Salpointe Catholic rides out the storm en route to first victory of the season

ANTHEM — It was a late night for the Salpointe Catholic Lancers on Friday in their 35-22 road victory over the Boulder Creek Jaguars. Inclement weather caused nearly a two-hour hiatus in the middle of the third quarter with both teams knotted up at 14, leaving many wondering if the teams would make it back out to the field that night.

“We were back in the back room with the referees and the ADs and everybody, and it was like, ‘Listen, this thing is still right on top of us, if we wait another 30 minutes are we going to get home at 3 in the morning,'” Rogers said.

He continued, “It was kind of getting to the point where as much as we love football, and we want to play football and we want to not end in a tie, we also have to do what’s best for these families and for these kids. … All the sudden, we looked and it updated and the lightning was 56 miles away, so it was game on.”

Keeping focused wouldn’t be an issue for Salpointe, as it came out and blew past Boulder Creek to quickly jump out to a 35-14 lead and ultimately win the game.

“You know, we never quit,” senior quarterback Fredo Sotelo said. “We’re not the biggest but we’re gonna keep playing.”

Friday’s game between Salpointe Catholic and Boulder Creek was the first meeting in history between the two schools on the gridiron.

As the teams warmed up for the game, the dust from the impending storm continued to inch its way up towards the North Phoenix community with lightning lurking in the background. A number of games across the Valley had already been postponed due to weather conditions, and being a road game, the Lancers knew they needed to get this game played tonight.

Ironwood Ridge’s game at Gilbert Campo Verde was canceled after only six minutes into the first quarter with the Nighthawks trailing 20-0 and Desert View’s game at Willow Canyon was canceled before the game started.

Boulder Creek won the toss first against Salpointe and elected to defer, putting the Lancers offense on the field first. Despite putting together a couple of nice plays, a holding call would ultimately result in Salpointe attempting to punt the ball away early, where a fumble on the snap gave the Jags optimal field position.

Taking over at the Lancer 36-yard line, it only took three plays for Boulder Creek to pound the rock into the end zone. Senior running back Sinjin Schmitt was the ball carrier for the Jags on all three plays, plowing his way into the end zone to give the Jaguars the early 6-0 lead.

In Salpointe’s following drive, the Lancers were able to continue moving the ball down the field while chipping away at the clock, tying things up on a 3-yard touchdown run by Elias “Bettis” Roberts. Following the extra point, Salpointe had a 7-6 lead with 2:01 left in the first quarter.

Boulder Creek punted the ball away to Salpointe, which struggled to put together a drive and ultimately turned the ball over on downs at the Boulder Creek 30.

It would be a quick break for Salpointe’s offense, as senior John Martin snagged an interception to prevent Boulder Creek from regaining the lead. Sotelo came back onto the field and dropped a 44-yard dime to junior Cordell Killingsworth for a touchdown. The kick was good, putting Salpointe on top 14-6 going into the half.

The Jaguars got the ball coming back out of the half, attacking the run game hard behind the legs of Schmitt to move the ball down the field and eat away at the clock. Capping off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run, Schmitt also was able to punch the ball in on a two-point conversion to tie things up at 14 with 7:33 left in the third quarter.

On the following possession, Salpointe drove down the field and entered the red zone when officials had to clear the field due to lightning. The game was tied at 14 with 4:47 left in the third quarter.

The game’s energy was at its peak. Players were sent back into the locker room while fans were directed to the gym or their cars to wait out the storm.

“I was kind of ear-holing it a little bit, trying to get word,” Sotelo said. “We kinda just talked to Coach Rogers and the whole team said, ‘If we can play, we want to play.'”

Determined to bounce back from the overtime loss to Chaparral last week, Salpointe came back out to the field locked in and ready to go nearly three and a half hours after initially kicking off with the intentions of getting the job done.

“We’re in there and it’s loud and I kept yelling at them to quiet down, but then here it is two hours later,” Rogers said. “How do you sit quiet for two hours? And, they’re kids, they’re teenage boys. Shoot, the last half hour we just cranked up the music and started rocking and I think that got the energy flowing a little bit.”

After being brought back onto the field to begin warming up again at 10:30, action resumed shortly after and Salpointe was quick to strike. Sotelo was able to find senior Jaxon Greene, who made a beautiful catch in traffic to help put Salpointe on top 21-14 with 3:32 remaining in the 3rd.

“I don’t know how that happened, to be honest,” Rogers said. “I think it’s just attributed to them keeping their composure and just understanding we can’t control this. We talk about it every day, you just control the controllables. I’m just really, really proud with how we finished that football game.”

Lancer defense came out to eat on the following drive, only allowing a total of four yards before forcing the Jaguars to punt the ball back to start the fourth quarter. Behind the speed and strength of Roberts, the Lancers continued to attack the ground, where he was able to put up his second touchdown of the night and help extend the lead to 28-14 with 8:10 remaining.

It was another quick three and out for Boulder Creek, largely due to junior Elijah Rushing‘s monstrous sack for an 11-yard loss on second down. The following possession, Salpointe was able to extend the lead to 35-14 on an eight-yard touchdown run from Dailan Goodman.

The Jaguars were able to counter with a 24-yard touchdown pass of their own, but it was too little too late. Salpointe was able to kneel out the remainder of the clock to pick up a significant win.

For many of these players, it’s been a long time coming as they’ve waited patiently to make a name for themselves on the field.

“Those seniors have worked their tails off,” Rogers said. “It’s like this every year. They capitalize on that moment, and we talk about it as a freshman, as a sophomore, as a junior; Just trust the process. Your time is going to come, and when it does, you capitalize on it and make the most of it, and we have a bunch of guys who keep doing that year after year.”

“We kind of had the same stories,” Sotelo said about himself and Bettis. “Sitting behind starters… It’s just a great feeling. We both know that we’ve got this short time but we’re going to make the most of it.”

“It was a little rough, but during that time I trained with them, so when my moment came I was ready,” Bettis said.

Overall, Sotelo completed 11 out of his 19 passes for a total of approximately 190 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions on the night. The Lancer offense also accumulated a total of around 185 yards on the ground, making for around 375 offensive yards on the night.

“You know, last week after seeing the predictions that Chap was gonna roll over Salpointe, I think it’s more of being motivated to show that Salpointe is here,” Sotelo said. “We don’t just compete in Tucson, we can compete in 6A, so I think it really showed something.”

Next week, the Lancers will have their home opener against the Basha Bears. Rogers knows it will be their biggest test of the season so far, but the boys are looking forward to the challenge.

“We all practice hard,” Bettis said. “We played Basha at the UofA in 7-on-7 and we gave them something, so they’ll really expect us to bring it, but none of us are scared.”

“Defensively, we really need to come out next week because it’s gonna be a huge challenge for our offense,” Rogers said. “It’s going to be our home opener, so it will be nice to not have to take a two-plus hour bus ride.”

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