Salpointe Catholic had a chance to grab a piece of elusive momentum at the start of the second quarter against Peoria Centennial on Friday in a Division II semifinal.
The top-seeded Lancers were in a 14-point hole but had the Coyotes backed up deep into their own territory facing a third down with a chance to flip field position at Amphitheater High School.
Then Centennial running back Jalen Ortiz ran 87 yards untouched up the right sideline, and the fourth-seeded Coyotes never looked back on their way to a 28-14 win to advance to next Saturday's state championship at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
The Lancers (12-2) were trying to reach their first title game since 1991.
"When he broke that run, it was tough to watch," Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said. "But guys like that make plays."
Ortiz finished with 219 yards on 14 carries, and the Coyotes rushed for 339 yards as a team.
"He just had a super game," Centennial coach Richard Taylor said. "We just wanted to keep things simple and not overload the kids with different game plans."
Bene and Salpointe quarterback Andrew Cota said Centennial created several matchup problems with its athleticism.
Cota said Centennial is the most athletic team the Lancers faced this season since losing to Crespi (Calif.) in their opening game.
"We knew they'd be big," Cota said. "They were so aggressive and physical."
Centennial methodically moved the ball to take a 14-0 lead.
The Coyotes used eight plays to cover 80 yards to open the game.
Salpointe had a chance to stop the Coyotes on their opening possession when they faced fourth-and-one from the Lancers' 4-yard line, but quarterback Tre'von Grant found Austin Schleier on a play-action rollout to the right for a 7-0 lead.
Then, after forcing Salpointe to go three-and-out, Centennial took 12 plays to cover 52 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Salpointe used a nine-play, 89-yard drive to cut Centennial's lead to 21-7 on Johnny Peña's 2-yard run before half. The Lancers then held the Coyotes scoreless on back-to-back drives, but the offense wasn't able to pick up a first down on either of its possessions.
Centennial's Oche' Myers scored on a 50-yard run to cap a five-play, 64-yard drive and put things away for the Coyotes with a 28-7 lead.
Salpointe rushed for just 26 yards and had only 229 total yards in the game - 112 coming from standout receiver Cameron Denson. Taylor said it was the result of a game plan that focused on winning first downs.
"We harped on that all week," he said.
This was the first time Salpointe had advanced to the state semifinals under Bene.
"I'm still so proud of our guys," Bene said. "We played hard. We were inefficient on third down … we had mental mistakes and they brought different pressures.
"But it's tough when you get behind a program like that."
On StarNet: See more photos from Salpointe Catholic-Peoria Centennial and Ironwood Ridge-Tempe Marcos de Niza at azstarnet.com/gallery
More inside on B6
• Coverage of Ironwood Ridge's win over Tempe Marcos de Niza
• Schedule for Southern Arizona's remaining contenders