Thrust into a starring role in the first round of the playoffs, sophomore Rajhan Meriwether more than performed.
Having carried the ball a total of 24 times all season in four games, Meriwether had 23 carries for 217 yards and three touchdowns in Basha's 55-0 rout of Tucson high in the first round of the Division I playoffs Friday night.
The seventh-seeded Bears (8-3) travel to Phoenix College next Thursday to face No. 2 Brophy in the quarterfinals.
"I just came out to play," said the soft-spoken Meriwether. "I wanted to play for my seniors and I just wanted to win."
Meriwether filled in successfully for the absent J.J. Husar and Myles Smith, who led the Bears in rushing this season with more than 1,100 yards between them.
"He is absolutely fantastic," quarterback Kyle Duran said of Meriwether. "With Myles Smith hurt and J.J. Husar being out, it was nice to see a sophomore like him step up and play a fantastic game."
Meriwether, who scored on runs of 18, 43 and 2 yards, added, "My blockers were blocking and I just wanted to read the holes and score and win this game,"
Meanwhile, Duran was efficient, throwing the ball just 10 times with the gusty conditions. However, he threw touchdown passes on consecutive plays in the first quarter - with the wind at his back - to give Basha an early 17-0 lead.
"The game plan for this week was to get on them early and score," Duran said. "We still need to get better, we made a few mistakes."
The Bears scored on four of their first five possessions - Duran threw an interception in one of his rare mistakes in the game. Basha had a 24-0 lead when the Badgers (7-4) drove late in the half and had a second-and-goal at the 1 but could not score. Officials ruled quarterback Cameron Volk's progress had been stopped short of the goal line on fourth down, although the Tucson players celebrated as if it were a touchdown.
Tucson moved the ball on occasion but never got another sustained drive going in the second half. Basha scored the first three times it touched the ball in the third quarter and rout was on.
Basha coach Bernie Busken said he was pleased with his team's effort and the play of Meriwether but admitted work was left to be done.
"We have got to play a lot better next week," Busken said. "It gets pretty tough from here on."
The Badgers - who have suffered through five straight losing seasons and haven't won a playoff game in 40 years - didn't help matters by fumbling six times, losing four of them, and getting penalized eight times for 67 yards.
Basha also used the weather to its advantage, methodically driving the field in the first and third quarters with the wind at their back, controlling the clock. Tucson's greatest success moving the ball came when it had the wind.