Three red zone turnovers proved to be the difference as Cienega beat Mountain View 43-28 to preserve their undefeated season and earn the No. 1 seed in the 5A state playoffs.
The Bobcats converted four turnovers and a turnover on downs into four scores, while preventing the potent Mountain View offense from having at least three opportunities to score.
“Those turnovers were the difference,” said Mountain View Head Coach Bam McRae. “Without those, we feel like we would have won.”
Both teams struggled to stop the other’s offensive specialty. Cienega rushed for 434 yards, while the Mountain Lions threw for 467 yards.
“We thought coming in they would have trouble covering our receivers,” McRae said.
The turning point came in the second quarter. Leading 14-7 Mountain View had a chance to go up 14, but threw a pick inside the Cienega 10-yard line and a 92-yard run by Breaben Bolton gave the Bobcats the ball inside the Mountain View two-yard line. Two plays later Sa Vaughn Bryant-Carter found the end zone. It would mark the first of three scores on three plays by Cienega.
Another interception gave the Bobcats the ball at the 38-yard line and on the next play Jamarye Joiner found Skyler Cavanaugh in the seam for a 62-yard touchdown.
After forcing a Mountain View punt Cienega scored on their first play of the second half Dakota Poe took the hand off and burst 70-yards for the score and the Bobcats first lead of the game.
The Mountain Lions had no answer for Poe, who gained 181 yards on just nine carries.
Just as good was the Mountain View passing game. Caleb Ryden threw for 467 yards and rushed for a pair of scores.
A Ryden 9-yard run got the Mountain Lions within a score, but Cienega answered on their next possession.
Ryden began looking for Mountain View wide receiver Isaiah Lovett. The two connected on a 79-yard touchdown. Down 33-28 midway through the fourth quarter Ryden and Lovett hooked up on another long pass. The 6-4 Lovett was caught by a Cienega defender inside the 5-yard line who was able to slow his momentum, but not make the tackle. Lovett kept fighting, trying to drag the defender into the end zone when a second Bobcat knocked the ball away. Cienega recovered at their own 4-yard line.
Lovett had eght catches for 235 yards and two scores. Teammate Sebastian Spencer added 110 yards on 7 grabs.
Down 8, the Lions got the ball back deep in their territory but faced a fourth and four at the 18-yard line. McRae decided to roll the dice and went for it. The Mountain Lions failed to connect on a swing pass and the Bobcats took over with the short field, capping the drive on a 1-yard run by Joiner.
Joiner, who has already verbally committed to Arizona as a junior, threw for 200 yards and added 88 on the ground.
Mountain View mounted a final drive, but a third turnover in the end zone ended things and gave Cienega the win.
Despite losing the game to No. 1 Cienega, Mountain View will host a playoff against No. 9 Mesquite. If they win they would likely get a rematch with the Bobcats.
“We’d love to play them again,” McRae said. “That was a great high school football game and if we clean up a few things we feel like we can beat those guys.”
Marana overcame a slow start to beat Rincon/University 49-7. Marana has never hosted a postseason football game and has not been to the playoffs in almost a decade, but the win over the Rangers clinches a home game for the first round. The No. 7 Tigers are on an 8-game winning streak and will play host to No. 10 Kellis.
The Tigers scored the lone touchdown of the first quarter when Connor Leavens connected with Dominic Gehr on a 25-yard touchdown toss.
Leavens was 4-8 through the air for 100 yards. He also ran two times for 89 yards and two scores.
Rincon tied things up early in the second quarter but from there it was all Marana.
1-yard touchdown runs by Manny Miranda and Leavens gave the Tigers the 21-7 lead and Leavens closed out the first half scoring with an 88-yard touchdown run.
The Tigers did not let up off the gas in the second half. Trenton Bourguet made it 35-7 when he threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Gehr, He completed both of his pass attempts for 116 yards and two scores.
Gehr had just two grabs for 88 yards, but they were both touchdowns.
Bourguet and Leavens each added another touchdown toss before the third quarter was over. Bourguet and BJ McDaniel teamed up for a 54-yard touchdown. Then Leavens hit Teon Simmons on a 42-yard score.
The Tiger defense held the Rangers to just 150 yards of total offense. They kept Rincon’s standout running back Ty Grigsby in check, holding him to just 50 yards on 17 carries.
Salpointe used a big second half to rally past Canyon Del Oro and win the 4A Kino Regional championship. The Lancers trailed 14-10 at the half, but scored 21 unanswered to earn the 31-14 win.
CDO led 14-0 thanks to a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by quarterback Garrett Woodlock. The two scores were set up by long passes as Woodlock hit Lloyd Griffen on a 55-yard reception on the first drive and then found Cameron Crandell for 40 yards on the next scoring drive.
The Lancers scored all 10 first half points in the final 3 minutes of the second quarter.
Bijan Robinson gave the Lancers the lead for good with his 22-yard third quarter scoring run.
The Dorados and Lancers won’t have to wait long to face each other again. The No. 4 Lancers will host CDO next week in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
Ironwood Ridge closed out the regular season with a 40-7 blowout win over Sahuaro to lock up a first round home game in the 5A state playoffs. The Nighthawks are no stranger to the postseason and are the No. 3 team in 5A. They will host No. 14 Flowing Wells, who have two elementary schools in the Marana area. The Caballeros were the lowest seeded at-large team as two teams outside the top-16 earned playoff berths due to winning their regions.
If the Nighthawks win they would host the winner of Desert View and Queen Creek.
Pusch Ridge scored 44 first quarter points on their way to a 71-0 win over Santa Rita.
Quarterback Christian Fetsis was the catalyst early on. He had a hand in the firs three scores tossing touchdown passes to Tamerat McLeod and Edwin Lovett and rushing for a 15-yard score.
The Lions’ signal caller was 7-7 for 122 yards and three scores. He connected with Lovett on a two-yard pass late in the first quarter.
Lovett had four catches for 69 yards and two scores. He also added a 45 yard punt return.
The No. 10 Lions will play No. 7 Northwest Christian Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Phoenix area. They enter the postseason on a three-game win streak, having outscored their opponents 176-6.