Brittany Bowyer: Sunnyslope comes alive in the second half to beat Desert Mountain

(Brittany Bowyer Photo)

Special to AllSportsTucson from Brittany Bowyer

Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07

NOTE: Salpointe travels to Desert Mountain on Nov. 20.

The Sunnyslope Vikings remain undefeated at 4-0 after pulling off a huge 21-10 upset over the Desert Mountain Wolves on Friday. It was senior night, and the class of 2021 stepped up and left it all on the field to really make the difference and pull off the win. 

It was a slow start for both teams initially, as the score was still 0-0 at the end of the first quarter. However, Desert Mountain senior quarterback Aiden Cerullo was able to get the Wolves rolling in the second quarter, moving the ball down the field and eventually finding senior Rogan Freeburg open in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. The kick was good, giving Desert Mountain a 7-0 lead with 7:30 left to play in the 2nd quarter. 

Meanwhile for the Vikings, struggles to find a rhythm against the Wolves strong defense continued throughout the rest of the first half. Sunnyslope junior quarterback Tanner Daoust threw an interception on the following drive, and the running backs weren’t having any luck on the ground, either. 

“Coach Hamilton does a great job over there and we knew they’d be prepared. They didn’t play last week, so they had two weeks to prepare, so we knew they’d be ready for us,” Sunnyslope coach Sam Jacobs said. “They had a great scheme, they brought a lot of pressure, and we really struggled with that at the beginning.”

At the half, Desert Mountain held a 7-0 lead, but the Vikings were preparing for a second half battle. 

“It was just about being patient, doing what we do, getting the ball in the hands of our playmakers, and we knew at some point it would start to click,” Coach Jacobs said. 

Desert Mountain got the ball first, but Sunnyslope senior David Sing had a momentum-shifting play with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. Cerullo’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Sing and returned 60-yards for a touchdown. 

“I saw the formation, they made the same motion that they did, and I made the play,” Sing said. “I tried to turn on the jets and just score.”

The kick was good, making it tied up at seven, and it was impossible to ignore the huge momentum shift that was caused by that play. 

“It changed the whole game, 100%. It was the momentum changer that brought a little spark to the team and changed the whole game,” Coach Jacobs said. 

When the Vikings defense took the field again, that’s when they really started to turn up the intensity. After only taking about two minutes off the clock, the Wolves were forced to punt it back to the Vikings, who continued to drive the ball down the field into the fourth quarter. 

With just 10:02 remaining in the game, Daoust was able to find junior Xander Georgoulis for a nine-yard touchdown pass. The kick was good, putting the Vikings on top 14-7. 

Desert Mountain made a strong attempt to march down the field, but a solid Vikings defense forced the Wolves to settle for just a field goal, making it 14-10 Sunnyslope with just 6:29 remaining in the game. 

Too much was on the line for the Vikings, though, who wanted to send the class of 2021 off with a victory on Senior night. In only four plays, Sunnyslope was able to tack on its third and final touchdown of the night, this one coming on a 38-yard pass to senior Spencer Hochstein. The kick was good, making it 21-10 with less than five minutes remaining. 

Sunnyslope’s defense held strong through the end, sealing the deal and helping the Vikings stay in the hunt for a top playoff spot. 

“It was a whole team effort. All credit to the o-line, the receivers, they came through big,” Daoust said. “We knew coming into this year that we could do some damage in our conference, and it’s coaching, it’s everyone. It’s a full-team movement.”

Unfortunately for the Wolves, penalties were the name of the game tonight, as they racked up 15 for a total loss of 100 yards. Desert Mountain had 123 rushing yards in the game, with Cerullo completing 19 of 31 passes for 193 yards, but the lost yardage was just too much to overcome. 

Meanwhile for Sunnyslope, the offense struggled on the ground, only accumulating just over 50 yards, but Daoust was eight for 13 on the night for 120 yards. The Vikings also only had three penalties for 35 total yards, which ended up being crucial in the end. 

Sunnyslope still has three more games on the schedule to look ahead to, all of them on the road. Next week, the Vikings face Barry Goldwater, followed up by a huge cross-conference game against 6A Boulder Creek before wrapping things up against Westview. 

Luckily for Desert Mountain, it was the last road game of the regular season. The Wolves face Cactus Shadows at home next week before closing out the regular season against Salpointe Catholic. They’ll have a couple tough fights ahead of them if they want to qualify for the playoffs, as there is a five-game minimum to even qualify.

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