Cameron Denson wasn’t a receiver for Salpointe Catholic on Friday night.
He was pretty much everything else, though, against Tucson High.
The Arizona Wildcats commit filled in at quarterback for Andrew Cota, who missed his second straight game. Head coach Dennis Bene said Cota will return to the lineup for the Division II state playoffs, which start next week, but wouldn’t specify why Cota has been out of the lineup.
Still, with Denson at the helm for the second straight week, things went off without a hitch in a 49-7 Salpointe win. The win all but assures the Lancers (10-0) of the No. 1 seed in Division II for the playoffs.
“It feels good, going into the playoffs having homefield advantage all the way through,” Denson said. “Being in Tucson will be big for us, we just gotta keep working hard and get to our goal, which is a state championship.”
Denson passed for one touchdown, ran for two, scored on a punt return and, playing defensive back, had a 81-yard pick six — and that was just in the first half. He finished with 205 all-purpose yards, added 69 yards through the air and had six total touchdowns.
“He’s special,” Bene said. “Find another player in the state that can do what he does. Play quarterback, receiver, DB (defensive back), special teams — he’s a blessing.”
Added Justin Argraves, Tucson’s head coach: “He’s an explosive athlete. But the thing about Cam is he’s so football savvy — his knowledge of the game —he’s able to do stuff that an average, or even an above-average football player can’t do.”
That was no more evident than on Denson’s third touchdown against the Badgers, which came with 7:15 left in the second quarter.
Tucson was pinned at its own 35-yard line, fourth-and-long, when Austin Perkins lined up to punt for the Badgers.
Perkins shanked the punt, it went sky high but only went 13 yards down the field, where Denson was waiting for it. With Tucson all turned around after the shank, Denson capitalized.
“I knew the shanked punt was gonna be short,” he said, “people were running past me so I took advantage of the situation and the ball bounced right to me so I just picked it up and did what I did.”
What he did was take it 48 yards for the touchdown, untouched. He followed that up with the 81-yard interception return and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kaelin Deboskie before halftime. Deboskie returned after missing last week’s 48-9 win against Ironwood Ridge.
By the time Denson was taken out of the game at the end of the third quarter, following a 15-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Powell, the Lancers led the Badgers 49-0.
“I thought our kids played really hard and that’s been the key all year — their effort’s been tremendous,” Bene said. “Now we’re gonna prepare as hard as ever (for the playoffs). We’ll just take it a game at a time, it’s what we’ve done all year.”
Tucson scored its lone touchdown in the fourth quarter, on a 52-yard quarterback keeper from Donovan Moore. The Badgers had 140 yards of total offense, while the Lancers had 264.
With the loss, the Badgers dropped to 7-3. Since starting 7-1, they’ve lost two straight, and their playoff fate will be decided this morning.
“Well, there’s a reason Salpointe is No. 1,” Argraves said. “They are, quite frankly, the best team in the state of Arizona right now. You can’t control that on the schedule. We just move forward.
“But, I feel there’s a lot to take away from this game and what we did. I felt we competed tremendously this game we just had some mental lapses. Now we just gotta get up and look to tomorrow and, hopefully, the playoffs.”