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TUCSON — After a four-game losing streak, their longest streak in three years, the Santa Cruz Valley Dust Devils have had their backs against the wall.

The reigning 2A State Champions have had to battle COVID-19 outbreaks and injuries throughout the year, but the ship may have been corrected Friday, as Santa Cruz got back to their winning ways in a 55-0 blowout over Tucson Catalina.

Senior running back Wyatt Ogle has been dealing with a knee injury for a few weeks now, initially getting injured in the game against Arizona Lutheran. However, the senior tailback was able to produce for the Dust Devils, connecting on a 22-yard touchdown rush, and producing on defense as well, delivering a 33-yard pick-six.

“Wyatt is back to 100%,” Santa Cruz head coach James Fitzgerald said. “The players were saying to themselves that they kind of reinvented the three-headed monster in the backfield with Davin (Ethington) moving to the fullback position.”

While the Dust Devils were trying to get their running backs healthy and back onto the field, Ethington has come into his own as a crucial part of the offense. His power running style paid huge dividends on moving the chains, as well as his receiving prowess, connecting with quarterback Max Rodriguez on a 22-yard touchdown catch.

“He has really become very multidimensional for us,” Fitzgerald said. “He kind of started out the year as more of a blocking tight end, but expanded his role in the receiving game, and is getting some carries now as well. He is a great, dependable young man. He’s smart, he captains the defense and picks up on things quickly.”

The win over the Trojans brings the Dust Devils’ record to 3-4. Having a losing record is not ideal for a team with playoff aspirations, but Fitzgerald says his team is ready for the challenge and knows that there are high stakes in every game from here on out.

“It definitely builds up some momentum for us,” Fitzgerald said. “I told the guys that the playoffs have started now in October instead of November. We are treating these next two games like playoff games. We need to win out and win this region. The second this game ended tonight, we already shifted gears toward Sequoia (Pathway) next week.”

The Pumas will pose a big challenge to the Dust Devils. The Pinal County rival will come into the game with a 5-2 record, and are a direct threat to take the region title this year. Fitzgerald said that the team just has to stick to what they do best and put everything out on the field next week.

“We just have to be smart, disciplined and know our assignments,” Fitzgerald said. “We can’t do anything to beat ourselves, and really focus on the mental side of the game. We just gotta play really smart, disciplined and sound football,”

The two Rillito Region powerhouses will do battle next week in Eloy.

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David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.

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