Cienega football: Band of Brothers a.k.a “The Boys in Vail” showing bloodlines of defensive prowess


No, I am not writing about the 2001 HBO miniseries war drama but in fact the way that Cienega’s strong safety Chris Vega describes the defense that has 22 sacks to go along with 23 interceptions on the year.

This unit that Cienega coach Pat Nugent has put together along with his defensive coordinator Rick Berkbigler has become one the cornerstones for the 11-0 Bobcats.

A scheme that Nugent has carried with him since 2004 has still, in his opinion, been highly successful. The 3-3-5 formation that the Bobcats run allows Nugent to plug in athletes and allows them to be playmakers.

(Cienega High School graphic)

(Cienega High School graphic)

From personal experience, I have seen the successes of this defense due to me being a senior during Nugent’s first year of head coach at Cienega.

Stats do not lie with he numbers that his defense puts up with the 23 interceptions, 22 sacks, 73 tackles for loss, and four defensive scores. It is a nice résumé for “The Boys in Vail”.

“This defense is a very close unit,” Vega said. “We have great communication and chemistry. This defense is based on trust. If one person messed up, it all goes downhill, so what helps us is trusting the person next to you.”

That is a philosophy that is embedded in all the players on the roster from the seniors down. Vega’s older brother, David Vega, had a similar role on a once prominent state runner-up team.

“In my honest opinion the best defense Cienega has ever had was the 2011 state runner-up team but I believe we’re a close second,” Chris Vega said.

Former Cienega head coach and current principle Nemer Hassey can see the similarities of the defenses.

“Our defense this year has lots of speed,” Hassey said. “Typically since 2001, the Cienega defenses have always been fast. This year’s team is no different. Our 2011 defense was unique and special and similar to the 2016 defense. Both are physical and fast. They have brought back the Cienega expectation of excellence.”

With many players pulling double duty often throughout games, it goes to show the amount of raw talent of Cienega. The bloodlines are important. Four players on the 2016 team had older brothers with significant roles on the 2011 state runner-up team.

Including the Vega brotherhood, they include Dakota Poe’s brothers Edgar Poe and Christian Poe, Bryce Fontana’s brother Vaughn Fontana, and junior Conner Holley’s brother Luke Holley.

Three out of the four younger brothers listed have crucial roles in the Cienega defense that has only allowed 179 points while the defense and offense have put up 519 points.

With the closest margin of victory being 15 points, coming in the regular-season finale, this defense is finely tuned with a playoff victory under their belt against Laveen Fairfax last Friday night.

The Bobcats’ defense shutting out Fairfax 42-0 at the half and Terrell Hayward with a defensive score puts an exclamation mark on the scoresheet. They finally surrendered the first points of the game in the fourth quarter with the younger players getting their chance to see the field. Fairfax’s first score was a safety.

Expect a closer contested game with Gilbert Mesquite in Vail tonight. Boasting an undefeated road record and a strong front seven with 31.5 sacks and coming off a nail-biter against Marana Mountain View, the Wildcats will not go down without a fight.

Chris Vega and the Bobcats know that every week gets harder and a bigger target is put on their backs. He said the offense carries the defense and vice-versa.

“Having a high powered offense behind our back does take a lot of stress off of us because we know even if we struggle a couple series our offensive players have our backs just how they know if they struggle our defense has theirs,” he said.

Vega added that “The Boys in Vail” will play together like brothers.


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