“You lose your leader, other leaders have to step up,” Marcos de Niza coach Roy Lopez said. “We have some good defensive players. We’re really trying to emphasize that.”