Andrew Cota had his marching orders for Saturday night in Salpointe Catholic's matchup with Liberty High (Henderson, Nev.) in the 8th annual Sollenberger Classic at Fertitta Field on the campus of Bishop Gorman High School.
Cota executed those orders to near perfection, as a 48-7 victory margin over Liberty would seem to suggest.
"The coaches wanted us to concentrate on tempo, tempo, tempo," Cota, a senior three-year starter for the Lancers, said. "The idea was to run them into the ground. Score points and keep scoring points."
Salpointe didn't actually run Liberty into the ground. But the Lancers passed them into submission with Cota and talented receivers Cameron Denson and Kaelin Deboskie doing the damage. Cota's 2013 debut statistically saw him complete 14-of-19 passes for 263 yards and five touchdowns. He ran for a sixth TD, adding 10 rushes for 70 yards. All of those scores came in the first half when nearly all the game's scoring occurred. Tempo was there and so were ample points.
"He's fantastic," Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said of his 6-foot-1, 190-pound signal caller. "Andrew can be a really good quarterback for somebody (college). He's big enough. He runs well. He throws well. He's tough, and he's a student of the game."
It took two plays and all of 17 seconds for Salpointe to take a 7-0 lead. A 70-yard connection with transfer Kaelin Deboskie hardly allowed fans to settle in their seats. Less than four minutes later, another two-play drive finished with a 75-yard bomb to Denson to make it 14-0 barely five minutes in.
Finally, a little tempo with a 62-yard march in 12 plays, capped by an 11-yard TD pass to Deboskie for a 21-0 margin. Denson set Cota and the offense up with a 30-yard punt return late in the first period. Cota used two plays to find Deboskie for a third TD, this one from 31 yards out.
"There's no words to explain tonight except Andrew put the ball in the right place at the right times all the time," Deboskie said. "I was so anxious for this game I couldn't sleep. I got up at 5:30 this morning since I couldn't sleep and went out and ran a mile and half. That helped me open my mind and I was able to relax. This game was dream come true."
Deboskie, who starred last season at Colleyville Heritage High in Texas, finished with five catches for 120 yards and three TDs. Denson, the senior standout returning from a season which saw him produce more than 2,000 yards rushing, receiving and throwing, was a receiver only Saturday. Denson caught five passes for 117 yards and two TDs.
Cota, who started at quarterback and played well as a freshman at Sunnyside High in 2010 and has a brother, Jaime, who starred and helped Sunnyside win a state title a decade or so go, will have another weapon figure prominently as the season progresses with 6-foot-5 Robert Wilson. Wilson caught three passes for short gains, but is quite a target if foes think it's only Denson and Deboskie.
"I have a lot of confidence out there," Cota said. "The coaches trust me with calls. I can check in or out of something if I don't like it or call time out if it's needed. I'm comfortable with all that."