Staff photo by Eric Lusk
SEDONA RB Adam Senger will try to shed tacklers from the states's top-seeded 3A playoff team tonight at Seton Catholic.
"They’re not a physically imposing team. They don’t come out there with giant linemen," Cromartie said. "But they are a very solid, scrappy football team. And they are going to play that way for four quarters.
"That can be as scary to you as the physically imposing team."
The Sentinels’ scrappiness enabled them to win the seven games that counted most on their schedule and finish first in the 3A power points standings (the formula that decides playoff seeding).
On paper at least, tonight’s Sedona-Seton match-up is the biggest David vs. Goliath showdown of the playoffs. Sedona comes in as the 16th seed, slipping into the post-season as the third and final representative from the West Region.
"We are well aware that their getting the number one rating wasn’t on a vote, it was based on performance," Cromartie said.
But before you dismiss tonight’s playoff opener as a blowout in the making, there are rays of hope for Scorpion fans. Seton hasn’t been a 3A juggernaut by any means, and pollsters at The Arizona Republic actually list three teams ahead of the Sentinels – Show Low, Coolidge and Snowflake – in their 3A rankings.
Seton stumbled 23-21 early in the season against Sahuarita, which will carry the 14th seed into tonight’s playoffs. The Sentinels also barely beat Higley (26-21), a team that Sedona took to overtime last season, and didn’t exactly manhandle 15th-seeded Parker (33-15 win).
Sedona lost to Parker in double-OT in a game Cromartie will tell you his team should have won save for a few mistakes.
Of course, Seton does have important wins over 3A stalwarts Coolidge (31-27) and Queen Creek (28-7), teams that spent most of the season ranked in the top five. Those were the two game films that Cromartie reviewed this week.
"My approach has always been, you play who you play," Cromartie said. "I’ve been involved when the odds were greater than what it is for us. You’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunity.
"We’ve got the chance. That’s all you can ask for."
Sedona may be at advantage in that it runs the Wishbone offense, something Seton likely hasn’t seen much of or at all this season. All four of the backs who make the Scorpions’ ‘Bone go – QB Jeff Miner, RB Adam Senger, RB Tommy Wyatt and FB Mark Gaulden – are healthy and available.
Senger finished the regular season with 752 rushing yards and seven TDs. Gaulden carried for 379 yards and seven more scores. Wyatt galloped for 335 yards and got both of his rushing TDs last week in the playoff clincher against River Valley.
Miner has thrown for 510 yards and 5 TDs this season, but his biggest target – senior Jeremy Woodson – won’t be available because of an ankle injury, Cromartie said. Woodson hauled in four of Miner’s five TD strikes.
More of the receiving load will fall on Stevie Tarantino and John Michael Reynolds. Woodson is also the starting punter.
"With our offense, one of the good things about it is that it’s going to adjust to what they are going to do," Cromartie said. "All we’ve got to do is execute.
"The kids believe in it. We’ll probably add a couple of new wrinkles. If we get in trouble, we may gun it a little bit."
The Sedona defense will need to stack up Seton’s running game on the other side of the ball. One key running back is Chad Baniecki, who piled up 140 rushing yards and three TDs on Queen Creek last week and has had other similar outings during the season.
Teammates Troy Bullock and Dan Koestner are also threats running the ball. Seton quarterback Matt Refner stands a healthy 6-3 or 6-4 and has a good arm, Cromartie said.
The Sedona coach said he’s not satisfied just getting the Scorpions to the playoffs. While he likes to treat the post-season as a reward for his players, he certainly isn’t afraid to stir the pot.
On Monday, he "got mad" at players for their lack of focus even though the workout was designed as a light one without pads.
"We’re not going there to make a good showing," Cromartie said. "I want them to believe we’re going there to win."