It was a nightmarish night, one that you’d hope you can snap out of and breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t reality. Except for Corona, it was. The Aztecs, who mustered their way into the playoffs with a 3-7 record, found themselves down in a 28-0 hole with no chance of escape against Tucson Salpointe Catholic during the opening round of the 6A playoffs.
Corona traveled to Tucson and lost a competitive 29-20 game just five weeks ago. Corona coach Jake Barro said it wasn’t the cleanest the team played, but they had a shot to win and put up a fight despite missing key players. What happened the second time around, no one could have seen coming—not even Barro, who didn’t have an answer for what had transpired.
“We just did not come out and play very well at all,” he said. “We didn’t play like us. It was unusual, I didn’t expect it.” Quarterback Connor Ackerley hit 4-star receiver Raiders Vines-Bright for what would’ve been a 74-yard score on the opening drive, but a penalty negated the score and the ensuing play was an interception. Salpointe capitalized with a touchdown, and from there, the nightmare only got murkier. That was the first of the Lancers’ four interceptions, two of which were returned for scores. The 6A conference passing-yards leader was pulled and Corona trailed 34-0 at the intermission while looking for a glimmer of hope. Nothing worked for the Aztecs as drives stalled, balls dropped and the Lancers rolled to a 41-0 rout. Corona registered just 137 net total yards of offense with 147 through the air and minus-10 on the ground.
“It wasn’t a good effort; it just really wasn’t,’ said Barro. “I don’t want to pile on too much because it’s our seniors’ last game and you want to be sensitive to that, but losing 41-0 nothing obviously wasn’t the plan. We didn’t come out and play very well—little bit better effort to the guys that didn’t quit; I’m proud of them. But it wasn’t what we planned on happening tonight.”
Despite the blowout loss, Barro says it’s progress and a glimmer of light for the program down the road. “I think we’re getting there, I really do,” Barro said. “Getting into the playoffs is good. You have to be there before you can make a run. So, we’ve been there twice and it’s hard to look ahead already, but I think the expectation moves certainly from making the playoffs to now we’ve got to win in the playoffs.”
The Aztecs have now made back-to-back postseason appearances in each of Barro’s first two seasons as head coach. While success may be hard to find early, Barro says he knows the recipe and has the building blocks for success. “We have a good base, some good returning players. “This senior class, they did their part to lay that foundation,” he said.
However, winning in a new program is like bamboo—it can take years before it breaks the surface, but when it does, it grows exponentially. “This was always a bit of a long-term goal, coming here to do this,” Barro said. “Casa Grande took a lot of time, too. First couple of years we made playoffs like this— first round exits. Then we went to one-year quarterfinals, semifinals, state championship three years in a row. “It can be done and it’s just a process of building with the young kids.”
Andrew Lwowski www.wranglernews.com Sports,Tempe,Top Story
2023-11-20 18:33:24 , Wrangler News