Come Friday night, there’s going to be a catfight east of Tucson. And it’s a can’t-miss.
The Cienega Bobcats beat the Marana Tigers twice last season — the first time in the season opener and then in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. The Tigers attempted a late-game comeback in the postseason showdown, but fell just short, 38-35.
The Bobcats were later eliminated in the semifinals.
Marana is sure to be hungry for a win to avenge last season’s letdowns. But Cienega wide receiver Terrell Hayward isn’t too worried.
“They have a good program over there and a good (quarterback) — he knows what he’s doing,” Hayward said, referring to Tigers star Trenton Bourguet. “We have to go out there and know that if we stop him, stop their offense, we know we’ll come out on top.”
With the way both teams have played each time they’ve met on the gridiron the last few years, Cienega has come to regard Marana as a rival of sorts.
Cienega senior running back Thomas Webb said the games are very competitive and provide a fun atmosphere. And when you’re playing one of the best programs in Southern Arizona, you have to be on top of your game, Webb said.
“That’s what we try to do — we try to minimize errors, try to pay attention to details during practice and just have a great week of preparation,” Webb said. “Let the game and hard work do the talking.”
Webb feels this year’s team in more fundamentally sound, especially on defense. There were moments last season when some players didn’t know what they were doing on certain plays.
Bourguet gives the Tigers a chance in every game. Through six games this year, the senior has completed 98 of 138 passes for 1,389 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s thrown four interceptions. Bourguet threw for a career-high 477 yards and five touchdowns the first time Marana and Cienega met last season, and added 282 yards and two scores in the playoff game.
“I feel like this year we’re going to have some little mixes in the game plan to be able to stop him,” Webb said. “And I feel like, overall, our line is more mature this year. I feel like they’re more assignment sound and know what they’re doing.
“I feel like this year we’re a better overall team and this year we’re going to get it done like the past two years.”
Even if Marana throws a wrench into Cienega’s plans, the Bobcats have a one-up the Tigers don’t: home-field advantage. And Cienega hasn’t lost a home game since 2015.
“It would actually be a big advantage for us because we’ve got our home crowd out here,” Hayward said. “We know what it’s like on our field and we know what kind of atmosphere it is. Every time we come on this field, we’re expecting to win.”