4A FOOTBALL: Salpointe stops Marcos de Niza to advance to semifinals

November 11, 2016 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Naz Greer approached the 10,000 career passing mark this year.
(Andy Morales/AZPreps365.com)

Ed Doherty Stadium was one of the quietest places on earth at this time last year. The lights were turned off and the gridiron was transformed into a pitch for the powerful Lancer soccer programs. Salpointe football was but an echo of years past – that’s what happens when a team finishes 5-5 and misses the state playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Actually, the Lancers were forced to skip the 2009 playoffs due to an infraction of the rules so the playoff streak goes back to 2001. Even then, Salpointe finished 8-2. It was a different time – not all good teams were awarded a postseason berth back then.

This year, fourth-seeded Salpointe (10-2) is not just a good team but a great team because only a great team could beat No. 5 Marcos de Niza the way it did on Thursday night in the quarterfinal round of the 4A playoffs. The Lancers won 48-6 against a team that averaged over 300 yards passing and over 37 points a game. Remarkable.

Likewise, a year made a big difference for the Padres. The team went 11-3 last year and finished runner-up to Scottsdale Saguaro in the Division II state championship game. Sean Morin retired after the season was over and legendary head coach Paul Moro stepped in.

Moro collected his 334th career win this year, moving him past another legend in former Amphitheater head coach Vern Friedli for tops in Arizona history. He also guided the Padre program to its 12th straight playoff appearance dating back to 2004.

Senior standout Naz Greer came in just shy of 10,000 career passing yards, making him one of the best quarterbacks in Arizona history. Big and mobile, Greer can buy himself time in the pocket, he can throw a rope or he can take off with his legs but the Salpointe defense came to play.

A tight man-to-man coverage left little for Greer to work with. He finished the night with 119 yards passing on 25 attempts and most of that was based on his skill. It would have been a career night for other QBs but it was the lowest total Greer had collected since the 97 yards he threw for in the 2015 championship loss to Saguaro.

The Lancers also came on offense. Sophomore standout Mario Padilla led the charge with 212 yards rushing and freshman sensation Bijan Robinson added 99 yards rushing and 44 yards receiving.

Padilla ripped off a 24-yard gain on the first play of the game. It was an omen of what to come. He scored from 10-yards out a few plays later and Salpointe led 7-0 only two minutes into the game.

Greer showed what he could do when he connected on a 19-yard pass on his first play from scrimmage. That pass was followed by an 11-yard run and then a short pass completion to move the ball into Salpointe territory.  Then momentum shifted on a fumble.

Christian Vasquez recovered the fumble and the Lancers were back in business. Cameron Scharf finished another drive with a 42-yard field goal and Salpointe led 10-0 and that’s how the first quarter ended.

Greer responded in the second quarter and the Padres went on an 89-yard scoring drive with Zyayre Moss capping it off with a 5-yard run to cut the lead down 10-6. The Padres attempted a 2-point conversion after a penalty moved the ball closer on the extra point attempt but the Salpointe defense held firm,

Salpointe took over with 10 minutes left in the half and senior QB Sean Barton put the Lancers up 17-6 on a 9-yard run two minutes later.

Marcos de Niza was forced to punt and Barton hit Robinson on a 49-yard pass to put the Lancers up 24-6. Another punt resulted in a last-second run from 2-yards out by Padilla to put the Lancers up 35-6 at the half.

“We came in knowing a lot of people were doubting us,” Padilla said. “But we stuck with what has worked for us and we showed we could do it.”

Momentum had shifted on that fumble in the first quarter and the Padres never really recovered from it. The vaunted offense was stalled and the punts started to add up. Marcos de Niza opened up the second half with a punt and Robinson followed that with another score to make it 38-6. It played like a broken record.

Another punt led to a 31-yard field goal by Scharf to make it 41-6. Then, Rodrigo Nieto stepped into a lane and picked off a pass and returned it for 47 yards to make it 48-6. The score triggered the running clock and Salpointe went on for the win.

Still, Greer had one of the best careers a player from Arizona had ever experienced.

“I had an exciting career and went from unknown to around 10,000 yards passing,” Greer explained. “I didn’t do any camps or stuff like that to get noticed but I was able to lead my team to a championship game and I hope I get to continue to play.”

Padilla increased his totals to 1,387 yards rushing with 18 TDs this year. He knows Saguaro is waiting for the Lancers next week in the seminal round and he’ll need everything he has to shock the world.

“Yes, anything is possible,” Padilla added. “Anything can happen so we have to work even harder next week for Saguaro. That is a great team and we can’t make mistakes against them.”

But playoff wins are always paired with losses and the losses are exceptionally hard on seniors and Greer is no different.

“I will miss the brotherhood here,” Greer added. “When players transfer to other programs they become a number but we are a band of brothers here.”

No. 4 Salpointe will face No. 1 Saguaro at 7 p.m. next Friday at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale.