The No.2-seed Superior football team defeated No. 7 Bagdad in the quarterfinals of the 1A state playoffs last Friday night, 36 – 18. The win was the Panthers second this season against the Sultans, but the most recent win was clearly more meaningful as a berth in this Saturday’s state semifinals was on the line.
“It was about as hard-hitting as they come,” Superior head coach Ryan Palmer said about the game afterwards. “The officials told me, as they were walking off the field after the game, that was the hardest hitting game they have had at any level this year.
“I am really proud of this team,” he added. “They showed a lot of toughness to grit out that win.”
The Panthers’ offense racked up 450 yards of total offense, including 271 passing and 179 rushing. Senior quarterback Steven Ybarra threw for three touchdowns and rushed for two more. Adam Navarrette, a sophomore, caught four passes for 46 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Senior Jared Moreno finished with six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Ybarra also led the team with 163 rushing yards on 15 carries.
The Panthers’ defense totaled five sacks in the win, including two apiece by Cedric Mendoza and Gabriel Castillo. Daniel McConnel had the other. Four players ended with double-digit tackles, led by Ybarra with 12. Navarrette and Mendoza each had 11 while Matthew Diaz-Gonzales finished with 10.
The Panthers will next play No. 3 Mogollon on Saturday for a chance to win the 1A State Championship a week later.
“Mogollon is a tough, athletic and disciplined team,” Palmer said. “(The Mustangs) are well-coached. We will need to play at a championship level.”
The Panthers will be making their fourth-straight appearance in the semis, and if it’s true that defense wins championships, this could be the year Superior lifts the gold ball. There is another strength of the team that should be beneficial as well.
“Experience is invaluable,” Palmer said. “This team knows what it takes to win and we are extremely motivated.”
What will it take to come out with a victory on Saturday?
“We need to play our most disciplined game yet,” responded Palmer. “We must leave it all out on the field and make sure, regardless of the outcome, that when the scoreboard clock hits zero, we have no regrets.”
This Saturday’s game will be played at Maricopa High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.