The clock has struck midnight and Cinderella has been sent home. But not without a fight.
Three weeks after qualifying for the postseason despite not winning a game in its own region, Tempe Marcos de Niza’s improbable run through the 5A Division II playoffs is over.
The No. 11-seeded Padres (6-7), who last played in the semifinals in 1974, finally met their match Friday, succumbing to Tucson Sunnyside 21-14 at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson.
The Blue Devils (11-2), seeking their third state title in six years, will play Peoria Centennial, a 51-7 winner over Peoria, in the finals at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Marcos coach Ray Lopez said. “We prepared ourselves to play all the way through December. I’m proud of these boys. They worked just as hard, if not harder than (Sunnyside) did.”
Trailing by seven with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter, the Padres took over at their own 47-yard line with a chance to drive for the game-tying score.
However, after picking up one first down, the drive stalled after they were called for a 15-yard personal foul penalty, leaving Marcos with a third-and-27. Against a Sunnyside defense that allowed only 96 points all season, it proved too much to overcome.
“We proved we could play with anyone, but you can’t beat yourself,” Lopez said.
Before being controlled during much of the second and third quarters, the Marcos offense moved the ball efficiently early in the game. After forcing a Sunnyside three-and-out on the first possession, the Padres drove the ball 70 yards in five plays, capped off by a 22-yard dash by Harrison Evans through the heart of the Blue Devil defense.
Evans, who provided most of the Padres’ offense, finished with 117 yards on 23 carries to go along with five catches for 88 yards.
The second-seeded Blue Devils didn’t score until 10:31 left in the second quarter, when Jovan Stevenson hauled in a swing pass from quarterback Sammy Olivas and darted down the sideline for 12 yards to tie the game at 7-7.
Zac Holmes gave Sunnyside its first lead in the third quarter on his only reception of the game on Olivas’ second touchdown pass of the night from nine yards out.
Less than two minutes later, Stevenson, who rushed for 198 yards on 24 carries, raced 59 yards virtually untouched around right end for the game winning score.