Josh Eckley and Mauriece Lee led Marcos de Niza to a pair of wins over powerhouse Chaparral a year ago. Eckley was back Friday night, and he brought a new backfield mate to frustrate the Firebirds.
Senior Jake Lagunas did it all — even notching his name in one more category than the uber-versatile Eckley — as Division II's sixth-ranked Marcos outlasted visiting and top-ranked Chaparral 56-45 in a shootout many saw coming but neither team said they expected.
Lagunas was Eckley's favorite target, as he amassed 126 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 16 times for 55 yards and decided Eckley wouldn't be the only one to put the ball in the air by connecting with N'Keal Harry for a 37-yard halfback pass touchdown on third-and-13 with a little more than 2 minutes to play to put away the Firebirds.
"I know what Jake can do; I know what he's capable of," said Eckley, who took credit for suggesting the decisive trick play and putting the Padres' fate, to some extent, in Lagunas' right arm. "I know all about Jake and that he wouldn't let me down. ... This is going to be a big year for him."
Lagunas' throw wasn't pretty — the former quarterback graded it a two out of 10 — but the play caught Chaparral off guard so much it didn't matter.
"I just threw it and my man (Harry) came down with it," Lagunas said. "I was hoping it wasn't going to come down to a shootout but I also in the back of my mind thought it would."
Midway through the opening quarter it was evident a shootout was at hand. The Padres (2-0) scored on each of their first two possessions and the Firebirds (1-1) on their first.
Eckley threw four first-half touchdowns as Marcos built a 28-14 lead. But two interceptions late in the second quarter allowed Chaparral to pull within 28-24 at halftime.
"I knew it was a dogfight," Eckley said.
Chaparral went to its run game in the second half and churned out 166 yards on the ground to take leads of 31-28, 38-35 and 45-42. Malcolm Thomas and Elijah Castro, both of whom eclipsed 100 yards, combined for 141 rushing yards after halftime.
But the Padres came up with a fourth-down stop and then sealed the win on sophomore Byron Murphy's second interception of the night.
"The offense did its thing and the defense did its thing when it had to," said Eckley, who threw for 331 yards and six touchdowns and ran for another 100 yards and a score.
"It was pin-ball football and came down to the team that made the few stops," Chaparral coach David Huffine said. "If they don't make that fourth-down stop and we score, then maybe they're have the same conversation that we are right now."
Huffine quickly admitted he thought his defense would stop Marcos, which has scored 56 in each of its first two games, more often than it did. The Firebirds lost middle linebacker Joe Nauert after one play to a tight back.
But Nauert's absence wasn't the difference, Huffine said. It was Eckley's presence.
"I think Josh Eckley is the best quarterback in the state, and that's speaking from authority because we've played them three times in the last 13 gamesk," Huffine said. "He's as good in the playoffs as he is at the beginning of the season. Why more colleges aren't paying more attention to him is completely beyond me because he is outstanding. And you can tell from a leadership position, they all believe in him and they know if the ball is in his hands they're going to score."
After Friday, some of the same could be said of Lagunas.
"Everybody was so worried about the running back we lost (Lee)," Marcos coach Roy Lopez said, "but Lagunas is a strong, driven young man who can play at the next level. We're proud of him. He played his butt off."
MARCOS DE NIZA 56, CHAPARRAL 45
Chaparral 7 17 14 7 — 45
Marcos 13 15 7 21 — 56
M — Nguyen 7 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick), 8:11
C — Castro 9 run (Packal kick), 6:07
M — Lagunas 28 pass from Eckley (kick failed), 3:49
C — Magana 1 run (Packal kick), 10:25
M — Nguyen 48 pass from Eckley (Harry from Becerra), 8:43
M — Blankenship 13 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick), 7:39
C — Magana 1 run (Packal kick), 4:06
C — Packal 27 FG, 0:00
C — Thomas 6 run (Packal kick), 8:10
M — Eckley 16 run (Ketterer kick), 5:37
C — Magana 1 run (Packal kick), 1:32
M — Lagunas 17 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick), 11:26
C — Thomas 6 run (Packal kick), 9:33
M — Lagunas 49 pass from Eckley (Ketterer kick), 7:57
M — Harry 37 pass from Lagunas (Ketterer kick), 2:11
First downs: Chap 31, MDN 25
Rushing: Chap 43-275, MDN 43-170
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): Chap 17-30-152-0-2, MDN 17-25-368-6-2
Fumbles-Lost: Chap 0-0, MDN 0-0
Penalties-Yards: Chap 7-55, MDN 5-57
RUSHING — Chaparral: Thomas 12-103, Castro 15-102, Whiley 6-49, Magana 9-21, Brophy 1-0; Marcos: Eckley 22-100, Lagunas 16-55, Nguyen 5-15.
PASSING — Chaparral: Brophy 17-39-2-152, Whiley 0-1-0-0; Marcos: Eckley 16-24-2-331, Lagunas 1-1-0-37.
RECEIVING — Chaparral: Simpson 8-59, Wood 6-55, Whiley 2-22, Skeptaris 1-12, Fox 1-4; Marcos: Lagunas 6-126, Harry 4-80, Nguyen 2-55, Blankenship 2-50, Loney 1-28, Palmer 1-23, Sweet 1-6.