High school football returned to Southern Arizona on Thursday night, as Sunnyside defeated Nogales 36-16 in the first game of the fall.

A raucous student section filled Sunnyside’s stadium on a rare school-night showdown to watch the Blue Devils avenge their 2016 loss to Nogales.

Sunnyside quarterback Joe Fuentes kept the Nogales defense guessing for most of the night, accounting for one touchdown through the air and two on the ground. Sunnyside outscored Nogales 17-0 in the second half to break open a competitive game and begin the year in the win column.

“I feel good,” Fuentes said. “We’re going (in the right direction). We’re working together, practicing day in and day out. We just need to get our head in the game more, and we’ll be good.”

A 96-yard interception return by Sunnyside’s Jose Silva midway through the fourth quarter turned a one score game into a confident Blue Devils lead. Down 22-16, Nogales quarterback Josue Tapia drove the Apaches within Sunnyside’s 4-yard line before throwing an errant pass. Silva snagged it, ran down the sideline and into the end zone, and gave the Blue Devils a 29-16 lead — and room to breathe.

Fuentes iced the game with a rushing touchdown in the final moments.

The Blue Devils opened the scoring when Fuentes hit Silva over the middle for a 55-yard touchdown pass with 8:45 to go in the first quarter.

Nogales responded early in the second quarter, moving the ball inside Sunnyside’s 10-yard line. The Blue Devils halted Nogales short of the goal line, forcing a field goal.

Sunnyside added to its lead a few plays later, when Fuentes spoofed the entire Nogales defense with a fake handoff, instead rushing down the opposing sideline for a 53-yard touchdown run. A failed two-point conversion left Sunnyside with a 13-3 lead.

Nogales responded on its next two drives, as Tapia threw a pair of touchdown passes to give the Apaches the lead.

Tapia found Leo Yepiz for a 20- yard pass to the end zone, cutting the lead to 13-9 before a missed extra point. Moments later, Tapia connected with Ivan Romero down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.

That gave Nogales a 16-13 lead.

Sunnyside regained a 19-13 lead before the end of the half on a rushing touchdown by Rose Willie.

The Blue Devils added a field goal to their score midway through the third quarter to go up 22-16.