Despite going down in a third straight defeat, Corona del Sol coach Zane Zamenski was far from down-and-out.
His Aztecs put up a spirited second half charge and nearly grabbed victory when the outcome appeared bleak. In the end, North Canyon came away with a 41-36 victory, but Zamenski found much from which to build.
By midway through the final period, the Aztecs jumped into the lead at 36-35. That’s when quarterback Kevin Kenny hit 6-foot-7 Matthew Seall for a 9-yard touchdwn pass with 4:32 left.
Yet, the Rattlers mounted a last-minute drive, scored the game-winner when quarterback Dominic Portocarrero connected with Tony Dodson on a 38-yard scoring strike with 2:35 left, and escaped with the win.
“The main thing to take away is the players learned to invest themselves fully in this type of game,” Zamenski said. “They could have folded, but, to their credit, they hung in there, and managed to get the lead late. I can see some things coming together, and though we lost, there were far more positives in this one.”
Trailing 35-23 midway through the final period, the Aztecs (1-3) picked up two touchdowns in barely two minutes to take the lead.
First, defensive back Kevin Zunino read a screen pass perfectly, jumped inside Portocarrero's throw and returned the pick 14 yards to bring Corona del Sol within 35-30.
After holding the Rattlers to a subsequent three-and-out, the Aztecs took over on their 45 with slightly more than six minutes remaining. Corona moved quickly with a four-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with the Kenney-to-Seall score, but couldn't hold the lead.
North Canyon forged back a few minutes later. On a first-and-10 from the Aztecs’ 38 yard line, Portocarrero and Dodson hooked up the game-winner, and enabled North Canyon to remain undefeated (3-0).
“We throw the ball, that’s what we do best,” said Rattlers’ coach Brian Cole. “They had us on the ropes and give them credit. They had a great game plan and executed well. (Portocarrero) did not have his best day, but had enough in the end to get it done.”
In the first half alone, Portocarrero was nearly a one-man show. Before intermission, he went 12-of-21 passing for 241 yards and four touchdowns. For the game, he finished 16 of 30, 295 yards, five touchdown and his first two interceptions of the season.
The Aztecs were paced by running back Dominic Mercurio, who gained 143 yards on 32 carries. Kinney finished 6-of-9 passing for 90 yards and one touchdown.
Both teams combined for a total of 24 penalties, 12 for each team. North Canyon was set back 127 yards and Corona del Sol lost 115 yards.