Gaona: Back to back football titles for Southern Arizona schools the first pair in 20 years

2013-12-06T00:00:00Z 2013-12-06T10:25:04Z Gaona: Back to back football titles for Southern Arizona schools the first pair in 20 yearsDaniel Gaona Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Salpointe Catholic beat Scottsdale Chaparral in the Division II state championship on Friday night, it locked up the Lancers’ first football state title in school history, ending a quest that started way back in 1952.

It was definitely a win for the ages.

Furthermore, it was a win for Southern Arizona.

It had been 20 years since a large-school football state title had stayed in the Tucson area for consecutive years but not anymore.

Salpointe’s 46-20 win over the Firebirds at Arizona Stadium, to cap off a 14-0 season, came almost a year to the day that Ironwood Ridge beat Peoria Centennial 27-3 for the Division II title in Tempe.

“It speaks to the quality of kids in Southern Arizona,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said.

Even though the Lancers and I-Ridge are rivals, Nighthawks coach Matt Johnson was glad to see the state title stay the Tucson area.

“I’m always loyal to Tucson first,” Johnson said. “It may be a big rivalry but I always want to see the Tucson kids succeed against the other kids around Arizona.”

The last time two Southern Arizona schools won in consecutive-years and only time since the late 1970s, came in 1992 and 1993 when Sabino and Mountain View went 14-0 in back-to-back years to capture the 4A state championship.

“Everyone in town should be excited about a Tucson team doing well,” said Jeff Scurran, the coach on the 1992 Sabino team who is now at Catalina Foothills. “This should be something that people here, who like high school football, are really excited about.”

Between 1993 and 2012, Southern Arizona teams combined for five football titles but all of them came with at least a year in between. The closest stretch was Sunnyside winning in 2001 and 2003 and Palo Verde winning in 2005.

However, there is a run that has been going since the Titans won the 4A-II state title nine seasons ago. Every season since then, at least one local large school has made it to the state finals.

Bene and his players hoping to keep that going. He said linebacker Taylor Powell, one of the team’s three returning starters, has already talked to him about repeating as state champions.

“That’s our goal obviously,” Bene said. “We’re the defending champ and we’re going to defend that title very vigorously.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill but we’ve got a lot of really good players returning on defense and I felt all along the reason we were as good as were was because of our defense so that will be the starting point next year. We look forward to giving it a run.”

COTTON CONTINUES TO SHINE WITH PROVIDENCE

Palo Verde grad Bryce Cotton my have gotten a taste of what the future on Sunday night when he scored a game-high 23 points for Providence in a 79-65 loss to No. 3 Kentucky at the Barclays Center in New York, the home arena of the Brooklyn Nets.

Cotton, a 6-foot-1-inch senior guard, who led the Big East in scoring last year, was third in the conference in scoring with 19 points a game heading into Thursday night’s game at Rhode Island. He scored 28 points in a season-opening win against Boston College on Nov. 8 and matched that total eight days later when he also pulled in 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.

SAHUARO’S VERDUGO AGAIN IN TOP 50

As the days go on it looks more and more likely that Sahuaro pitcher and outfielder Alex Verdugo will bypass college and head straight for the major leagues.

The lefthander and slugger, who is signed to play at Arizona State, was ranked 37th in the MLB’s Top 50 draft prospects and is stated to be one of the best two-way players in his class. Earlier this fall, Perfect Game ranked Verdugo as the 20th best player in the nation while Baseball America ranked him 34th in its top 50 draft prospect.

DERKSEN COMING OFF A PAIR OF BIG GAMES

San Francisco sophomore Tim Derksen had a career day in a 96-73 win over Sonoma State on Nov. 27.

The 6-foot-3-inch guard who graduated from Amphitheater and was named the Star’s boys basketball play of the year in 2012, had four steals and shot 7 of 8 from the field for a season-high 19 points in the opener of the Golden Gate Challenge. Three days later, he scored a game-high 18 points in a 90-76 loss to Illinois State.

Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at 807-7761 or dgaona@azstarnet.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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