5A quarterfinals: No. 9 Cienega (8-3) at No. 1 Horizon (9-2)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

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When Cienega has the ball:

Run percentage: 63.1 percent (308 rushes)

Pass percentage: 36.9 percent (180 passes)

Brayden Cherry, a junior quarterback, has been one of the surprising performers in Southern Arizona this season in his first varsity season. He has engineered coach Justin Argraves’ offense with efficiency passing for 1,583 yards while completing 107 of 180 pass attempts with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Seven different receivers have at least 10 catches led by senior Gunnar Hernandez who has 16 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Senior tight end Brody Kallman has emerged as one of the best at his position in Southern Arizona totaling 14 catches for 207 yards. The senior running back tandem of Ritchie McCormack and Cole McFarland is one of the best in the state in terms of yards and leadership ability — both are excellent two-way players. McCormack has a team-best 692 yards on 117 carries with 10 touchdowns and McFarland has 607 yards on 84 rushes with nine touchdowns. Upstart running back Edgar Garcia, a senior, has contributed 275 yards on 36 carries. Horizon, coached by former Marana coach Andy Litten, is led defensively by senior strong safety Landon Smith with 85 tackles. Another senior safety — Kamron Faraji-Arnold — tops Horizon with nine sacks and eight quarterback hurries. Count on Litten to try to rattle Cherry with consistent pressure. Horizon has 34 sacks. Senior cornerback Ethan Tinsley has four interceptions and the Huskies have 16 interceptions overall.

Brayden Cherry’s first varsity season has been a highly successful one (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

When Horizon has the ball:

Run percentage: 52.5 (294 rushes)

Pass percentage: 47.5 (266 passes)

Litten was known at Marana for his passing offenses engineered by quarterback Trenton Bourguet, now the No. 2 quarterback at Arizona State. Senior Skyler Partridge has thrown for 1,890 yards while completing 148 of 241 pass attempts with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is a dual threat rushing for 490 yards on 55 carries with seven touchdowns. His top target is junior Cole Linyard, who has 51 catches for 591 yards and eight touchdowns. Two other receivers are close to the 500-yard mark — senior Chase Jung with 39 catches for 546 yards and six touchdowns and junior Matthew Klopfenstein with 37 catches for 494 yards and eight touchdowns. Wesley Lambert, a junior, provides balance to the offense with 1,206 yards rushing on 177 carries with 15 touchdowns. Cienega’s defense is also led by McFarland and McCormack (who has a team-high 71 tackles) at the linebacker position. McFarland has 42 tackles and leads the Bobcats with six sacks. Senior linebacker Spiezio Gonzales, a 6-2 and 200 pounds, is a future college player with 47 tackles. The defensive backfield is a strength with 15 interceptions led by Elias Santana’s four picks.

Common opponents

Peoria Sunrise Mountain — Cienega’s first game getting acclimated to Argraves and the new staff (taking over for Pat Nugent and crew) resulted in a 49-6 loss at Sunrise Mountain to open the season Sept. 3. Horizon hosted Sunrise Mountain a week later and beat the Mustangs 24-15.

Gilbert Campo Verde — Cienega lost to Campo Verde 23-21 at home on Oct. 1 while Horizon defeated the Coyotes 50-21 on the road Nov. 5.


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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