It wasn’t supposed to end this way, but it did.
The No. 2-seed Superior football team was defeated by No. 4 Williams in the 1A State Championship Game, which took place last Friday at Maricopa High School, 57 – 14.
Despite the loss, the Panthers should feel no shame, considering they advanced further than many expected, and had arguably the most successful season at the school in 20 years.
“This team faced a lot of adversity all season long,” Superior head coach Ryan Palmer told the Superior Sun. “Most people didn’t even have us as a playoff team, let alone a state title contender. There is a lot to be proud of and excited about for the future of this group.”
The Panthers hung in there despite the loss of freshman sensation Adam Navarrette, who suffered a broken leg on the third play of the game.
“He was vital to our offensive and defensive game plans,” Palmer said. “With little depth, we had to move multiple players into new positions on defense and it limited what we could do on offense.”
The first quarter ended with the game tied, 8 – 8. The Panthers evened the score at 14 – 14 before the Vikings took a 22 – 14 lead at halftime.
A few more Panthers’ players suffered injuries, which further impacted the game’s result. The Vikings were able to put the game away, outscoring Superior 35 – 0 in the second half.
“Things unraveled after other players were injured,” Palmer said. “Great season, just a bad night.”
Junior quarterback Steven Ybarra again supplied the bulk of the offense for the Panthers. He rushed for 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns in addition to passing for 127 yards. Junior receivers Jesus Castellanos and Jared Moreno combined for seven receptions and each finished with 33 receiving yards.
Ybarra also led on defense with a team-high nine tackles. Castellanos and Sammy Lopez each had five in the championship game. Matthew Diaz-Gonzales recovered two fumbles in defeat.
Sans a senior on the roster, the Panthers have the talent and experience to make a return appearance in the title game a year from now.
“Things didn’t go our way last Friday,” Palmer said. “The outstanding support from the families, school and community, combined with the bitterness of defeat, will drive our team to be even more committed towards bringing a football state championship to Superior.”
Added Ybarra: “I think we should win (the championship) next year, if we hit the weight room.”
Expectations are already high for next year, including a different ending.
The way it is supposed to be.