It turns out Chaparral's football team is mortal after all.
The Firebirds, who rolled through their first 12 games with nary a scratch, were outplayed in every area Friday night by Tucson Sunnyside and fell to the Blue Devils 16-7 in the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs at Phoenix College.
With the victory, the Blue Devils — considered a big underdog Friday by most everyone but themselves — will face Glendale Cactus next Saturday for the state championship at Sun Devil Stadium.
"The play up front was the difference," said Chaparral coach Ron Estabrook, whose defending state champions finished 12-1. "They beat us on the front line.
"Obviously, it's devastating, especially for the seniors who worked so hard for it. But you know what, we didn't play well enough to win."
As his teammates walked off the field with tears running down their faces, Chaparral receiver John Peel struggled to find words to describe his feelings.
"It's the worst feeling in the world," said Peel as he fought back tears. "They took us by surprise and I guess we just weren't ready."
Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez insisted he wasn't surprised by the outcome.
"We fell short last year, and we had a senior-dominated team," he said. "We're pretty young. We've got 15 kids coming back next year.
"We knew we were going to be in for a tough game and our kids weren't going to be denied."
What really made Sunnyside's victory so shocking was the Blue Devils lost at Chaparral 41-14 in the second game of the season. It brings back memories of two years ago when Sunnyside lost its season opener to Saguaro and then got revenge against the Sabercats in the semifinals.
"This is like what happened when we won the state championship," Sanchez said. "I did a poor job at the beginning of the year and we just had to go to work."
Chaparral played its worst first half of the season. For the first time all year, the Firebirds didn't score in the first quarter, which ended with them trailing 3-0. The Firebirds didn't get on the scoreboard until there was just 3:29 left in the first half when Billy Beran scored on a 1-yard run to lead 7-3 at halftime.
The second half started ominously for Chaparral when Kam Kranz fumbled the ball to Sunnyside on the Chaparral 37-yard line. Sunnyside took advantage and scored to go up 10-7. When the Firebirds sputtered on their next series, it was obvious they was in trouble.
That proved to be correct early in the fourth quarter when Sunnyside quarterback Jaime Cota hooked up with George Garza on a touchdown pass for the second time, putting the Blue Devils up 16-7. Chaparral didn't threaten to score the rest of the game.