No. 22 Mica Mountain defeated No. 2 CDO 26-7 Thursday night to capture the 4A Kino title and now wait until Saturday to see if it qualifies for the 16-team playoff field.
“As I told the kids today, we might not make the playoffs, but to go out with a perfect game like tonight is the only way to end the season,” Mica Mountain head coach Pat Nugent said. “It’s something special, and we worked our tail off to get to that point, and we won a great game against a great football team.”
Mica Mountain (6-4, 5-0 4A Kino) went 3-3 in six freedom games last season because the Thunderbolts were in their first varsity season.
Nugent became head coach of the Thunderbolts in 2021 after seven seasons at Cienega High School.
“I’m not going to lie. When I left Cienega, it was a big thing. That’s an unbelievable football program at Cienega,” Nugent said. “I took a challenge to build up the program, and we knew it was going to take time, but to be on this field tonight and win a league title in our second year and really our first senior year, it’s special.”
Mica Mountain got on the board first and never really looked back after sophomore quarterback Jayden Thoreson connected with junior wide receiver Devin Hayward on a 51-yard touchdown reception.
“My first read is those backers, and they blitzed, and all the film we watched this week, on third down, they dropped everyone and blitz every linebacker, and they did that, exactly that,” Thoreson said. “He (Hayward) was wide open and made one move, and it was to the house.”
The Thunderbolts and Dorados traded turnovers on the next two possessions: A CDO fumble on its 32-yard line was recovered by Mica Mountain leading to an interception by CDO senior cornerback Ethan Krominga.
CDO (8-2, 4-1) would turnover the ball on downs on Mica Mounatin’s 23-yard line with 7:31 remaining in the second quarter leading to a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Mica Mountain junior running back Kason Colbert on the following possession.
“I knew it could possibly be the senior’s last game because of our record, so I just wanted to put it all on the line for them because it could be our last game playing with them, so I wanted to get them a win for our last game,” Colbert said.
In the final minute of the first half, CDO fumbled on its 25-yard line, and junior safety Jonah Garcia recovered.
A 23-yard touchdown pass from Thoreson to junior wide receiver Jack Bradley put the Thunderbolts up 20-0 with 48 seconds remaining in the first half. Mica Mountain missed the extra-point attempt and headed into halftime with a 20-0 lead.
Mica Mountain and CDO traded touchdowns in the second half: an 8-yard rushing touchdown from Colbert with five minutes left in the third quarter and a blocked Mica Mountain punt a CDO defender recovered in the end zone with under a minute to go in the third quarter.
The Dorados had trouble sustaining drives against the Mica Mountain defense for most of the game, struggling to find a rhythm on offense.
“It was a big game, for me especially. I had been sitting out five games, so it’s well worth the time,” sophomore defensive end Jimmy Leon said. “A lot of emotion to it. Region champs, first ever in Mica Mountain history. That’s all I can say.”
The Thunderbolts now wait until Saturday morning when the AIA makes its playoff selections.
“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. We’ll be sad we’re not getting in because we would love to prove ourselves in the state playoffs,” Nugent said. “I’d be afraid of this team if I was anybody else, but the reality is: we did what we could, and we’re league champions at 5-0, and we take it into the offseason.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.