Score one for the offense. Actually, score 62 for the offense.
Division III No. 1 Scottsdale Saguaro entered Friday's showdown with No. 2 Cactus averaging 61 points per game. The Cobras came in on a three-game shutout streak.
Saguaro (5-0) did not post 61 points on Cactus (3-1). They did one better, overwhelming the Cobras 62-24.
“Sixty-two?” Saguaro coach John Sanders said. “Yeah, I’m surprised. Nobody had scored on them all year. But I knew our offense was really good.”
If Cactus truly is the second-best team in the class, it's an unspeakably bad result for the rest of Division III. The Sabercats treated the Cobras like fellow ranked teams Paradise Valley and Thunderbird, rolling up 553 yards of offense, most of that in the first three quarters.
The Cobra defense stiffened on Saguaro's first drive, stopping a fourth-down play at its 25. But the offense lost four yards and a shanked punt set up the Sabercats again.
On third down, sophomore quarterback Luke Rubenzer's pass slid off his receiver's hands and into the arms of senior cornerback Tyler Johns, who sped 83 yards down the sideline for the touchdown.
Still, the Cactus defense had to go back out. Star senior tailback D.J. Foster started the drive picking up yards in the wildcat, and finished it with a one-cut, 25-yard touchdown.
Then the floodgates opened. On Cactus' next offensive play, the Sabercat defense stacked up senior tailback Josh Aguirre and ripped the ball from him.
On the next play Rubenzer hit senior fullback Cameron Larson on a screen for a 17-yard scoring pass. Saguaro led 14-7 19 seconds after its first touchdown.
Another three and out set up the Sabercats at the Cactus 42. Foster scored again, from eight yards out, less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Cactus managed to cut the lead without gaining a first down, something the Cobras did not accomplish until the third quarter. Senior quarterback Michael Putko lofted a jump ball along the sideline and senior wide receiver Jacob Schaefer grabbed it and scooted 77 yards for the touchdown.
Just more than a minute later, Rubenzer hit a wide-open Larson for a 41-yard scoring play. Putko threw a pick on the Cobras' next play and Rubenzer went up top again, hooking up with freshman receiver Christian Kirk on a 40-yard touchdown.
"I thought the quarterback had a heck of a game. His fakes were really good," Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said. "We missed some coverages, or they outdid us, whatever it was. They whupped us pretty good."
Two minutes before halftime, Larson got behind the defense again, and Rubenzer hit him in stride for a 23-yard touchdown. Saguaro entered the break up 42-14.
And it should have been worse. Rubenzer had 11 of his 12 completions, 237 of his 244 yards and four touchdowns before halftime. Meanwhile, Cactus had run 15 offensive plays and rushed nine times for negative five yards.
“It was very impressive that at such a young age he could keep his composure,” Foster said. “He played phenomenal.”
Cactus' opening drive of the second half provided a ray of hope. The offense regained its fast-break tempo and marched 80 yards in 1:13. Putko capped the drive by connecting with senior Dante Edwards on a 25-yard post pattern for a score.
"There was a glimpse of what we would have liked to have done in the third quarter when I thought we had them tired but we got in a big hole," Fetkenhier said.
On Saguaro's first play, Foster blew through the middle of the field, breaking one tackle and going 65 yards for a touchdown and a 48-21 lead. He bookended the quarter by running untouched up the middle 19 yards in the final minute.
Senior cornerback Dakota Reistad's 34-yard interception return and Cactus kicker Brody Riggs' 29-yard field goal completed the scoring.