Sequoia Pathway kicks off playoff run tonight

Sequoia Pathway's Tre Lacey sheds a tackler during a game earlier this season.

It’s time for some playoff football.

Sequoia Pathway High School opens its run for a 2A state title tonight when the Pumas travel southeast of Tucson to take on Benson at 7 p.m. The 14th seeded Pumas enter the playoffs with a 7-3 record and a two-game winning streak, having won their last two games to clinch a playoff berth. Sequoia defeated Tucson Santa Rita 69-0 and American Leadership Academy Ironwood 33-8.

Athletic director Billy Hunt, who came on board just last week, said there is a lot of energy around the program.

“There’s just a ton of excitement,” Hunt said. “I think that excitement is two-fold. For one, it’s great for the school, and the excitement that comes with it and ability to grow our program. It’s also great for the community. I know this is a growing and thriving area, but it still has a small town feel to it and the community can look forward to this and supporting their hometown team.”

The excitement is fueled in large part by Sequoia Pathway’s recent record of success. They qualified for the state playoffs last year in its first year competing in the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) division, but because of a COVID outbreak, the Pumas were not allowed to play their playoff game. In 2019, Sequoia went undefeated on its way to the Canyon Athletic Association state title game before falling to San Tan Charter.

Coach Donny Margerum’s team will take on a Benson team seeded third in the 16-team 2A bracket and riding a four-game winning streak. The 8-2 Bobcats advanced to the state title game last year before falling to Eloy Santa Cruz Valley.

Margerum said tonight’s game will be a contrast in styles.

“They are a hard-nosed football team,” Margerum said. “They are a team that brings their hard hats and comes ready to play. They’ve got some really big boys over there. They run a two tight end offense and a lot of power. On the other hand, we present a big issue for them because we’re really athletic. It will be a classic case of speed vs. power.”

Sequoia Pathway boasts a 5-0 record at home this season but is just 2-3 on the road. The Pumas racked up 368 points while allowing 200. Conversely, Benson which has scored 352 points and allowed just 82, is only 3-2 on its home turf this year.

Should the Pumas win tonight, they will face the winner of the game between 11th seed St. John’s and sixth seed Camp Verde next Friday.

Hunt believes his school is up to the challenge.

“We’re going to Benson to play really good Benson High School team and we’re really looking forward to that,” Hunt said. “We’re showing that we can compete with the big boys in the AIA and that’s a really good feeling.”

Margerum said for his team to come home with that good feeling, there was one key.

“Tackle, tackle, tackle,” he said. “It’s a tough task but we’re up to it.”