Dennis Bene has been the head coach at Salpointe Catholic since 2001. He's won 104 regular-season games and has produced some of the best talent Southern Arizona has ever seen.
Friday night, he added another line to his résumé: "coach of a state semifinalist."
The top-seeded Lancers (12-1) beat visiting Mountain View 35-7 and advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2000.
"I've been thinking about this for 12 years," said Bene, who took over the program in 2001. "It's a giant weight off my chest. There is pressure. We've been close, but you need to kick down the door and get there, and we finally did tonight."
The Lancers will play No. 4 Peoria Centennial on Friday night at Amphitheater High School.
Salpointe was determined to win the game for Bene and send him to the semifinals for the first time. Wide receiver Cameron Denson said defensive coordinator Joe Bernier addressed the team Monday during a weightlifting session with a heartfelt speech about his boss.
"He gave us a great speech about how Coach Bene is a great coach, but all everyone in town says is, 'But he hasn't been past the quarterfinals,'" Denson said. "We really wanted this game for him and be the team that got him there first.
"We gave him the game ball after the game, and that felt great. He deserves it."
The Lancers came out with a furious start and jumped on the No. 9 Mountain Lions early. After a 33-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Cota to Denson, running back Johnny Peña scored from 2 yards on Salpointe's second play from scrimmage.
The Lancers held Mountain View to a three-and-out on its second possession and scored right away again. Peña scored again - this time from 4 yards - to give the Lancers a 14-0 lead.
Cota found receiver Brogan Kemmerly for a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to extend the lead to 21-0, which was the halftime score.
Cota was locked in during the first half. The junior was per-fect, completing all nine of his passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. He almost had two scores in the first 24 minutes, but tight end Robert Wilson fumbled at the 1-yard line right before halftime.
He added another touchdown pass to Kemmerly in the second half and finished 12 for 14 for 215 yards and a pair of scores.
"I thought Andrew was just dead-on tonight," said Bene of his quarterback, who added 63 rushing yards. "He was fantastic in very windy conditions."
Cota suffered a minor arm injury in the third quarter but missed just a few plays before returning.
His favorite target in the win was Denson, who finished with 146 yards on six catches. Peña also had a standout game, rushing for 215 yards on 23 carries and adding three touchdowns. He had three runs of 25 or more yards.
"We have so many weapons on offense, it's tough to shut us down," Denson said.
The Mountain Lions (8-4) struggled to find much offense other than running back Richie Estrada. He rushed for 119 yards on 25 carries.
The team's lone touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Cody Rochon to Brandon Cruz.
"There are a lot of lumps in the road when you're building a program and you have to bounce back and get better," Mountain View coach Clarence McRae said. "Our guys will definitely be ready for next year."
On StarNet: See more photos from Mountain View-Salpointe Catholic and Ironwood Ridge-Glendale Apollo at azstarnet.com/gallery
More inside on B10
• Ironwood Ridge 42, Glendale Apollo 30: No. 3 seed Nighthawks score 28 straight during second, third quarters.
• Nogales 22, Phoenix Sunrise Mountain 8: No. 14 seed Apaches in state semifinals for first time.