Sectional play started across Southern Arizona for many teams, and that included the Cienega Bobcats hosting the Buena Colts on Friday in the 5A Southern.
Cienega’s offensive flurry in the second quarter blew its contest wide open, defeating the Colts 49-19 to kickoff section play for them in what has so far been a tough season.
Buena played its fourth straight game without head coach Joseph Thomas, who is suspended indefinitely by the Sierra Vista School District for undisclosed reasons. Thomas was at the game but not on the sidelines.
Cienega came into Friday’s contest 1-4 after a brutal non-section scheduled that included Salpointe, Marana, Catalina Foothills and two opponents from Goodyear — Millennium and Desert Edge.
Bobcats head coach Justin Argraves knew this tough stretch was coming, but stressed its importance to the team for the future.
“We knew our non-region schedule was brutal, and we just kept (saying), ’It’s gonna sharpen the sword. It’s gonna sharpen the sword,’” he said. “Regardless of what happens, and you get put in a bind like we were, and we just had to have our kids focus on the now.”
But now that the first five games are over, Argraves and his players are on to the “Second Season” as he called it following Friday night’s win. And they got off on the right foot.
NO. 20 CIENEGA (5-5, 4-1)Bobcats compete in the 5A Southern. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
|9/2||@ Catalina Foothills||W, 41-21||1-0||0-0|
|9/30||@ Desert Edge||L, 52-21||1-3||0-0|
|10/21||@ Ironwood Ridge*||W, 27-6||3-4||2-0|
|10/28||@ Desert View*||W, 36-26||4-4||3-0|
|11/4||@ Mountain View*||L, 38-37 OT||4-5||3-1|
The beginning of the game was a back-and-forth battle between the defenses, with both offenses struggling to sustain drives.
From the Cienega side of things, Argraves pointed to the extra in-game mental preparation needed due to the increased energy that can come with Homecoming week, which Cienega was celebrating.
“You know, we had to settle in. You know, Homecoming Week, they go through the whole week of all that,” he said. “They (team) brought tons of energy. I mean all day long, the energy level was where we wanted it, and I think in a game like that, you gotta come out and settle in.”
It was Buena, however, who put the first points up on the board. Colts running back Andres Bonilla scored on a 5-yard run to make it 7-0 in the final few seconds of the first quarter.
Buena looked to take control as the teams switched sides to start the second quarter. But this would be when the Bobcat avalanche would begin.
About four minutes into the second quarter, Evan Weber, who is playing in place of injured quarterback Brayden Cherry, found Keron Watson down the seam for a touchdown to even things up at 7.
On the following Colts possession, cornerback Ethan Billings intercepted a deep Buena pass attempt to set up his offense with great field position after a return.
They were able to cash in when Weber made an incredible play buying time with his feet before finding Jimmy Diaz who took it into the end zone, and just like that, the Bobcats took the lead and never looked back.
The Cienega offense got the ball back quickly and didn’t hesitate to extend their lead anymore, as Weber found Diaz down the sideline on a fade route for another Bobcat touchdown.
The defense joined the scoring party as well. River Ries intercepted a Buena pass attempt on the first play of the following drive and took it back for a touchdown. In the blink of an eye, Cienega went from down 7 to up 21.
Weber capped off his incredible second quarter with another seam route down the middle, this time to Gavin Peterson for a 14-yard touchdown to send the Bobcats into the locker room up 35-7 as the Homecoming festivities continued.
Weber’s pose and coachability is something Argraves has noticed as he’s been thrusted into the starting job.
“Evan has done just a tremendous job,” he said. “Just an extremely coachable kid and every single week he has progressed and has gotten better and better, and as you can see, he’s pretty dynamic.”
NO. 25 BUENA (7-3, 3-2)Colts compete in the 5A Southern. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
|9/2||@ Sahuarita||W, 27-9||1-0||0-0|
|9/16||@ Nogales||W, 41-0||2-1||0-0|
|10/14||@ Cienega*||L, 49-19||4-2||0-1|
|10/21||Mountain View*||W, 47-35||5-2||1-1|
|10/28||@ Tucson*||W, 14-7||6-2||2-1|
|11/4||Desert View*||L, 43-28||6-3||2-2|
|11/11||@ Ironwood Ridge*||W, 15-6||7-3||3-2|
The third quarter was dominated by Buena from a time of possession standpoint. Two long drives ate up most of the clock. They were able to take the opening drive of the second half down the field and scored on a little trick throw back play between running back Charlie Price and quarterback Aliaz Dyson to make it 35-13.
Dyson, a sophomore transfer from Tombstone, played in his first game after sitting out the first five games per AIA transfer rules.
Cienega took the following kickoff back to the endzone to make it 42-13. Weber would find Diaz one more time in the endzone in the fourth quarter for another touchdown to make it 49-16.
As they continue section play next week, Argraves talked about the team’s resolve and toughness to handle the rocky start:
“These kids, they battle through, you know, they didn’t throw in the towel, and they know long term what the end goal is. And that is what we are keeping insight right now.”
Cienega (2-4, 1-0 5A Southern) will look to go 2-0 in their “Second Season” as it travels to Ironwood Ridge (1-5, 0-1) on Friday.
Buena (4-2, 0-1) will look to bounce back against Mountain View (2-4, 1-0) at home.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.