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Cibola faces No. 1 Mountain Pointe
To say the Cibola football team has its hands full would be an understatement.
After sneaking into the playoffs, the No. 16 Raiders will play at No. 1 Mountain Pointe at 7 p.m. tonight in the first round of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I State Tournament.
For the Raiders, the Pride are going to be a mighty beast to try and slay.
“I'm excited. I can't wait to play. To play a team like this and the experience I can't wait,” said Cibola junior linebacker Josh Hansen, the team's leading tackler. “It's going to be a hard game, and they'll be hitting hard. It's going to be a battle.”
Mountain Pointe's resume is as impressive as its No. 1 seed.
It has close wins against No. 3 Hamilton, No. 13 Chandler and at No. 6 Desert Vista. The Pride also beat No. 12 Buena 58-7 on the road and took out No. 8 Mountain View 51-6. The only blemish on the season was a 54-28 loss at No. 4 Brophy in the middle of the year. On Oct. 12, Kofa traveled to Mountain Pointe and the Pride breezed to a 70-0 victory.
“They're a pretty solid team,” Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo Sr. said. “Pretty big up front, pretty quick. We have to make sure we don't give up the big play.”
The Pride's big offensive line is anchored by 6-foot-6, 270-pound Kenny Lacy, who has verbally committed to UCLA. Coming into the final game of the season — a 63-2 win over Westwood — the Pride's rushing duties were manned by Garette Craig, who had 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns on 122 carries. Junior quarterback Antonio Hinojosa had completed 57-percent of his passes for 1,632 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But Hinojosa's favorite target is what has Arvizo Sr. worried.
Junior wide receiver Jalen Brown had 45 catches through nine games for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound speedster's finest game of the year came in a 55-35 victory at Corona del Sol in which he had six catches for 251 yards and four touchdowns.
“I'm not sure if we've seen a receiver quite that talented,” Arvizo Sr. said. “We're definitely going to keep an eye on him. We told the defensive backs to make sure they know where he's at.”
Arvizo Sr. said the blue print to beat Mountain Pointe will be shorten up the game by sustaining long drives to keep the score close late — then anything can happen.
“If we can get control the clock and chip away at yards down the field, that's kind of the gameplan coming in,” Arvizo Sr. said.
The Raiders, who lost 48-7 at Corona del Sol, ended the season ranked No. 19 in AIA Division I Power Points, but were an automatic qualifier for the state tournament because they were No. 3 in Section 1. Regardless, the Raiders say they are stepping onto the field to beat the Pride — not stand in awe of them.
“They're just like any team. Any team can be beat, so we're going up there and play with our heart,” said Cibola senior running back Jordan Mitchell, who has rushed for 1,596 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season. “Obviously there's a reason why we made the state playoffs. We're a competitive team. We can come out and play with anybody.”