For one night, it appeared the Running of the Bulls was transported from Pamplona, Spain to Surprise, Arizona.
That’s because running backs Ty Cruz from Tucson Catalina Foothills and Chris Salsberry from Surprise Shadow Ridge tortured the opposition with dazzling runs, banging bodies and displaying sheer power.
In the end, No. 6 seed Shadow Ridge prevailed 51-41 over No. 11 Catalina Foothills in a Division III playoff game.
The victory by Shadow Ridge was the first-ever post-season football victory for a school in the Dysart Unified School District. Shadow Ridge advances to play Goodyear Desert Edge in Friday’s quarterfinals.
In their past four games, Shadow Ridge scored 213 points, an average of 53 points. In the win Friday night, it dropped another 51 points on the opposition, and jumped out to a 42-21 lead by late in the third period.
Cruz and Salsberry, both seniors, put up astonishing numbers, and Salsberry won the numbers game.
Carrying the ball 45 times, he gained 308 yards, scored five touchdowns on the ground plus one through the air. For his part, Cruz picked up 219 yards on 15 carries and scored four touchdowns.
“We know how to put up points,” Salsberry said. “But credit to the offensive line. I’ve played with these guys since my freshman year, and they open holes. I can’t say enough about these guys. They did a phenomenal job.”
Shadow Ridge coach Rico Tipton limited Salsberry’s touches in the team’s 57-0 win over Buckeye Youngker last week in anticipation of the work-load that comes with playoff competition.
“We run the ball and do what we do,” Tipton said. “I told Chris to be ready. If you pass, I always believed three things would happen and two turn out be disastrous.”
So Tipton gave the ball to Salsberry, who improved on his 167.1 yards per game average. He scored all of Shadow Ridge’s touchdowns save one. That’s when quarterback Trevor Mucci reached the end zone on a 7-yard run with 4:11 remaining in the third period.
In time, Salsberry’s running effort and a safety midway through the final period put this one in the Shadow Ridge column.
If Cruz kept the Catalina Foothills ground engine burning, freshman quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, son of the University of Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez, did his best to keep Catalina Foothills in the game.
On the night, Rodriguez completed 12-for-21, 207 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked up 76 yards on 11 carries.
The key combination of Cruz and Rodriguez enabled Catalina Foothills to accumulate 502 yards of total offense.
Salsberry’s monster game was complemented by senior Gabe Jordan’s 37 yards on eight arries while Mucci went 2-for-7 through the air, 28 yards and one touchdown.
For the game, Shadow Ridge picked up 417 yards of total offense.