Plenty was different about the Salpointe Catholic football team Friday night from a year ago. The end result, however, remained the same.
The Lancers topped visiting Sierra Vista Buena 48-9 to win their 15th straight game, in their first time taking the field since capping the 2013 season with a dominant win in the Division II state final last November. It was Salpointe’s 43rd straight win against a Southern Arizona opponent.
From the squad that went 14-0 last fall, 15 starters — including UA freshmen Cam Denson and Kaelin DeBoskie, who were in attendance at Friday’s season opener — graduated, leaving some big shoes to fill.
It doesn’t look as if coach Dennis Bene will have to look much further as he tries to find some of their replacements.
Salpointe amassed 544 yards rushing, much of which came from senior quarterback Sam Muniz, who totaled 222 yards on the ground. Muniz ran for 191 yards in the first half and finished the game 4 for 9 passing for 60 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” Bene said. “Again, we’re young in many spots so we just need game reps. I’m glad we have that game under our belt.”
Senior linebacker Taylor Powell — one of the few returning starters from last year — stepped up in his new role as the team’s No. 1 running back. He broke off a 20-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Although fellow senior Ben West capped that drive with a score to give the Lancers an early lead, Powell finished the night with three touchdowns and 61 yards on seven carries.
“Taylor did a nice job; he gives us a power element to our run game,” Bene said. “I thought the offensive line did a really nice job of establishing the run tonight. It takes some of the pressure off young receivers and a young quartback.”
Powell, who is verbally committed to Nevada, said the starting five of the offensive line — Andrew Palomares, Riley Campbell, Eric Asato, Justin Holt and Dylan Eickmeyer — paved the way for a successful ground game all night. Zach Dorame, a junior, gained 145 yards on 10 carries, and West finished with 77, also on 10 touches.
“The line was amazing tonight,” Powell said. “I was really impressed with all of them.”
In Buena’s first possession of the game, Powell batted down a pass on third down to put a quick end to the Colts’ drive. Once Salpointe got the ball back, it didn’t take long for the Lancers to score again. Muniz broke lose for a 40-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and a few minutes later Powell dived in for an 8-yard score to make it 14-0 early in the first quarter.
Salpointe had a 27-3 lead at halftime and essentially put the game out of reach when Muniz hit Nakai Arvizu for a 31-yard touchdown on third down, midway through the third quarter. He also said the team’s success revolved around the offensive line.
“They were just opening holes so big,” Muniz said. “The team made it so easy for me.”