Maricopa head coach Cory Nenaber is no stranger to late-season winning streaks.
This season, however, it meant something.
After winning five straight games to end the regular season, including a 34-17 victory over visiting Tempe High on Friday night, next week will mark Maricopa’s first postseason appearance since 2007 — and it may even be another home game.
“We’re playing pretty well right now on both sides of the ball,” Nenaber said. “We’re learning how to win down here. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in the playoffs.”
In each of Nenaber’s first two seasons, Maricopa (7-3) was able to string together a couple of late-season wins, albeit long after the team was out of playoff contention. This year, however, Maricopa’s looked like a playoff team for much of the year.
“That’s a testament to how hard our kids and our coaching staff,” Nenaber said. “We keep getting better every week. We’ve come a long way. We hope we’re just hitting our peak.”
Maricopa entered Friday’s Division III game ranked ninth and hopes the victory will secure another home game this postseason. Tempe (6-4) was ranked No. 17 and likely needed a victory to seal a postseason berth.
For Maricopa, senior running back Kentrell Coleman rushed 31 times for 178 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. Senior quarterback Caleb Buck completed 13 of 20 pass attempts for 203 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s a really good football player and we’re going to put the ball in his hands when we need to,” Nenaber said of Coleman. “He gets clutch yards. He’s a talented individual. It’s been three or four games in a row that’s he’s played really well.”
For Tempe, sophomore quarterback Emanuel Gant threw for 218 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
After trailing early and falling behind 27-10 at halftime, Tempe hung with Maricopa deep into the third and pulled the score to 27-17 on a short pass from Gant to running back Jordan Wiatr. But Maricopa’s Franshua Avila caught a 6-yard scoring pass from Buck early in the forth to all but seal the win.
Avila had five catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns to round out Maricopa’s scoring. Tempe’s scoring came on a 22-yard field goal from Victor Perez-Rodriguez, a 1-yard touchdown run by Raija Holt, and Wiatr’s third quarter score.