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Adrian Lugo had a taste of victory as sophomore, mainly riding the bench late in the season as the Cibola football team coasted to the top of the 5A Gila Valley Region.
After a bitter junior year that included losses to rivals Kofa and Yuma High, Lugo - the starting middle linebacker wasn't going to let it happen again.
Lugo had a team-high 80 tackles, added 5-1/2 sacks and an interception to help lead the Raiders back to the Gila Valley Region title and a playoff spot. For his efforts, Lugo was named the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club 2009 All-Region Defensive Football Player of the Year.
"To me it felt good, and I know it felt good to the rest of the team," Lugo said. "Without a doubt it made us feel good. It was a lot better than we did last season; a lot better than last year."
Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo said the team had a region championship as its goal from the start of the season, and with both Yuma High and Kofa returning explosive offenses, the Raiders' defense would be pivotal.
"We knew for us to have a chance we'd have to play good defense," Arvizo said. "As team captain and the leader of the defense, he really motivated the team and helped us accomplish that. Once we got those wins it took a lot of weight off his back. He was able to go out there with the team and produce defensively against some great offensive teams. It was a big accomplishment."
The wins put the Raiders into the postseason, where they capped their 5-6 season with a 48-14 loss to Centennial, which was upset by Marcos de Niza in the semifinals in a quest for their fourth straight state title.
"It was a good experience for us to go play against them," Lugo said. "It would have been pretty cool if we beat them, but they're the No. 1 team so it gave us a good experience.
"We beat the two schools we wanted to beat, but the last game was just a heartbreaker," he said.
Lugo said he wasn't sure about his college plans, although he said he had a possible interest in trying out for Arizona Western.
Arvizo said Lugo was effective in all aspects of the game, acting as the team's most effective blitzer and doing well when asked to drop back into coverage. But the biggest plus, Arvizo said, came off the field.
"He was strong as a leader and had a great knowledge of the game," Arvizo said. "We'd have film sessions and he would make sure the underclassmen would help stress points with the underclassmen."
Lugo downplayed his role in that.
"I just try to help them out," Lugo said. "They still have next year to get them going. I just tried to do what I can."