The chants rained down from Sunnyside's student section and instantly pierced Andy Cota's
"We want Jaime, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap. We want Jaime.…"
All it took was a few incomplete passes and a couple of stalled drives for Sunnyside's fans to turn on their new freshman quarterback. It was the first game of the season, and they were already calling for Cota's backup, senior Jaime Quintero.
Of course, the 14-year old Cota was a bit rattled.
"I knew I just had to keep my head in the game and keep playing," Cota said.
Ironwood Ridge's fans weren't quite so impatient when Tyler D'Amore got the nod as a sophomore two seasons ago. But D'Amore still fully understands how Cota must have felt.
"It's a little nerve-racking at first, especially when you have to play in big games," D'Amore said. "I know the pressure that's on him. Even being a senior, I still get the jitters before every game."
Tonight, these two starting quarterbacks will be on opposite sidelines for the first time. Ironwood Ridge will host at 7 p.m.
The difference in experience between the two arms is glaring. D'Amore will be starting his 33rd consecutive game. He's had his share of big matchups. Tonight is nothing new.
But for Cota, this is his first huge game. Against one of Southern Arizona's elite teams, will the freshman be able to make the plays he must to keep his team undefeated in the 5A Southern Region and give the Blue Devils (5-2) an edge heading into the playoffs?
Cota "is capable," coach Richard Sanchez said. "If he wasn't capable, he wouldn't be with us right now. He's gonna surprise a lot of people."
Last week against Tucson High was a good start. Cota went 12 of 18 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Sunnyside's 48-21 win. You could say it was his breakout game. D'Amore had one of those as an underclassman, too. It was his ninth game, against who else but Sunnyside. He went 13 of 19 for 191, two touchdowns and no picks in 2008 - eerily similar to Cota's numbers last week.
Nowadays, D'Amore puts up breakout-type numbers on a weekly basis. The senior has passed for a Southern Arizona-best 1,705 yards and 21 touchdowns through eight games. He is leading an Ironwood Ridge (5-3) offense that has scored 193 points in its last three games, an average of 64.3 points a game.
Cota hopes to be that type of passer some day soon, but for now he has the luxury of Southern Arizona's best running back to help him out.
Blue Devils junior Manny Vera
is averaging 210 yards per game this season and still hasn't rushed for fewer than 140 yards in a game.
• What: Sunnyside at Ironwood Ridge
• When: 7 p.m.