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Les WillseyStaff Writer, AIA365.com email@example.com
Nogales football finds limelight as D-III FB semifinalistNov 14, 2012
That's what Nogales' football team has become the past two weeks when it shocked tradition-rich, unbeaten and No. 3 seed Sabino in the opening round of the Division III playoffs. The Apaches continued that path a few days ago by turning in a second postseason victory in dumping No. 11 Sunrise Mountain.
What those victories have served to do, however, is uncover a successful program -- one that only lacks ultimate success. Nogales has never reached a state football semifinal game in its history until now, which also means they've never won a state title. The Apaches have been piloted the last six seasons by Vince Villanucci, who signed on originally to coach wrestling, not football. Villanucci, who got a cup of coffee in the NFL with Green Bay, has a six-season record of 46-21. Five of those seasons have resulted in winning records and earned postseason berths. Nogales is in the midst of back-to-back 10-2 campaigns. As much as Villanuccii enjoys coaching wrestling, those duties are on hold another week at least.
Nogales returned ample experience to improve on last year's quarterfinal finish -- namely quarterback Marcel Renteria and running back Brian McCarty. Renteria has been sharp in the postseason, throwing five TD passes and no interceptions. McCarty, who has rushed for 1,585 yards, has three TD receptions in postseason -- two last week. The Apaches are good enough to favor one aspect or another on offense given their opponent's strengths/weaknesses. Their defense and special teams have chimed in with a couple takeaways and a blocked punt.
Nogales takes to the road again this week against No. 2 Queen Creek. Queen Creek coach Joe Germaine has seen a three-game sampling of Nogales and realizes the Apache are a handful.
"They are deserving," Germaine said. "The Sabino game was close, but they played right with them. It was more of a high-scoring game. Last week they were better defensively. They're here (semifinals) for a reason."
Nogales' two losses this season were to D-II semifinalist Salpointe (42-7) and D-III Sahuarita, the No. 6 seed (47-33). Sahuarita was hammered in the first round by Sunrise Mountain (62-21) -- the same Sunrise Mountain squad Nogales eliminated last week, 22-8. That's reason enough to respect the Apaches, even if it is their first final-four foray.
Nogales makes up a fourth of a unique D-III quartet. None of the semifinalists has won a football championship. Nogales by virtue of its No. 14 seed is the longshot and oldest of the schools. Queen Creek opened in 1967, Desert Edge in 2002 and Williams Field 2007. Williams Field lost in the 2010 title 4A-II title game. Queen Creek was runner-up in its only final in 1998. Nogales and Desert Edge are finals-less.
Nogales reasons the title is up for grabs with everyone involved shooting for an initial title. The Apaches figure it may as well be them.