The Saguaro football team is back to don’t-blink status.
As in, take your eyes off the Sabercats for a moment, and you might miss something incredible.
From one-handed catches to wide receiver touchdown passes to pure football dominance, third-ranked Saguaro was up to its old tricks Friday night as it crushed No. 2 Cactus 67-14 at Saguaro in a rematch of last year's Division III championship game.
The Sabercats (4-1) struggled in the season's first two weeks, losing to Paradise Valley and then slipping by Thunderbird. Suddenly, a third straight state championship and the program’s sixth in seven years seemed in jeopardy.
“Kids around the school, they were like, ‘What’s happening? What’s up?’” Saguaro sophomore wide receiver Christian Kirk said.
Injuries were the biggest reason, and now that Saguaro is full strength, it’s back to full throttle.
The Sabercats scored 20 points on their first seven offensive plays against the Cobras and led 47-0 with 49.8 seconds to go in the first half. Saguaro’s defense was equally impressive, holding Cactus quarterback Talal Yousufzai to 3-of-8 passing for 10 yards with an interception.
Kirk missed the team’s first two games because of a concussion, while impact linemen Hayden Alley and Devin Brunetti also missed time, but all are back now.
“I tried to tell people, and nobody wanted to listen to me, that we were missing five key players,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “The team that showed up tonight is really the Saguaro team we knew we had this summer, that we knew we had up at camp.”
Quarterback Luke Rubenzer ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and threw for 180 yards and two scores, but it was his receiving touchdown that really had him excited.
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Rubenzer took a snap and flipped the ball to Kirk in the backfield before darting for the pylon to his left. Kirk rolled right and heaved it across the field for a 27-yard touchdown to give Saguaro the 47-0 lead.
“Whenever receivers drop a pass I get on them,” Rubenzer said. “I was just thinking, 'I cannot drop this pass or they’re going to get on me for the rest of the season.'”
Saguaro had 27 points before nine minutes had elapsed as Cactus never threatened.
Kirk finished with two carries for 57 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 81 yards in addition to the touchdown pass.
Kash Robinson had 11 carries for 120 yards and three touchdowns and added a receiving score.
Saguaro will face off with defending Division I champion Desert Vista next week, and like last year, when the Sabercats jumped to a 22-point halftime lead before losing, 31-28, believes it can hang with the best.
“If we run the right plays, we’ll put up points and big numbers against anybody,” Rubenzer said.
Score by quarters
C 0 7 7 0 -- 14
S 27 20 13 7 -- 67
First Downs — C 6; S 20.
Rushes-Yards — C 38-199; S 33-354
Comp-Att-Int — C 3-9-1; S 10-15-0
Passing Yards — C 10; S 207
Fumbles-Lost — C 2-1; S 1-0
Penalties-Yards — C 5-40; S 5-30
S - Rubenzer 34 run, Tjaarda kick
S - Robinson 42 pass from Rubenzer, kick failed
S - Adams 6 run, Tjaarda kick
S - Adams 7 run, Tjaarda kick
S - Adams 10 pass from Rubenzer, Tjaarda kick
S - Robinson 4 run, kick failed
S - Rubenzer 27 pass from Kirk, Tjaarda kick
C - James 37 run, kick good
S - Kirk 29 run, kick failed
S - Robinson 14 run, Tjaarda kick
C - Marshall 59 run, kick good
S - Robinson 2 run, Tjaarda kick