The Marana Tigers knew they were not playoff bound when closing out their season against Flowing Wells (1-9) on Friday night, but that didn’t stop them from competing like they were after a state championship.
It was obvious the Tigers, who next year will be without such key seniors as Ben Honea, Colby Cecil, and Ross Jonathon, wanted to go out with a bang, and they accomplished that with a dominant 52-14 win over the Caballeros.
The win was a special for Marana not only because it gave the seniors a proper goodbye, but also because it landed the Tigers their best record since 2007 at 5-5.
“I’m really proud of our kids. We’ve been battling culture from years past, and our kids know that,” said second-year head coach Andy Litten. “Tonight, they understood this could be the best team since 2007. They understand the importance of taking steps. They deserve to be fired up.”
The Tigers wasted no time making their objective clear in their season finale.
On the opening kickoff, Reece Lafaye returned the ball 78 yards to the end zone to put the Tigers up 6-0 13 seconds in.
Then they took possession again a moment later with an onsides kick recovery.
“We came ready to play from the get-go,” said Litten. “We have been notorious this season for slow starts, and so coming out and making plays like that is awesome.”
The Marana defense forced a turnover on downs late in the first quarter, leading to a scoring drive capped off on an eight-yard carry by Ross Jonathon.
In the next play, Marana scooped up another onside kick and drove to the Caballeros’ 28-yard line, from where Honea rushed to the end zone to make it 19-0.
Running back Bradley Gonzales made it 26-0 a drive later on a 19-yard touchdown carry.
The Caballeros got on the board with 2:10 left in the half after a long pass from quarterback Rafael Sandoval to Satchel Burton allowed Sandavol a two-yard score on a keeper.
The half winding down, Honea fired back, connecting with receiver Travis Howard to make it 33-7.
In the second half, Honea, who in addition to his position at quarterback is also the team’s kicker, found himself trying out another role at tailback.
From there, he caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Skylor Lee.
Honea finished the game with 188 yards rushing on 13 carries, and threw 9-11 for 122 yards.
Running back Colby Cecil made it 46-7 with less than 10 minutes remaining on a one-yard carry before Flowing Wells found the end zone again.
The Tigers’ Nathan Sakuta closed things out for Marana with an 89-yard touchdown carry to seal the game at 52-14.
“It was good to go out this way, with a big win where we can all celebrate together as brothers,” said Honea.