TUCSON, Ariz. — Scottsdale Chaparral did two things early in Friday’s Division II state final that no other opponent had been able to do against Salpointe Catholic this season: score a first-quarter touchdown and take the lead.
But then the Firebirds did something that 13 other schools from three different states had done when facing the Lancers: lose handily.
Top-seeded Salpointe finished off a dominant season with a 46-20 rout of third-seeded Chaparral to win the school’s first-ever state championship in a game played at Arizona Stadium.
The Lancers (14-0), appearing in a championship game for the first time
since 1991, rebounded from an early 6-0 deficit by running off 26
straight points to lead by 20 at halftime. And they did it on the
backs of a handful of explosive seniors, most notably Cameron Denson.
who will play on the same field for Arizona next season, scored three
long touchdowns, including a 98-yard catch on a third-and-9 play and an 84-yard
kickoff return after Chaparral had pulled within 26-13 midway through
the third quarter.
The senior also scored on a 34-yard TD pass,
which he pulled in with one hand because the other was being held back
by a Firebirds defensive back.
Denson and Kaelin Deboskie — who
caught two first-quarter TD passes from Andrew Cota — also combined on a
highlight-reel-worthy interception return in the third quarter in which
Deboskie intercepted Chaparral’s Sean Paul Brophy, then lateraled
across the field to Denson. Denson then weaved his way through the
Firebirds’ offense, juking out Brophy along the way, to return it to
Chaparral’s 10-yard line.
“They’re just difference-makers,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said of Denson and Deboskie.
It was the first loss in a state title game for the Firebirds (12-2) since 2008. After that defeat, they won three consecutive championships.
“You’ve got to play a really good game to have a chance against them,” Chaparral coach David Huffine said of Salpointe, which won its first-ever state title. “We had too many turnovers. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot, and that’s what we did in the first half.”
Chaparral looked tough early, forcing a rare three-and-out from Salpointe on its opening drive. The Firebirds then capitalized on a shanked punt to get the ball at the Lancer 22, and they scored a few minutes later on a 2-yard run by Tyler Whiley.
But after that, it was pretty much all Salpointe, with the Lancers going 14 plays and 72 yards to tie it at 6-6, then converting a muffed punt and a fumble return, respectively, into one-play touchdown drives to lead 19-6 early in the second quarter. The Firebirds never got closer.
Chaparral had its chances, but Salpointe’s defense locked down when it needed to. This was most evident when, after the Lancers muffed a punt and turned the ball over to the Firebirds at their own 1-yard-line with 5:29 left in the first half, Chaparral was stuffed on four straight plays and left the field without a point.
Three snaps later, Cota hit Denson on a slant at about the 15, and Denson turned on the nitrous to blaze away with a 98-yard score.
The 20 points Chaparral scored were the most allowed this season by Salpointe, which outscored its opponents 697-101 for the year.