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Salpointe defeats Mica Mountain in an impromptu game that helps both programs


Salpointe’s Cody Raetzman had two touchdown receptions in the win over Mica Mountain (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Mica Mountain hosting Salpointe in 2021 will be a footnote to the anticipated matchups in the future between the program Pat Nugent is building against the one Eric Rogers is bolstering.

Thursday’s impromptu game — scheduled Monday after Salpointe’s game at Cholla was canceled this week — was in front of a close-to-capacity crowd at Mica Mountain in what was actually the third game on the football field between the two high schools this school year.

Mica Mountain, in its second year of existence, lost its freshman game against Salpointe 48-0 on Sept. 9, but on that same day, the Thunderbolts defeated the Lancers’ junior varsity team 59-14.

Many of Salpointe’s JV players got another crack at Mica Mountain on Thursday in the Lancers’ 56-5 victory behind two outstanding defensive plays by junior cornerback Jaxson Greene in the second quarter — a 68-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a pick-6 for 50 yards.

“We talked as a team; we brought everybody together and I told them, ‘You guys kind of tell me what you want — do you guys want to take a bye week or do you want to play another football game?'” Rogers said. “They absolutely wanted to play another football game.”

Rogers, 12-3 in his second year at Salpointe after replacing legendary Dennis Bene, then stated what really is the mantra of Salpointe football:

“We’re going to play anybody anytime, anywhere, anyplace. We’ll go up to Phoenix. We’ll come down here (to Vail). It doesn’t matter.”

Salpointe historically has played a team from Phoenix at least once a year from the days of annually playing St. Mary’s and Brophy Prep to going against the likes of Gilbert Highland, Scottsdale Saguaro and Chandler Hamilton. Bene scheduled games against schools from Irvine, Calif., Rio Rancho, N.M., and Del Valle, Texas, to help hone his team for the playoffs.

Mica Mountain coach Pat Nugent, now 140-59 in his 19th season as a head coach, is already adapting the throw-caution-to-the-wind scheduling approach with his program in its first season of varsity competition.

In the last two weeks, the Thunderbolts have played impromptu games against 6A power Mesa Mountain View and perennial Southern Arizona giant Salpointe and lost those games by a combined score of 93-12.

Mica Mountain principal Nemer Hassey, the architect of Cienega’s winning operation who designed the Thunderbolts’ program along with Nugent and assistant principal Jay Campos, approached Nugent after Thursday’s game with a robust handshake and hug as if the Thunderbolts just won.

In a way, they did.

No better way for Mica Mountain’s young players, including four offensive line starters who are sophomores, to simulate playing the highest level of talent in Arizona than to experience it on the field.

“We had two days to prepare for a powerhouse like Salpointe, so it was really tough for our kids,” Nugent said. “Our kids were skeptical of playing them a little bit. Last week, we were excited about playing Mesa Mountain View because it was a varsity game and I think the Salpointe prestige took a toll on our young kids.

“We had sophomores and juniors playing a really good football team. I don’t want to use the word disappointment but I’m sad there wasn’t the same fire and desire … We wouldn’t have scheduled this game if we didn’t believe in them.”

Nugent added that his team will learn from the experience “because they don’t want to feel this way again, having a running clock against them.”

The Thunderbolts can take some solace knowing the running clock did not start against them until 8:41 remained when Salpointe backup quarterback Dylan Dreis connected with wideout Cody Raetzman on a 31-yard touchdown pass to give the Lancers a 49-5 lead.

Until that point, Mica Mountain had opportunities to score, and incredibly held possession for all but 30 seconds of the third quarter, but could not cash in.

Salpointe had two impressive goal-line stands preventing a touchdown when Mica Mountain had a first-and-goal situation at the 1.

“It’s a good morale-booster, there’s no doubt, when you can make some plays on the goal line,” Rogers said. “That’s always a real positive. I’m proud of the kids for hanging tough right there in that situation and just continuing to battle. Hopefully we can feed off that and just keep improving.”

Salpointe’s defense swarmed to the ball most of the game (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

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An 81-yard pass completion of Joshua Beans to Jonah Garcia with 9:00 left in the first quarter took the ball to the Salpointe 1, where Lancer safety Cruz Rushing made the touchdown-saving tackle from behind.

After a run with no gain, a 2-yard loss and incomplete pass, Mica Mountain resorted to a 20-yard field goal by Ethan Black to cut Salpointe’s lead to 7-3 with 7:29 left in the opening quarter.

With about 11:00 left in the game, after a 14-yard pass from Aaron Rodarte to Josiah Thornwell got the ball to the Lancer 1, Ruben Barragan made an interception in the end zone and returned the ball to the Salpointe 43.

Dreis’ touchdown pass to Raetzman followed. It was Raetzman’s second scoring reception of the game. He finished with 51 yards receiving.

Salpointe senior Treyson Bourguet had three touchdown passes in the first half against Mica Mountain (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“We’re still playing four sophomore offensive linemen,” Nugent reasoned about the inability to reach the end zone after getting the ball twice to the 1. “They’re not developed in the weight room and that’s a real big team we’re playing over there.

“We’ve got four sophomores who are going to get better each day. Those days will come. We made a couple of mistakes down there that we need to eliminate. We can’t throw interceptions at the 1-yard line. Little things like that. It’s a learning lesson. We’ve got to keep getting better.”

Salpointe’s offense clicked with Treyson Bourguet throwing for 88 yards on eight completions with three touchdowns and Anthony Wilhite gaining 70 yards on 10 carries with both playing only in the first half because of the Lancers building a 42-5 lead at halftime.

It was Salpointe’s aggressive big-play defense behind Greene, Barragan, both Rushings — Cruz and Elijah — and linebacker Joey Sumlin that was the difference.

Mica Mountain’s score other than the field goal was on a safety near the end of the first half when the snap went over the punter’s head through the end zone.

“That’s my team right there,” Greene said pointing to a jubilant group of Lancers cheering toward their parents after the game. “They ride for me; I ride for them.”

Greene credited the defenders around him for enabling him to score on the long fumble and interception returns, looking like Bijan Robinson wearing that familiar No. 5 while he sprinted to the end zone.

“It’s great,” Greene said of wearing No. 5. “It’s a lot of weight on your shoulders but I’m ready to carry it and work for it.”

Salpointe, the No. 5-ranked team in 5A at 5-2 overall, hosts 5A Southern foe Buena next week while Mica Mountain returns to junior varsity competition facing Benson’s JV team.

The Thunderbolts, 2-2 against varsity competition, host Amphi on Nov. 5 and travel to Bradshaw Mountain on Nov. 12 to reach the six-game minimum to potentially qualify for the 4A state playoffs if they win those last two games.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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