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Salpointe 10, Sunnyside 7 (11/16/09)

November 17, 2009

By Chris Davis
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.07.2009

The size of an elbow is, at max, a few inches.

But in a rivalry as closely contested over the years as Salpointe Catholic and Sunnyside, those inches can make a huge difference. Friday night was no different.

The Lancers (9-1, 6-0 5A Southern) wrapped up their season with a 10-7 victory over their crosstown 5A rivals when senior Sean Craig blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt by Sunnyside with 4 seconds left.

“I just smashed through the hole they gave me and the ball hit my elbow,” Craig said. The game’s final play was a culmination of a dramatic final quarter that featured turnovers, defensive stops and momentum shifts.

Sunnyside (5-1, 9-1) had the ball inside the Lancers’ 10-yard line twice in the fourth quarter but came away empty-handed.

The Blue Devils opened the fourth by driving to the Lancer 9-yard line. However a false start and a key defensive stop on second down squashed the drive. Sunnyside then missed a 34-yard field goal.

“I thought our defense played tremendous tonight,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said. “When you play Sunnyside, you just have to be patient and keep picking away.” Later in the quarter, Salpointe forced a Sunnyside fumble on first-and-goal from the Lancers’ 2. Craig came up with the recovery, setting up Salpointe’s game-winning drive. Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez said his team did not take advantage of the opportunities it had.

“They played well and we didn’t,” he said.

With 8:27 left in the game, Salpointe marched 98 yards in 18 plays, with quarterback Dan Slania running it in from 1 yard.

The Blue Devils thought they had created a turnover of their own on the play prior to the touchdown. Salpointe’s Johnny Pena leaped toward the goal line from the 2 only to be caught in midair by a group of Sunnyside defenders. He was driven back and lost the ball, but officials called him down.

“That was a drive for the ages,” Bene said. “It came down to our kids’ will. That was their whole season right there.”

Friday’s game was a featured matchup of the Great American Rivalry Series that focused on high school football games throughout the country. Afterward, the Lancers were presented with a trophy by members of the U.S. Air Force.

Due to an AIA violation, the Lancers will not be allowed to play in the postseason. “It’s sad we’re not going to the playoffs,” Craig said. “But we had a goal of winning nine games and we achieved that. And our games from the Greater Good helped us make a difference in the community.”

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What is the Great American Rivalry Series?

Each fall for over a century, high school football has been the centerpiece for families and communities on Friday night. In 2004, iHigh, Inc. created the Great American Rivalry Series to celebrate this uniquely American sport and the cultural phenomenon of “Friday Night in America.” The Series shines the spotlight on top high school football rivalries across the nation, where long-standing traditions are valued, expectations are sky high, and followers are committed.