The Sunrise Mountain Mustangs saw their season end in the quarterfinals of the Division III playoffs when the Nogales Apaches knocked them out with a 22-8 loss Friday night at Sunrise Mountain.
Marcel Renteria threw three touchdown passes in the first half to get the No. 14 seed Apaches (10-2) into the semifinals.
"My hat goes off to their coaching staff and they have a great team," Sunrise Mountain coach James Carter said.
Renteria hit senior Brian McCarty on a 12-yard pass with 4:57 left in the first to open the scoring. The duo struck again early in the second quarter when McCarty took a pass from Renteria, picked up a block and outraced the Mustangs to the end zone on an 86-yard touchdown catch for a 14-0 lead.
Tight end Mikey Lopez got into the scoring column with an 18-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone with 24 seconds left in the half. Renteria and Lopez hooked up on a two-point conversion and Nogales held a dominating 22-0 lead at the half.
"They came out throwing the ball and we weren't making plays," Carter said.
No. 11 Sunrise Mountain (9-3) was unable to get anything going offensively in the first half.
They missed a 40-yard field goal on their opening drive. The Mustangs had a pass intercepted on the play before the long touchdown catch and turned it over on downs on the Apaches' 25-yard line in the second quarter.
"They stopped our run game and we can't win if we keep committing turnovers," Carter said, "If you commit turnovers in the playoffs, you're going to lose."
Sunrise Mountain avoided the shutout when Ryan Wood intercepted Renteria and ran it back 12 yards for a touchdown with 8:56 left in the fourth quarter. Neiman Sneed connected with Elijah Castro for a two point conversion to make it 22-8 but the Mustangs' offense couldn't muster any more points.
The Mustangs were plagued by turnovers and mistakes in the loss. Sneed threw two interceptions on the night and Eric Matsen missed a pair of field goals. The Mustangs turned the ball over on downs four times.
The Apaches were able to stifle a Mustang team that averaged more than 50 points a game during the season and hung 62 on Sahuarita in a first-round win a week ago.
Despite the season-ending loss, Carter has encouraging signs for next season. This year, the Mustangs recorded their first postseason win since 2005 and hosted their first playoff game since 1999.
"We're still young and we'll learn from it and be better next year. I'm proud of my boys, coaches and community," Carter said, "We have a lot of juniors on our team and we look forward to next year."