High school football
Cienega caps off perfect season with win at Mountain View
Now Bobcats begin quest for their first state title
Jamarye Joiner held 10 fingers in the air as he made his way off the field Friday night, with the final seconds running off the clock in a tough road win at Mountain View.
No explanation was necessary; everyone on Cienega’s sideline and all its fans in the stands knew exactly what it meant.
Joiner and the top-ranked Bobcats capped off a perfect regular season by holding on for a 43-28 win at Mountain View, sending the program into the 5A state playoffs as the No. 1 seed and the team to beat.
It’s just the second time Cienega has posted a 10-0 record and the first time since 2011, when the program made it all the way to the Division II state championship game. Five years later – after plenty of ups and downs – the Bobcats are hoping to get back to that same point.
“A lot of people dream of being 10-0,” second-year coach Pat Nugent said. “These kids have worked their tails off. There’s only a few teams who can say they’re 10-0; it’s just a great honor, a great reward for everybody who has been a part of this program.”
Cienega hosts No. 16 Laveen Fairfax on Friday to open the postseason. The Bobcats are just one of six local teams in the 5A state playoffs, with a possible second-round rematch against eighth-seeded Mountain View looming. But for now, beating the Mountain Lions on Friday night gave this team a better idea of where it stands.
“It’s a real confidence booster even though we know we have the athletes, we know we have the skill, we know we have everything,” said Joiner, a junior who passed for 200 yards and rushed for 88. “But it was just knowing we could do this and knowing we could go deep into the playoffs.”
For some, deep postseason runs by Cienega are the expectation. Senior captain Bryce Fontana remembers watching his brother, Vaughn, play with that 2011 team and that’s what set the standard for him
“I was at every game, I was cheering him on,” said Fontana, a four-year varsity player. “When I went to the championship game, from then on I said I had to get there. That’s been my goal since I entered high school, to get back there and I’m just blessed because I really believe this is the team that can do it.”
Not many expected Cienega to be in this position, after a disappointing 4-6 campaign last fall. But the Bobcats finished off the year with three straight wins, got a better feel for Nugent’s system and added Joiner to an already strong group of athletes.
“Since Day 1, knew we had a special team,” senior Breaben Bolton said. “Right now, we’ve got the regular season but we’re not there yet.”
Bolton, a wide receiver and defensive back, gave Cienega an early lead Friday night when he hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Joiner. But the Bobcats suddenly found themselves in a hole after Mountain View scored on both of its next two possessions.
The Mountain Lions took a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter when senior quarterback Caleb Ryden connected with senior Isaiah Lovett for 24-yard touchdown. Then a turnover on downs had Cienega in danger of falling into a two-touchdown hole.
Instead, junior Rodney Rodgers came up with an interception near the goal line for the Bobcats and Bolton followed that with a 90-yard rush, to set up a touchdown plunge by Savaughn Bryant-Carter.
Just over a minute later, Cienega sophomore Terrell Hayward came up with another interception, this one closer to midfield. And this time, all it took was one play for the Bobcats to find the end zone and regain the lead as Joiner hit senior tight end Skyler Cavaughn in stride for a 62-yard touchdown pass.
Cienega pushed its lead to 26-14 early in the third quarter when Dakota Poe broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run. But Mountain View (7-3) continued to match each score by the Bobcats, keeping it within striking distance.
It looked like the Mountain Lions were about the tie the game early in the fourth quarter, when Ryden hit Lovett for a big gain on fourth down but Cienega’s Terrell Huggins came up with a strip near the goal line, keeping the Bobcats ahead 36-28.
Mountain View got the ball back a little while later but ended up turning it over on downs. Just a few plays after that, Joiner rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to seal off the win with 2:25 remaining. As if it wasn’t over then, Bolton came up with Cienega’s third interception of the night as the Mountain Lions tried to make one last push.
Ryden put up some big numbers in the loss, completing 25 of 39 pass attempts for 474 yards. Lovett was his top target with eight catches for 235 yards while fellow senior Sebastian Spencer hauled in seven passes for 119 yards.
“We’re just trying to hit our stride,” Mountain View coach Clarence McRae said. “The playoffs are one-and-done. On any given night, any football team could win if you execute and do what you’re supposed to do. Today’s game for us was just another opportunity to try to iron out the kinks and get ready to make a playoff run.”