Mustangs, Lions Move On To Semi-Finals

Two neighboring west Valley schools took slightly different paths but both Sunrise Mountain and Liberty are headed to the state semi-finals next week.

The Mustangs, the top seed in 4A got an early test from eighth-seeded Cactus Shadows before coasting in the second half and pulling away for a 49-13 victory as Sunrise Mountain scored four-second half touchdowns, two each in the third and fourth quarters, and tightened the screws defensively after intermission.

Dual threat junior quarterback Keegan Freid, whose talents go far beyond the football field, was effective both passing and running, while junior Drake Flores scored twice as the Mustangs advanced to their first semi-final birth in program history. Sunrise Mountain will face Tucson Salpointe next Friday.

Meanwhile just up the road at Liberty, the test was a bit more difficult for the third-seeded Lions who broke open a tie game at halftime and eventually pulled away from Ironwood Ridge 42-28.

As senior quarterback Ryan Bendle kept the offense cooking, the Lions’ defense answered the bell as well, allowing just seven second half points.

Liberty’s spread offense took advantage of their skill player speed and Bendle’s accuracy as he threw a pretty 36-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Beiber midway through the third quarter and just minutes last found tight end Alec Moonier who slipped behind the Nighthawks’ secondary and raced untouched for a 71-yard score.

Talented junior safety Ryan Puskas sealed the victory with a late-game interception in front of the Lions’ sideline.

“My hat’s off to the whole entire team,” Liberty head coach Mark Smith said after the hard-fought victory. “The first half, thank God we had an offense. I was proud of the way our guys fought in the second half.”

With the victory the Lions will get a re-match with Centennial in the 6A semi’s at Deer Valley High School. The two teams played an instant classic late last month.