With its starting quarterback banged up and limited, Marcos de Niza needed its defense to provide a performance unlike what it had through the first three weeks of the season.
Step up it did. The defense came up with big plays and stands and helped the Padres (4-0) preserve a 23-15 win over Laveen Cesar Chavez (0-4) in a nondivisional road game Friday night.
“The boys worked their (butts) off,” Marcos coach Roy Lopez said. “You know, you’re hit with a little adversity, you lose your leader, other leaders have to step up.”
Marcos starting quarterback Joshua Eckley was limited to just the first half and one play in the second half due to an ankle injury, according to Lopez.
“He’s tough, that kid’s a fighter,” Lopez said. “He wants to play, but we pulled him out.”
The one play he did come in for in the second half turned out to the Padres’ lone offensive scoring play of the final two quarters.
Eckley found Malique Sharp for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that made it 21-7, Marcos.
The rest of the second half saw Jake Lagunas managing the offense.
“We had to be prepared for it all week because we kind of knew he had a little hurt foot,” Lagunas said. “I just went out there and did the best I could, but I expected it.”
With Lagunas unable to lead a scoring drive, the Marcos defense stepped up and shutout the Champions’ offense in the second half. The lone Cesar Chavez score in the second half came off of a interception return for a touchdown.
“We have some good defensive players,” Lopez said. “We’re really trying to emphasize that. I mean, we know we can score with Joshua and Jake.”
The defense sealed the victory with an interception at the Chavez 15-yard line with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Padres now turn their focus to its road trip to Tucson Salpointe Catholic on Friday night.
“We’re a little banged up; it’s probably not a good week to be banged up,” Lopez said. “We’ll try to patch up the team and go down there and I guarantee you it’ll be a fight.”
“Hopefully we can ride the defensive stops, get the offense going good and go down and play Salpointe.”
Lagunas expects to be back at his normal spot in the backfield with Eckley returning as starting quarterback.
“We’re going to go home and enjoy this win,” Lagunas said. “We’re going to get treatment. It looks like he’s going to be back, but if they call my name I’m going to be ready.”
Marcos de Niza 23, Cesar Chavez 15
First Downs: MDN 15, CC 6
Rushing: MDN 47-165, CC 31-155
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): MDN 12-26-200-1-2, CC 3-26-56-0-2
Fumbles-lost: MDN 3-0, CC 2-0
Penalties-yards: MDN 13-105, CC 18-126
Marcos de Niza 0 14 7 2 -- 23
Cesar Chavez 7 0 0 8 -- 15
CC: Jones 5 run (Johnson kick)
MDN: Harry 44 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick)
MDN: Lagunas 3 run (Ketterer kick)
MDN: Sharp 20 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick)
CC: Lewis 90 INT (Pineda pass from Jones)