Undefeated. One simple word to describe the Cienega football team as they completed their regular season with a 52–0 victory at Douglas in late October.
The victory gave the Bobcats a perfect 10–0 record heading into the post season and leading the way is running back Manny Vera.
Vera rushed for 206 yards against Douglas and scored three touchdowns. His season total of 1,823 yards and 31 touchdowns is more than good enough to place him as one of the top backs in all of Arizona.
Cienega was rewarded with a 2 seed for their efforts and played host to 15 seed Sahuaro in the first round of the state playoffs where Vera rushed for 192 yards and scored three touchdowns to pace Cienega over Sahuaro 45–6.
Cienega had to score a late touchdown to hold off Sahuaro the last time these two teams met, a 31–24 victory in September. That game was so close and so different that Cougar quarterback Josh Miller was only touched two times and threw for 182 yards against one of the best defenses in the state.
That was then, this is now.
Miller finished this game with 74 yards — the hard way. What was the difference?
“We had a horrible week of practice last time,” explained Bobcat coach Nemer Hassey. “No matter what we told them the guys felt that game was going to be easy. They didn’t focus. Scott McKee runs a great program over there and they were ready.”
Hassey gathered his players for a short speech after the victory and informed them that there was “no magic to it.” Preparation does make a difference. Math comes easier when you do your homework and hitting a quarterback suddenly becomes an easier task when you work hard in practice.
Cienega hit so often that Sahuaro was held to 29 yards on 22 carries.
Cienega cashed in on an interception by Jamal Prentiss early in the game after Vera scampered through the Sahuaro defense for a 29-yard touchdown run.
Kevin Thompson sacked Miller to end Sahuaro’s next drive and Cienega drove down again and scored on a 10-yard dash by Vera to put Cienega up 14–0.
Sahuaro was forced to punt again and Michael Archie hit Edgar Poe up the middle on a 31-yard pass to set up a first and goal at the 10-yard line where Archie ran it in himself on the next play. 21–0 Cienega.
Jeremy Kreider recovered a fumble on Sahuaro’s next possession to set up a 44-yard field goal by Jason Cox. The kick would have been good from 60-yards out as a stiff wind was blowing in Cienega’s favor.
Bret Garcia sacked Miller on the next drive and Sahuaro was forced to punt into the wind from their own 10-yard line. Brandon Winkles returned the punt down to the 11-yard line and Gonzales ran it in two plays later to put Cienega up 31–0 at the half.
Vera and Gonzales would each score again on long runs in the third quarter to put Cienega up 45–0 and Sahuaro would score late touchdown but the damage was already done.
Cienega will host Marcos de Niza (9–2) after the Padres beat CDO 35–8 in their first-round game. The game will be played on Thursday night due to Veterans’ Day.
“We need to prepare and play each game like it’s the championship,” added Vera. “One at a time.”