Hardly complex. Wildly effective.
No. 14 San Tan Foothills called Carlos Melendez's number again, and again - and again and again - Saturday afternoon as it eventually blew open a close game with 11th-seeded Morenci for a 43-13 win at Higley High School to advance to the semifinals of the Division V playoffs.
San Tan Foothills will next play Saturday, Sept. 19 in the Division V semifinals at Arcadia High School against No. 2 Yuma Catholic, which beat San Tan Foothills 77-50 late in the regular season.
As if Melendez's 381 yards rushing and three scores weren't enough, it was how he did it - on a staggering 47 carries - that rallied the Sabercats from a 13-7 deficit late in the first half. It also turned a one-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter into an eventual blowout.
While he didn't plan to rely on Melendez for nearly half-a-century's worth of carries, coach Rodger Schenks admitted the gameplan was clear: get the ball to Carlos, and let Carlos run.
"That's pretty much what we do. That's our bread and butter," Schenks said, adding that watching his team become a legitimate state title contender after finishing 1-9 two years ago and 4-7 last season is especially gratifying. "We lost a kid early (to injury), so it took away four or five of our formations that we were looking to run with our passing game."
Melendez's eyes got wide when told postgame how many carries he had in the game.
"Ooh. ... I guess we like running the ball," said the senior back, who credited his linemen and quarterback.
Melendez has now surpassed the 2,500-yard and 30-touchdown marks on the season.
While the score ended up one-sided and the final stat line was anything but kind to Morenci - San Tan Foothills amassed 480 yards of offense, compared to less than 100 for the Wildcats - coach Frank Ogas' team was in the game until the final minutes.
Two situations that could have easily gone Morenci's way ultimately turned the tide before the Sabercats blew the score open late.
Shortly after Morenci took a 13-7 lead on a 1-yard run by Clay Ruedas, Morenci was punting from its own 23-yard line barely a minute before halftime. The punt went 10 yards, and San Tan Foothills used nearly every second left before Melendez scored from six yards out. The PAT gave the Sabercats their first lead of the afternoon.
Later, San Tan Foothills led by just one touchdown with nine minutes to play when it was faced with a fourth-and-12 at the Morenci 26.
The Sabercats went for it, with quarterback Mychael Bruce taking the snap and bouncing around the backfield to evade the Morenci pressure before throwing a sky-high pass toward the end zone.
The Morenci defensive back flanking San Tan Foothills' Julian Navarrette mis-timed the jump ball, but Navarrette didn't and he hauled in the pass to put the Sabercats up 28-13 after the PAT.
"They have an outstanding ball club, and we knew that going in, that they were very talented and senior- dominant, and it showed," Ogas said. "They beat us down. Early we had some key players go out with injuries that we had counted on early in the season, but we really did a good job of trying to overcome that."
All of San Tan Foothills' scoring came by way of either Melendez, Navarrette, or five PATs by Eduardo Robles.
Melendez scored on runs of 32, 6, 1, and 47 yards, while Navarrette had the touchdown catch, an 18-yard interception return for a score in the game's final minute, and a two-point conversion catch on a throw by Bruce.
For Morenci, young Frank Ogas, the team's junior quarterback, scored from a yard out in the first to go along with Ruedas' short run.
A scary moment late in the third quarter occurred when Morenci's David Posey was injured on a rather typical play - a short run by Melendez - at about the 25-yard line right at the Wildcats' sideline.
Posey stayed on the ground - tended to by trainers, coaches, and eventually Gilbert Fire Department personnel and paramedics - for nearly 30 minutes.
While initial reports said Posey didn't have feeling in his legs, his coach and other Morenci personnel said he had regained some feeling before an ambulance took him from the field on a stretcher to a nearby hospital.
Posey did have upper body movement the entire time, however, and he raised his arm to the crowd as he was wheeled off the field.