Panthers roll to season-opening win

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Superior’s Gabriel Otero (#25) brings down a Valley Union player in the Friday night shutout in the season opener. Photo by Phalicitee ‘Pinky’ Thomas

  The Superior football team began the defense of its state championship with a performance reminiscent of many of its victories from a year ago, dominating Valley Union in the season opener for both teams on Friday, Aug. 30, 62 – 0.

  “A shutout is a great way to start the season,” Superior head coach Ryan Palmer told the Superior Sun. “The kids’ hard work in the off season and in the weight room was put on display.”

  Junior Matthew Diaz-Gonzales, playing only half a game, scored five touchdowns in the win, including three receiving, one rushing and the last one a scoop-and-score fumble recovery. In all, he touched the ball six times and scored five times.

  Sophomore quarterback Matthew Cruz, who was making his first start, completed 7-of-10 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Joshua Marquez along with seniors Sammy Lopez and Gabe Otero also scored offensively for the Panthers.

  It was on the defensive side that the Panthers were even more impressive, recording nine turnovers – six interceptions and three fumble recoveries – and returning two for touchdowns. They also recorded seven sacks.

  Lopez had three of the six interceptions, freshman Nick Mendoza had two, and Marquez added the other as well as a fumble recovery. Diaz-Gonzales and Gabe Castillo had the others.

  Four players combined for seven sacks, including Diaz-Gonzales (2), junior Marc Mendoza (2), Otero (1), and senior Daniel McConnell (2).

  Palmer was asked if there was an area of concern on his team entering the season opener.

“We have questions about what type of team we will be,” he responded. “Last year, we had the entire team back, every player. This season we have some big holes to fill from the graduation of an excellent senior class.”

  It’s only one game, but it appears many of those questions may have been answered.

Superior’s Gabriel Otero (#25) carrying the ball ahead of a Valley Union defender. Photo by Phalicitee ‘Pinky’ Thomas
Andy Luberda (1120 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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