No. 2 Sunnyside prevails in intense match with district rival No. 3 Desert View

The “Duel in the District” soccer match Tuesday night between No. 3 Desert View and No. 2 Sunnyside had a couple of skirmishes similar to brothers going at it when the neighborhood rivals played at Sunnyside.

Things got so heated with one of the tussles that a red card was issued on a Sunnyside player 22 minutes into the match, leaving the Blue Devils a man down with the match scoreless.

“I want to play this game with 11 guys, that’s the biggest thing … it’s a big game for us, it’s Desert View, it’s a rival, but the bigger thing is it’s No. 2 vs. No. 3 in the power rankings — that’s a game you want to see where you’re really at because for the playoffs, it gives us a barometer,” Sunnyside coach Casey O’Brien said.

Given the circumstances of a 2-0 victory despite being shorthanded most of the match, Sunnyside is at a very good place with the 5A state tournament starting next Wednesday.

The Blue Devils (14-5-1, 3-0 5A Southern) secured the region title with one regular-season match remaining at Nogales on Thursday at 6 p.m.

They have defeated top contenders Desert View (11-2, 2-1) and No. 9 Cienega (9-2-1, 2-1). The Jaguars and Bobcats face each other Thursday at Desert View at 6 p.m.

“It feels good (to win the region title),” sophomore defender Sebastian Barrios said. “We’re the second seed and today we were able to beat the third seed, so we’re in a pretty good spot.”

Queen Creek Casteel (10-3-2) is the top-rated 5A team. Casteel defeated Sunnyside 3-2 on Dec. 29 in the Arizona Soccer Showcase at Chandler Hamilton High School.

Sunnyside defender Eru Mazon defends an attack by Desert View’s Jared Bojorquez (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Sunnyside has won seven of eight matches since with the lone setback a 6-0 loss at Salpointe. The Blue Devils have outscored three opponents (Cienega, Buena and Desert View) 10-1 since that defeat to the Lancers.

Their two goals against the Jaguars occurred on stoppages of play.

Barrios, a center-back, took the free kick after Sunnyside’s red-card penalty, which also resulted in a Desert View player getting a yellow card.

The 35-yard kick from Barrios found the upper right-hand corner of the net to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead.

“It was kind of shocking due to us having a man down,” Barrios said of the red-card violation. “We didn’t have a forward so we couldn’t rely on a goal kick going up there and us winning the ball. Unfortunately, we lost so many 50-50’s on top where we would send it and they would just come back at us.”

Knowing that predicament, Barrios took advantage of the free kick for the long-range goal which sent the Sunnyside players and the crowd on Senior Night into a frenzy.

“I felt like I was in shock. I didn’t notice that I scored until the whole crowd went wild,” Barrios said. “I was trying to score. They (his teammates) told me to so I just went for it.”

Sunnyside’s second goal came on a penalty kick from former Desert View player Robert Arballo at the 46-minute mark after the referee deemed that he was pushed to the ground in a battle for the ball in the penalty box.

“I just stayed calm, chose my side (of the goal) and I always go for that one (in a penalty kick),” said Arballo, a junior who played for Desert View last year and as a freshman in 2019-20. “It was really big. This is my old school. I had to show up and win it for our Blue Devils.

“It was hard (playing against Desert View) because that’s my ex-family and I had to fight with my new family.”

Sunnyside’s defense remained resilient through the entire match despite having to play 10 on 11.

Arguably the top defender in the state — senior left-back Eru Mazon, who looks like a linebacker at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds — controls the back line both physically and verbally.

“He’s just a leader — super vocal,” said O’Brien, who coached Sunnyside to the 2019 title and a runner-up finish in 2020. “The way he uses his voice makes things happen for us. He just keeps everybody engaged and accountable. For sure, he’s the defensive leader of our team.:

The anchor of Sunnyside’s defense is its goaltender — junior Jorge Arvayo, who was barraged by an attack of Desert View shots on goal in the last 10 minutes and came away with the shutout.

One of his saves he will remember forever. He timed his leap at the right time and tipped the ball at the last second over the cross bar.

“I was just trailing back and I saw him cut to his right and I knew in my head that he was going to shoot,” Arvayo said. “He shot it, I was able to get back in time and put it over the bar.”

The back line of Mazon, Barrios and Hansell Urias combined with Arvayo manning the net will make it difficult for opponents to score in the state playoffs. Eight of the Blue Devils’ wins have been by shutout.

Winning Tuesday’s intense match with Desert View despite the disadvantage of the red card shows the Blue Devils have “a lot of heart,” O’Brien said.

“Things don’t go your way sometimes and then you’ve just got to be resilient and overcome it,” O’Brien said. “Honestly, all season we’ve been doing the same thing. We’ve been getting in holes, digging ourselves out, playing in tough games that we can win that we lose.

“When it comes time for the playoffs I don’t think there’s a scenario we can get in that we haven’t seen.”


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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