The idea that Higley football could compete with anyone in class 4A football. That was the message that was instilled into Eddie Zubey’s team after their 42-14 loss to Saguaro on September 8.
“We believe we can play with anyone now,” Head Coach Eddy Zubey said. “We had big expectations going into this year and we played a big tough opponent in Saguaro and they kind of punched us in the mouth and we didn’t really know how to respond and we worked on that for the next nine weeks.”
And it showed from the first drive to the last one Friday night at Chaparral high school when No. 3 ranked Higley took on No. 2 Saguaro for the second time this season. But, this time there was a trip to the 4A State championship on the line.
The two teams battled back and forth, both trading shots with the other until the very end. After forcing Higley into a field goal, which was missed, quarterback Max Massingale handed the ball off to Josiah Bradley, who found the end zone in overtime to seal a fifth straight trip to the state championship for the Sabercats.
But how the two teams got to overtime was something that might go down as one of the greatest games in Arizona high school football history. It started with nine-minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Spencer Brasch found Ty Robinson from 33-yards out, who spiked the ball in the end zone and was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.
Instead of enforcing the penalty on the kickoff, Saguaro Head Coach Jason Mohns elected to enforce the penalty on the point after attempt. And it paid off as the kick was missed wide left. It only took Saguaro a minute to answer as Massingale found Logan Pettijohn on a 54-yard screen pass to put the Sabercats up 24-23.
It only took Higley two plays to throw a blow back as 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year Draycen Hall got free for a 69-yard touchdown run down the Higley sideline. The Knights elected to go for two and converted to go up seven, 31-24.
Like he had done all night long, Max Massingale marched his four-time defending state champs down the field. First he broke off a 45-yard quarterback keeper that put the Sabercats on the 20-yard line. Then, after getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage, Bradley broke off a 20-yard touchdown run and the game was tied at 31.
Rather than the offenses continue to throw punches, the defenses stepped up to the occasion like they had done throughout the first half before the offenses took over in the second half. Spencer Brasch tossed up a hail-mary to the 17-yard line but was picked off by Pettijohn. The Sabercats marched down the field once again and were knocking on the door, working their way into field goal range. But, the Knights forced a fumble to get the ball back, but couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, forcing the game into overtime. And Bradley ended the game on his touchdown run.
“It’s hard to put things into words right now, Saguaro is a great football program and we just wanted to show that we were too,” Zubey said. “To take Saguaro into overtime, I think that shows how far we have come as a program.”
The Knights finished the season at 9-2 and demonstrated one of the highest scoring offenses in the state in 2017. Zubey will have to find a way to replace Hall and a number of seniors on both sides of the ball, but knows they will go on to be great men.
“They are going to great professionals, they are going to be great men and great husbands,” Zubey said. “We talk about character all the time and you could see that improve in them on a week by week basis.”
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