With a chance to make a statement in front of a national audience, Salpointe did exactly that and more.

The Lancers, a Division II state semifinalist last year, needed only four offensive plays to take a 14-0 lead over Henderson (Nev.) Liberty on Saturday night on their way to a 48-7 win in the second game of the Sollenberger Classic at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.

Senior quarterback Andrew Cota accounted for all six of the Lancers’ touchdowns in the first half and fellow senior Kaelin Deboskie, a transfer from Colleyville (Texas) Heritage, caught three scores in the first quarter of his debut with the team.

Cota hit Deboskie on the second play from scrimmage for a 70-yard touchdown to set the tone early.

Then, after Santiago Nietto blocked a Liberty field goal attempt, Cota needed only two more plays before he found senior UA commit Cameron Denson open for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Lancers up 14-0 early.

That was only the beginning of a bad night for the Patriots, who lost to Bishop Gorman in the Nevada state championship last year.

After a Liberty three-and-out, Cota hit Deboskie for another touchdown to cap off an 11-play scoring drive. He connected with Deboskie for a 31-yard score on the second play of Salpointe’s next possession to give the Lancers a commanding 28-0 lead with 1:24 left in the first quarter.

Salpointe slowed down in the second quarter, but Cota still ran for a 1-yard score and hit Denson for a touchdown with 2:35 left in the half.

While the offense was the big story of the night for the Lancers, their defense limited the Patriots to a just a few big plays and took advantage of several miscues.

Salpointe (1-0) will return home to face Sabino at home on Friday.

I-Ridge roars back

After nearly three hours of lightning delays, Ironwood Ridge pulled out a 42-40 win over Peoria Liberty in its season opener late Friday night.

The defending Division II state champion Nighthawks had to wait through a 1 hour 45 minute lightning delay before they took the field for the first time since November’s 27-3 win over Peoria Centennial at Sun Devil Stadium.

And once I-Ridge finally did get on the field, only one half was played before another lightning delay lasted another hour.

However the final outcome was worth the wait for coach Matt Johnson and his Nighthawks.

After falling behind Peoria Liberty 17-7 by halftime, I-Ridge rattled off 28 points in the third quarter and held on for the win in a wild game that did not end until well after midnight.

Liberty came out to play,” Johnson said. “You can tell they’ve got a squad that’s really well organized with a great game plan. We tried to do some stuff we thought they wouldn’t expect and, to their credit, they answered it so we were scrambling to come up with some adjustments.”

Although it was evident at times – especially throughout the first half – that the Nighthawks had to replace 21 of 22 starters since last year, it was also clear that the new squad carried some of the same qualities the team a year ago had.

“We have some great athletes and you can tell they’ve stepped up and progressed,” said junior linebacker Austin Goddard, the team’s lone returning starter. “Last year’s team was pretty special but I can see some similarities here. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

I-Ridge dominated the second half with an up-tempo ground game, as sophomore Cole McLafferty and senior Jake Vartanian combined for 357 yards and each scored three touchdowns.

“After he scored two and I scored two it became a competition between us,” said McLafferty, who rushed 34 times for 156 yards in his varsity debut. “This give me more confidence but I’ve got three more years to improve. Hopefully my senior year I’ll be 50 times better than this.”

Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at 807-7761 or dgaona@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @DanielGaona13