Most teams would savor a victory in the state quarterfinals, but Scottsdale Saguaro was already thinking ahead to next week immediately after a 48-20 home win over Tucson Sabino in the Division III playoffs Friday night.
Saguaro coach Jason Mohns was thinking about “unfinished business” against Goodyear Desert Edge. Desert Edge knocked Saguaro out of the Division III playoffs in the second round, 38-35, in 2012.
“That game stung, and it still stings,” Mohns said. “This is a proud program, and losing in the second round last year was a shock to our system. When we go to the playoffs, we play for championships. We don’t get beat in the second round.”
No. 2 seed Saguaro (11-1) has won six state titles in football, and it will have to go through No. 3 Desert Edge (12-0) next Friday night at Arcadia High School if it wants No. 7.
But Saguaro first had to take care of a tough No. 7 Sabino team that came into Friday’s game with a 9-2 record and a prolific tight end in 6-5 senior Matt Bushman, who has committed to BYU. Bushman entered the game with 57 catches for 1,500 yards and a staggering 26 touchdowns.
Sabino kept him out of the end zone and held Bushman to 84 yards on seven catches.
“I thought we bottled up Bushman as much as he’s been bottled up all year,” Mohns said. “A kid like that, he’s going to make plays, he’s going to get his, but we made him earn everything they got.”
Mohns was especially pleased with his defense, which he said gets overshadowed by Saguaro’s explosive offense, led by California commit Luke Rubenzer at quarterback.
Saguaro’s defensive line penetrated and disrupted a Sabino running attack that was averaging 241 yards per game; Sabino totaled just 71 yards rushing.
As for Rubenzer, he was brilliant, scoring seven total touchdowns (5 pass, 2 rush). He completed 15-of-23 passes for 315 yards and ran the ball 13 times for 136 yards. He started the game on fire, completing his first six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
“The kid is, in my opinion, gonna go down as one of the best high school quarterbacks in the history of Arizona,” Mohns said of Rubenzer, who has completed 72 percent of his passes this season while throwing 49 touchdowns against just three interceptions. He’s also rushed for 1,139 yard and nine scores.
Senior receiver J.T. Nettleton had another big night for Saguaro with four catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, his 18th of the season.
With about six minutes left in the second quarter, Sabino quarterback Emilio Araiza threw a 52-yard touchdown to Alex Turner. That cut Saguaro’s lead to 21-9, but Sabino would get no closer. Araiza finished 16-of-27 for 266 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“We didn’t come out on top, but we did some great things (this season),” Araiza said.
Saguaro 48, Sabino 20
First downs: Saguaro 17, Sabino 10
Rushing: Saguaro 36-259 Sabino 24-71
Passing: (comp.-att.-yards-TD-INT): Saguaro 16-24-331-5-0 Sabino 16-27-266-1-2
Fumbles-lost: Saguaro 2-1 Sabino 0-0
Penalties-yards: Saguaro 5-45 Sabino 5-50
Saguaro 14 14 14 6 – 48
Sabino 0 12 0 8 – 20
Saguaro: Rubenzer 1 run (Counce kick)
Saguaro: Adams 9 pass from Rubenzer (Counce kick)
Sabino: Smith 21 FG
Saguaro: Rubenzer 27 run (Counce kick)
Sabino: Turner 52 pass from Araiza (kick failed)
Saguaro: Adams 26 pass from Rubenzer (Counce kick)
Sabino: Smith 32 FG
Saguaro: Kirk 21 pass from Rubenzer (Counce kick)
Saguaro: Koutsalas 26 pass from Rubenzer (Counce kick)
Saguaro: Nettleton 16 pass from Rubenzer (kick failed)
Sabino: Lundgren 40 run (Joseph run)