NOGALES - When the Nogales boys basketball team went to and won the 4A-I state championship in Glendale two years ago, Apaches fans did not disappoint.
They filled up eight buses and made their team feel at home at Jobing.com Arena.
Now, as the 14th-seeded football team has made an incredible run to the Division III state semifinals, it's been just about the same.
In last week's 22-8 state quarterfinal win at Peoria Sunrise Mountain, the visiting fans out-numbered the home fans, and the Nogales band played louder than the Mustangs' band.
"They make it like it's a home game for us, and it makes us really comfortable on the field," senior quarterback Marcel Renteria said. "A lot of times I have to look at my jersey to see that we're away."
Renteria is expecting to see that again Saturday night when the Apaches take on Queen Creek at Gilbert Campo Verde High School with a championship berth at stake. The fans in Nogales are crazy about their Apaches.
Here are five other things to know about the Apaches:
Not the average coach
Nogales coach Vince Villanucci, 48, played in two games with the Green Bay Packers as a nose tackle in 1987. He was playing for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League when he found out Green Bay needed a nose tackle.
"I learned a lot, and it was exciting," Villanucci said. "Everyone in the game got so much bigger and faster, it was unbelievable."
In college, he was a four-year starter at Bowling Green, two years as a linebacker and two years at nose tackle. Villanucci grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and played several positions at Lorain High School, including kicker. He made a 46-yard field goal and held the school record for about 10 years, he said.
Colgates on same track, different ends
Nick and Coy Colgate, the sons of Nogales athletic director Tim Colgate, have both been defensive leaders for the Apaches.
Nick, a two-way star, leads the team with 11 interceptions, and Coy, the first freshman Villanucci has ever pulled up to varsity, leads the team in total tackles (110) and sacks (8.5).
The brothers said this is the first time they've ever been on the same team, let alone the same unit, so there isn't much separation.
"We're pretty much together 24/7," Nick said.
McCarty's new role
He is still Nogales' running back, but senior Brian McCarty has found himself lining up as a receiver much more lately.
He doesn't mind.
McCarty has caught 11 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in the first two playoff games and adds an extra dimension to the offense.
"As running back as soon as I got the ball the whole defense was on me, swarming for me," McCarty said. "As a receiver, since we have options, I have one-on-one coverage, and it's got me more space to move around and do what I do best."
McCarty has 1,448 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He has added 524 yards and seven touchdowns as a receiver.
He's with the band
The team loves the band and not just because it has one of its own.
Junior left tackle Alejando Solorio doesn't always get a break at halftime, sometimes he stays out to play the tuba with the marching band, something Villanucci encourages.
Solorio has been in the band for three years, as long as he's been in football, so it keeps him busy.
"You get out of football sometimes and then you go right over to band, and the band practice is longer than football practice," Solorio said. "It gets you tired."
Plus, it can be an interesting transition from playing football to playing an instrument.
"Band is more of a mental thing, and football is more physical," he said. "It's like two different worlds."
Renteria loaded with choices
Now that McCarty lines up as a wide-out often, it opens up the field and gives Renteria another option to an already dangerous offense.
On one side, he can go to either senior Nick Colgate or senior Mikey Lopez. On the other, he can go to junior Jason Luna or McCarty. Renteria also has sophomore Alan Garcia with him in the backfield; Garcia is more of a power runner.
"It's awesome having so many guys to throw to and then a good offensive line," Renteria said.
Division II, 7 p.m. today
• Salpointe vs. Peoria Centennial at Amphitheater High School
• Ironwood Ridge vs. Tempe Marcos de Niza in Gilbert
Division III, 7 p.m. Saturday
• Nogales vs. Queen Creek in Gilbert