Pueblo head coach and former Arizona Wildcat Brandon Sanders hoped to get his first career playoff win Friday night in a rematch of a regular-season matchup against Salpointe Catholic.
But Sanders will have to wait until next season.
To open up the first round of Class 4A state playoffs, the No. 4 seed Lancers routed No. 13 Pueblo 42-0.
It was the fifth shutout Salpointe’s defense has posted this season, breaking the school record originally set by the 2013 state championship team.
“Just super happy for the coaches and the kids,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said. “Its a real tribute to all of our hard work and we’re just really pleased with our effort tonight.”
Salpointe had also beaten the Warriors by that identical score in their regular-season meeting on Sept. 22.
From the get-go Friday, the host Lancers established their presence with a 58-yard kick return from senior Derrick Bush.
They followed that up with a Lathan Ransom over-the-shoulder catch for 38 yards to set up a Bijan Robinson touchdown run.
The following possession, Pueblo flashed potential by going 3 of 3 on third downs, led by tailback Omar Ibanez. But the Lancers defense finally held and forced the Warriors to punt.
That drive was Pueblo’s best possession. After that the Warriors were held to 20 yards of total offense in the first half.
Friday was all about finding the right balance between the running and passing game for the Lancers.
Robinson had 40 yards on eight carries for two touchdowns, and quarterback Rodrigo Nieto went 4 of 7 passing for 130 yards while the team had 129 total rushing yards in the first half.
Salpointe junior running back and slot receiver Mario Padilla also had 72 yards on six carries for two touchdowns as the Lancers attacked through the air and on the ground to have a 35-0 cushion at halftime.
“The defense usually tends to me and Mario, but they can’t always tend to us, because we have four other threats on the outside that can catch the ball and be effective,” Robinson said.
In the second half, Pueblo went three-and-out to start, but caught a spark of momentum after Salpointe Catholic muffed the punt, giving the Warriors the ball in Lancer territory.
The defense — once again — found a way to stop any chance of hope Pueblo might have, keeping the Warriors out of the end zone and then blocking a 30-yard field goal attempt.
After another touchdown, the running clock kicked in as the Lancers notched their 10th win of the season.
Robinson finished with 120 yards on 10 carries and received his first playoff win as the starting running back.
“He’s growing by leaps and bounds. He matures every day and he’s a tremendous, tremendous kid,” Bene said.
“The biggest compliment I can give him is that it’s all about the team. He doesn’t care who gets the ball or who scores.
“He’s very humble and just wants to win.”
Pueblo ends its season at 8-3 and Gila Region champions, while the Lancers advance to 10-1 and will host No. 5 seed Glendale Cactus for the quarterfinals.
Cactus thumped Moon Valley 71-8 Friday.
“Those Phoenix teams are at a different level. They’re bigger, they’re faster, they’re stronger,” Robinson said.
“But for next week, we just gotta keep playing our game and keep settling down so we can get the win.”
Salpointe’s only loss this year was to Cienega, which is the No. 1 seed in 5A.