Brittany Bowyer: Cienega struggles in season opener against 5A Champs at Sunrise Mountain

Friday’s season opener was a rough one for the Cienega Bobcats, who lost to Sunrise Mountain 49-6 on the road in Peoria. While accepting defeat can be tough, Coach Justin Argraves says this was a great test for his team to see where they’re at. 

“It’s great to be out here. Do we like the result? Not by any means, but you know, it was a good indicator of where we’re at right now. I mean, what better way to open up a season than against the defending 5A State Champs and see where you lie,” Argraves said. 

Cienega returned to the field for the first time since Nov. 7 with full hearts ready to play, but unfortunately for the Bobcats, small mistakes ended up putting them behind early, resulting in what would eventually lead to a hole that they couldn’t dig out of. 

Back-to-back fumbles on both the opening drive of the game and the Bobcat’s second possession quickly found them trailing 14-0 just off small errors made by the offense in their own territory. 

As the clock expired on the first quarter, Mustang senior quarterback Hunter Kronengold was able to find an open receiver in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown, putting Sunrise Mountain on top 27-0 prior to the kick from senior Easton Black, which was also good.

The Mustangs continued to pour it on the Bobcats in the second quarter. After making it 35-0 with 3:15 left in the half, Cienega was able to answer with a 55-yard dart from junior quarterback Brayden Cherry to junior wide receiver Gunnar Hernandez for a 55-yard touchdown, making it 42-6 going into the half. 

While Hernandez had the lone touchdown of the night, seniors Cole McFarland and Ritchie McCormack were responsible for a majority of the offensive production on the field tonight for Cienega. 

“Those two are flat out just studs. You know, they did a great job and that’s what we were expecting, so it was good to see. We need to fix some things with the offensive line, but those guys are our team leaders, our team captains. They played both sides of the ball, so it was tremendous to see them do that tonight, and we’re excited to see how they’ll progress in the next nine weeks,” Argraves said. 

Offensively, Cienega struggled on both fronts. McFarland and McCormack both combined for approximately 100 rushing yards, but small adjustments could easily help improve that. Meanwhile, Cherry only completed five of his 13 pass attempts for just around 100 yards, as well. 

Sunrise Mountain received the ball coming out of the break, and despite turning the ball over on downs, the Bobcats weren’t able to capitalize on it. Another fumble would ultimately be picked up by Sunrise Mountain and taken into the end zone for a touchdown, Black’s kicking continued to be on-point tonight, as he drilled another one home to make it 49-6.

“A lot of it was just those first game mistakes that you see with young kids and a lot of fixable things that we could see on our end. So we’ll show them what they need to work on and fix when we get back to the field on Monday, and gear up for Buena,” Argraves said. 

While the Bobcats’ defense put a solid effort in, with two crucial interceptions from junior Malik Ramirez in the game, it wasn’t enough. The Mustangs were able to easily secure the victory. While it was a tough loss, it gives the Bobcats a lot to think about on their trip back to Tucson.

While it was a tough loss, Argraves also knows he has a lot to look forward to with many of these players. After seeing little to no action for the last year, they’ve got to shake off some rust, while many of them are also learning what’s expected of them at the varsity level. 

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’re real, super young. I mean, they had two games last year. So, seniors had two games, and juniors haven’t really played since their freshman year. There’s a lot of growing up to do, but I think they’re up for the challenge so we’ll get back to the drawing board tomorrow,” Argraves said. 

Next week, Cienega is on the road once again. They’ll face the Buena Colts on Friday in hopes of breaking into the win column. 

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

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