As Cienega prepared for the Class 5A state playoff opener, coach Pat Nugent gave Terrell Hayward a heads-up. He was going to ride the senior as much as possible in the postseason.
Hayward was up to the task Friday, as the eighth-seeded Bobcats beat ninth-seeded Marana 49-28.
The senior scored three touchdowns and finished with 365 all-purpose yards — 306 rushing yards on 23 carries, 21 yards on two kickoff returns and 38 yards on two punt returns. Hayward scored two highlight-reel touchdowns in the first half — a 96-yard run and a 74-yard scamper.
Cienega will travel to Peoria next week to play No. 1 Centennial, the defending 5A state champions.
“I’ve been with (Nugent) for four years and, you know, at the end of the day, I can trust him to give me the ball,” Hayward said. “And when he got me, the things went right tonight.”
Friday marked the second time this season Cienega faced off against Marana, and the fourth time in two years. The Bobcats are 4-0 in those games.
First-year Marana coach Louie Ramirez wasn’t here for last year’s nail-biters but said he was proud with the way his team performed.
Cienega, he said, was just too tough.
“It’s a testament to what Coach Nugent’s built here,” Ramirez said. “They’re a phenomenal football team, they really are. And a lot of it comes down to just guys sticking together for a lot of years and making sure that they do things the right way each and every day.”
The Bobcats took an early lead thanks to Thomas Webb Jr. and Hayward. Each scored twice in the first half.
Marana responded with a Trenton Bourguet pass to Tariq Jordan to score with less than minute left in the half. The Tigers cut the Cienega lead to 28-13 on a touchdown catch by Coben Bourguet.
The Bobcats scored twice and the Tigers once more before the end of the third quarter. And each team scored one more time before the game finished for the final score.
Webb said the postseason game wasn’t that much different from the last time they saw Marana, with the exception that he wasn’t ejected. While the game got a bit heated at times, the team was able to maintain its cool.
“Just staying level-headed and being the bigger person,” Webb said. “I’m a firm believer that you should just stick to who you are and don’t let other people draw someone out that you aren’t.”
Now, Cienega will face the biggest challenge yet: a game against 5A’s top-seeded team. Cienega would have postponed the matchup with Centennial by gaining a higher seed, but last week’s loss to Ironwood Ridge dropped the Bobcats to No. 8 in the state.
“That’s not what we expected, playing in the second round, but we didn’t get it done last week,” Nugent said. “That’s the price we pay.”