WADDELL — With three fumbles in the game and an interception, the Sunnyside Blue Devils struggled offensively on Friday night in the road game against the Canyon View Jaguars. Falling to the Jags 17-0, the Blue Devils owe a lot to the defense, who kept the Jags from being able to extend their lead further.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a few times and we just weren’t able to battle back,” Sunnyside coach Thomas Romack said.
Things seemed to get started in favor of Sunnyside, with the Blue Devils winning the coin toss and electing to defer. On Canyon View’s opening drive, the Blue Devil defense came out strong, forcing the Jaguars to punt the ball away early. However, Sunnyside struggled to capitalize on the situation and drive down the field, with a delay of game penalty really impacting the Blue Devils as they worked to find a tempo.
While the Jags were able to eat away quite a bit of time off the clock on their following possession, it still wouldn’t result in any points on the board. After a slew of flags, the defensive line stepped up the pressure, stopping a pass at the line of scrimmage and forcing consecutive incompletions to get the ball back.
Once again, Sunnyside wasn’t able to do anything on the possession. After sophomore running back Jordan Barron was stopped quick on back-to-back runs by senior Keegan Landis. On a third-and-10, the Blue Devils attempted to pass the ball but it fell incomplete, leading to another punt with about a minute and a half left in the first.
At that point, the game was still tied at 0 with both teams looking to establish dominance.
21. SUNNYSIDE (3-3, 1-0)Head coach: Thomas Romack
Blue Devils compete in the 5A Southern. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
|8/25||at Apollo||L, 28-3||0-1||0-0|
|9/1||at Flowing Wells||W, 28-10||1-1||0-0|
|9/8||at Raymond S. Kellis||L, 21-7||1-2||0-0|
|9/15||Mica Mountain*||L, 35-7||1-3||0-0|
|10/20||at Casa Grande*||--||--||--|
|11/3||at Desert View*||--||--||--|
Canyon View looked as if they might be able to put points on the board early in the second, but another strong defensive showing from the Blue Devils left the Jags stranded in the red zone. Going for it on fourth-and-7 following back-to-back tackles for loss, Canyon View wasn’t able to get past the defensive efforts of the Blue Devils, who ultimately forced a turnover on downs.
The following possession is when things started to go downhill for Sunnyside. After a quick three-and-out, the Blue Devils ultimately fumbled on the punt and ended up giving the ball back to the Jaguars at their own 5-yard line. With great field position, it only took two snaps for the Jags to punch it in for a touchdown. The extra kick was good, finally taking the goose eggs off the board and giving Canyon View a 7-0 lead with 7:42 left before the half.
Sunnyside was able to return the kick to the 35-yard-line for a solid start to the next possession, and appeared to finally have some life to the offense. Driving all the way to the red zone, it seemed as if the Blue Devils were going to be able to score before a tackle for loss and an incomplete pass resulted in a turnover on downs at the 19 with 4:15 left before the half.
On Canyon View’s following possession, they were once again able to reach the end zone on an dart from junior Beau Devens. Taking it 84 yards for a touchdown, the extra point was good, and suddenly the Jags were up 14-0 with around 3:00 left before the half.
Making matters worse, Sunnyside had another turnover on the first snap of the following possession, this time an interception. The Blue Devil defense wasn’t having it, though, putting a stop to the Jags and forcing them to punt before the half.
Sunnyside defense with a huge stop on 4th and 1 to force a turnover on downs and prevent Canyon View from getting on the board first. pic.twitter.com/Y7X47Zjq9w
— Brittany Bowyer (@LittWithBritt) September 24, 2022
Unfortunately for Sunnyside, senior Cesar Alcantar went down with an upper body injury during the first half and never returned, leaving a huge hole to be filled for the Blue Devils.
“He’s a leader, vocally, and he’s the heart of our team so that hurt,” Romack said. “He’s a guy who’s been with us, who’s constantly grinding in the weight room and he’s the authoritarian leader that we need… He’s definitely the heartbeat of our defense and our secondary, so losing him is definitely a big loss.”
Coming back out of halftime, the Blue Devils were set to receive the kick and hoped to turn things around, but another quick three-and-out forced them to punt once again.
While the Jags were able to once again eat away a ton of time from the clock in the third quarter, they still weren’t able to reach the end zone. With just under five minutes remaining in the third, Canyon View punted the ball back to Sunnyside once again, but they couldn’t generate any offense. A quick possession put the ball back in Canyon View’s hands with around three and a half minutes left in the third quarter directly at midfield.
Slowly but surely moving the chains, the Jags were able to open up the fourth quarter with a 27-yard field goal to take a 17-0 lead over the Blue Devils.
Sunnyside’s offense took the field once again, stringing together plays to keep moving the ball down the field. However, just like before, the Blue Devils hit an invisible wall in the red zone, ultimately turning the ball over on downs once again with just under seven minutes remaining.
While defense went out and made one more strong stop, it ultimately wouldn’t make a difference; A trio of incomplete passes would quickly seal the deal, leading the Jags to just run out the clock.
“The culture of our program is character and effort,” Romack said. “Your attitude and effort are the two things you can control, so those are the two things we always harp on and constantly preach. Our kids played hard and showed great character. The effort, you know, that’s a testament to [Canyon View].”
Conde completed nine of his 25 pass attempts for approximately 99 yards and one interception on the night for the Blue Devils. Rushing yards were hard to come by, too, with Sunnyside only picking up a total of around 17 yards in the entire game. Meanwhile for Canyon View, the Jaguars were able to run for around 109 yards on the night while passing for just shy of 200.
“I just think us coaches have to prepare and give our kids different looks and give them the opportunity to be successful,” Romack said.
Sunnyside returns to Tucson next week, but will still be on the road yet again to face Ironwood Ridge. Looking to even their record, Romack is looking forward to returning to practice to re-center their focus where it belongs.
“We’ve got to focus on us, and that’s what we’ve been saying since December,” Romack said. “We’re just going to continue to focus on us and go back to some fundamentals like catching, blocking, tackling, and we’ll go from there, but we don’t need to worry about the next opponent. Sunnyside is who we need to focus on.”