In the quarterfinals of the AIA Division II State Playoffs, the second-seeded Marcos de Niza Padres defeated the seventh-seeded Chaparral Firebirds 49-36.
In their first match-up last August, Marcos de Niza narrowly defeated Chaparral 29-27 on a last-second touchdown run by junior quarterback Josh Eckley. In the opening of Friday night’s playoff game, it appeared that it was going to be another fight to the finish.
Chaparral drew first blood with a 25-yard field goal with 5:41 left in the first quarter. On Marcos de Niza’s first play after the Chaparral field goal, senior running back Maurice Lee torched the Firebird defense for an 80-yard touchdown run that gave the Padres a 7-3 lead.
Chaparral punched right back when senior quarterback Brad Schencker threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Tyler Whiley to give the Firebirds a 10-7 lead with 3:19 left in the first quarter.
It wasn’t long until lightning struck twice for the Padres when Lee broke off for a 48-yard touchdown run, his second of the night, to recapture the lead 14-10. The Padres scored the next 21 points from two beautiful touchdown catches by senior Paul Elvira and a four-yard score by Lee.
At halftime, the score was 35-10 in favor of Marcos de Niza.
Chaparral did not go down without a fight and came out strongly in the second half. On the Firebirds’ opening drive, Schencker drove the team down 71 yards and scored on a three-yard keeper to cut the lead to 35-17 with 7:54 left in the third quarter.
It seemed that whenever Chaparral would start to gain momentum, Marcos de Niza would steal it right back with a big play. That is exactly what happened on the following Padre drive as Lee darted past the Firebird defense for a 76-yard run that set up a five-yard touchdown draw by Eckley. With 6:25 left in the third quarter, Marcos de Nize held a 42-17 lead.
Chaparral would not go away and scored the next two touchdowns in the game, but after a blocked extra point, they still trailed 42-30 early in the fourth quarter.
Although the Firebirds were able to get stops, their drives were continually cut short by interceptions. Marcos de Niza’s junior defensive back Dominique Fenstermacher had three interceptions in the second half on crucial drives for Chaparral.
Each team scored one more time in the fourth quarter, as Marcos de Niza was able to hold on for the 49-36 victory.
Chaparral finished the season 8-4 and saw their streak of three straight state championships come to an end.
Marcos de Niza plays Ironwood Ridge from Tucson next week in the AIA Division II State Playoffs semifinals.