Carey High School football players were hitting on all cylinders for their "Senior Night" eight-man game against the Richfield Tigers Wednesday at Derrick Parke Memorial Field.
Seniors Gonzalo Zarate (131 yards rushing, 3 TD) and Dillon Simpson (70 yards rushing, 2 TD) led the charge as the Panthers tuned up for the State 1A Division 2 playoffs with a 56-6 mercy-rule win over Richfield.
Trevor Peck, the senior quarterback who led Carey to last year's state championship 46-12 over Kootenai, started the game and completed four of five passes for 72 yards. Junior quarterback Caleb Cenarrusa came in and tossed a pair of TD passes, to Peck and Jacy Baird.
Carey's relentless defense had four sacks for 75 yards.
Defending State 1A Division 2 champion Carey (8-1 overall, 7-1 league) won its fifth straight game by a 270-32 margin and will carry a head of steam into its first-round playoff game Saturday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. at Parke Field. Carey's likely foe is the winner of this week's Dietrich-North Gem game.
The Panthers were dominant from the opening kickoff Wednesday—out-rushing Richfield 255-85 and piling up a big 410 number in total yards compared to just 52 for the Tigers. Carey's defense, led by Simpson (2 interceptions, a team high 7 tackles), forced five turnovers and turned three into scores.
Carey coach Lane Kirkland said, "We had very good execution all game and great attitudes among the players. They were upbeat all game on the field and kept talking to each other. They were having fun out there, like they have all year. It was just a good way to finish our regular season."
Defensively, Carey wanted to limit the dangerous open-field running capabilities of Richfield senior Michael Lezamiz, who recently returned from a knee injury and still showed plenty of form.
Lezamiz (9 carries for 57 yards, 7-for-12 passes for just 21 yards) played quarterback and Carey hemmed him in with a strong rush and extra attention. The Panthers kept the ball away from Lezamiz on kickoff returns with squib kicks.
Carey, outscoring opponents 156-22 in the first quarters, started well again with three TDs and three successful conversions in the first 12 minutes.
A 28-yard kickoff return by Caleb Cenarrusa sparked an eight-play, 57-yard drive that finished with Zarate's 23-yard TD gallop on third-and-six. Simpson's 24-punt return led to his own seven-yard TD—the big play on the drive a 33-yard second-and-nine bomb from Trevor Peck to Wacey Barg.
The first of two Simpson interceptions set the stage for Carey's third score, a 64-yard drive. Peck found Simpson for a 29-yard pass completion and Simpson took an inside handoff for 19 more yards. Cenarrusa entered the game and tossed a four-yard scoring strike to Peck, which changed the score to 24-0 when Zarate ran for two points.
Zarate's speedy, watch-out-here-he-comes pass rush caused Lezamiz to fumble. Zarate pounced on the ball and, one play later, sprinted 39 yards for his second TD. Then, Joe Laidlaw's fumble recovery led to a nine-play, 50-yard, four-minute drive capped by a Cenarrusa aerial to Baird.
His team trailing 38-0 just 18 minutes into the rout, Lezamiz was running for his life. Caleb Cenarrusa sacked him for a 13-yard loss. From the shotgun, Lezamiz back-pedaled when the snap sailed way over his head. The ball bounced wildly from diving player to diving player before Dillon Cenarrusa recovered it for Carey's sixth TD.
Richfield avoided the shutout and extended the game after a Jose Rivas interception. Lezamiz went to work, rushed three times for 33 yards and threw a seven-yard scoring pass to Tucker Smith with just five seconds left before the half.
But Carey ended the game on the 45-point mercy rule with 3:49 left in the third quarter on touchdown runs by Simpson (24 yards) and Zarate (29 yards).
It was Carey's seventh consecutive win over Richfield grid teams by a 355-60 score. Richfield (4-5, 3-5) ended it season. Check today's Web site for Carey-Richfield statistics.
PANTHER NOTES—This year's Carey top scorer Gonzalo Zarate (16 TDs, 108 points) is moving up in the ranks of all-time Carey scorers. Over four seasons, he has 38 TDs and 22 conversions for 276 points. This fall, nine of his 16 TDs have come on runs of 20 or more yards (28, 45, 28, 58, 58, 29, 23, 39, 29). Last season Zarate scored 15 TDs with six TDs of 20 yards or better. Of his 38 career TDs, Zarate has 19 running scores of 20 yards or more, the longest 78 yards last fall.....In comparison, Carey's all-time leading scorer, Jonathan Rivera (73 TDs, 472 points from 1997-2000), had 16 running TDs of 20 yards or more out of his 32 rushing TDs.....Rivera's four Carey teams went 32-7 with one state championship, in 1998. So far, Zarate's four Carey teams are 41-4 with two state championships, in 2006 and 2008..... Dillon Simpson (12 TDs, 78 points this fall) in his career has 23 TDs and 13 conversions for 164 points.