The No. 2-seeded Salpointe Catholic Lancers had to battle through a gritty second half of football, stopping an attempted comeback by No. 5 Notre Dame Prep Saints by a 45-42 score in the 5A quarterfinal playoff game at Ed Doherty Stadium.
The Lancers (10-2) host No. 3 Goodyear Desert Edge (10-2) in a semifinal game Friday at 7 p.m. Desert Edge defeated No. 6 Desert View 31-13 in another quarterfinal game.
It was a story of two different halves for the Lancers against Notre Dame Prep (8-4). In the first half, Salpointe outscored the Saints 24-7 and the defense only allowed 41 yards.
During the second half, Salpointe’s defense gave up 35 points, with quarterback Treyson Bourguet and running back Anthony Wilhite accounting for three touchdowns.
Notre Dame Prep fought hard to try to gain the lead late in the game. Despite the Saints getting as close as three points, it was the Lancers who were able to keep scoring to put the game just out of reach.
“It was a chess match, back and forth. We would be running something and they would stop that and then we gotta come and do something,” Salpointe coach Eric Rogers said, “Same thing vice-versa. They’re running certain things and we gotta stop that. It was just a chess match back and forth. Very, very good football team (Notre Dame Prep).”
Winning the 5A quarterfinals game makes Salpointe the only team from Tucson that remains in the playoffs, following the defeats of Cienega, Desert View and Canyon Del Oro on Friday night. Salpointe was also the only team to play at home this week.
Leading the offensive charge of the Lancers was Bourguet, who threw for 199 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 98 yards and scored twice on the ground.
“Adversity is a big word in our team. We have to go through it every single day right? Whether its inside of the classroom, at home, outside of the classroom or even on this football field,” said Bourguet, “Its something that you have to continue. Whenever you get knocked down, you gotta get back up even stronger and keep going and that’s something that we had to do this Friday night.”
Dylan Dreis, a senior receiver, had four catches, totaling for 94 yards and two first-half touchdowns.
Notre Dame Prep was the first team to find the end zone in the first quarter. Wide receiver Gavin Smith took the end-around for an 11 yard score. The play was set up after a 41-yard fake punt that gained the first down conversion.
Salpointe answered back quickly with a 31-yard run by Bourguet for the touchdown, making it 7-7 following the extra point with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
The Lancers were on the march again after an interception made by Antonio Martinez. Their drive then stalled due to penalties. A 44-yard field goal by Owen Lynch gave Salpointe the lead at 10-7 with 11:05 left in the second quarter.
Both teams exchanged a short drive that resulted in a punt.
Salpointe’s defense stepped up during the Saints’ last attempted offensive drive of the first half. Notre Dame Prep tried a pass on a fourth down, but was sacked by Wyatt Pierson for a 6-yard loss, giving the Lancers the ball back with 2:45 to spare.
Salpointe did not let the opportunity, created by the defense, go to waste. Bourguet hit Dreis for a 32-yard touchdown on an out-route. The score increased the Lancers’ lead to 17-7 with 1:44 left in the second quarter.
After Salpointe got the ball back on a punt, Bourguet hit Dreis on another deep route, this time for 52 yards. The extra point was good, making it 24-7 with 44 seconds left in the half. Notre Dame Prep kneeled the ball on their next drive and both teams were headed to the locker room for half time.
Salpointe marched down the field for another scoring opportunity on its first possession of the second half.
Bourguet found Gage Felix for a 46-yard catch and score, giving the Lancers a 31-7 lead with 8:57 left in the third quarter.
Notre Dame Prep became energized with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Gavin Smith. The score cut the lead down to 31-14, following the extra point and 8:41 remained in the third quarter.
Notre Dame Prep narrowed the lead even more with another touchdown run by Smith, bringing the score to 31-21 with 5:52 left in the third quarter after the extra-point kick.
Notre Dame Prep’s deficit didn’t get any closer than 10 points for the remainder of the third quarter. The Lancers came storming back with another quick drive. Bourguet ran for a 21-yard touchdown, making the score to 38-21 with 1:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Smith once again found an opportunity to score in the fourth quarter. He caught slant-pattern pass and ran the remainder of the way to score the touchdown. The Lancers’ lead was down to 38-28 with 11:42 left.
The Saints made another impressive drive after receiving the ball back. They were able to cut Salpointe’s lead to 38-35 with 7:12 remaining thanks to a 5-yard run by quarterbak Brayden Wells.
The run game proved to be the difference in this game.
Shortly after the kickoff, Salpointe running back Anthony Wilhite II finally found the end zone after being bottled up for most of the game. He ran the ball up the middle with no one in front of him for an 81-yard touchdown, putting the Lancers up, 45-38.
TD Salpointe, Anthony Wilhite with an 81 yard run. Salpointe leads 45-35 with 6:55 left in the 4th Quarter. pic.twitter.com/a6mcWqgoQ6
— AllSportsTucson.com (@AllSportsTucson) November 27, 2021
Notre Dame Prep scored one more time with Hudson Stych receiving the 17-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 45-42 with 2:27 left.
Salpointe depended on Wilhite to run out the clock and put the game away. He was up to the task, converting a big third down run to keep the clock running. Bourguet took the final knee, ensuring Salpointe’s quarterfinal victory.
And will do it, Salpointe hangs on to defeat Norte Dame Prep 45-42. Salpointe advances to take on Desert Edge next week. pic.twitter.com/sPydX6aGjp
— AllSportsTucson.com (@AllSportsTucson) November 27, 2021
Wilhite had 141 yards on 22 carries, along with the game-winning touchdown.
“Anthony’s gonna run hard. We know that and he did again tonight. It was hard yards, it wasn’t like 10-yard gashes. We told him just keep grinding, just keep working and they’ll pop,” Rogers said.
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Nathaniel Martinez is an aspiring sports journalist who is a Sahuaro High School graduate and Pima Community College student. He has written for the Aztec Press at Pima. While at Sahuaro, he played football for longtime coach Scott McKee and he wrestled for the Cougars.