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Sunnyside Soccer Team wins 5A State Championship!
By Nick Duddleston
Teacher
FEBRUARY 26, 2019 / MODIFIED MAR 29, 2019 09:44 AM

SCOTTSDALE — The coronation of Sunnyside as a state champion had a rocky start. But less than 30 minutes in, it seemed inevitable.

Most did not believe the Blue Devils (24-0-2) would complete an undefeated season and win their first state soccer title, according to coach Casey O’Brien.

“It’s a big chip; it is a big chip,” O’Brien said. “It’s not a little chip. Every single day we wake up, and it feels like something goes against us. Our season has been tough. On paper, it looks great. It looks like it was easy; we just cruised through. But absolutely not. The last 365 days have been trying.”

It was all worth it Wednesday night at Coronado High School. The top-seeded Blue Devils scored three times in an 11-minute span of the first half and coasted to a 4-0 win over Gilbert Campo Verde for the 5A boys state title.

It was Sunnyside’s first win in three trips to the final.

“It means a lot to us,” said Fabian Mendoza, who scored the first two goals on Wednesday. “We’ve been working since the beginning of the year. It was our goal to go undefeated and to win a state championship.”

With the defending state champion Coyotes (24-2-1) having to pay close attention to big Manuel Quiroz, who is second in the state with 39 goals, the Blue Devils had plenty of other ways to go.

Sunnyside’s Fabian Mendoza celebrates his first of two goals. “There were a lot of people who doubted us. But we came together and made everything happen.”

 

“We all believed in each other,” Mendoza said. “There were a lot of people who doubted us. But we came together and made everything happen.”

Seventeen minutes in, Quiroz put the ball on goal, and the rebound was punched in at close range by Mendoza. Less than four minutes later, Quiroz was going up the left wing, drawing Campo Verde goalkeeper Jacob Zimmerman out. Quiroz crossed to Mendoza, again in front of the goal, and Sunnyside led 2-0.

In the 28th minute, the Coyotes were whistled for a foul just outside the box on the right side. Adrian Virgen took the free kick from 20 yards out, bending the ball to the right of the wall, and just inside the right post for the third score. Campo Verde didn’t have an answer. The Blue Devils defense did what it had to do, and keeper Jesus Gutierrez turned away the few shots on target.

Quiroz got free for a capper in the 75th minute.

“I don’t care about the goals, I just care about the win,” Quiroz said. “It’s our first final. We didn’t have any experience being here, but we started playing better toward the end.”

The Blue Devils lost in their two other appearances in the state final, losing in the Class 5A-II title match in 2007 and the 4A final in 1992.

Third-year coach O’Brien said Sunnyside’s run was not expected.

 

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I don’t know what our expectations were; maybe people just don’t know what we have down there. Maybe it’s just taken a long time to get it to click, but when you get everybody working in the right direction, we have a fantastic group of kids.”


The group started to garner attention throughout the season, becoming nationally ranked by MaxPreps.com. The only blemishes on the season were ties to rival Desert View on Dec. 18 and 4A champion Salpointe Catholic on Jan. 10.

“They work harder than I’ve seen anybody work because they wanted it more than anyone else,” O’Brien said. “Once you get them to realize how good they are, and open their eyes, we have a lot more than maybe they anticipated.”

Sunnyside used superior passing skills and an aggressive offense to pepper the Coyotes all evening.

The Blue Devils were eliminated by Chandler in the quarterfinals of the 6A tournament a year ago and went out in the play-in round a year before that.

Campo Verde was in its third straight final, finishing as the runner up in 2017.

It lost in the quarterfinals in 2016

Sunnyside completed a 4A-5A boys sweep for Tucson after Salpointe won the 4A title Tuesday night.