If Chaparral and Saguaro is the rivalry of Scottsdale, then Chaparral is making a strong case to be the team of the city.
The visiting Firebirds used a turnover-creating defense and the clutch hands of Mike Cummings to hang on to a 24-21 victory over the previously undefeated Sabercats. The Firebirds won last year's meeting as well, 35-7.
The win gives Chaparral (8-2, 3-0) the Desert Sky Region championship. Next week's game at Tempe McClintock means little, other than improving the Firebirds' power point standing.
"We knew we could play defense like this," Chaparral coach Ron Estabrook said. "We knew we could. Tonight we actually played with the emotion we had a month ago."
Saguaro (8-1, 3-1), which entered as the second-ranked team in 4A Division I, let an early 9-0 lead slip away.
"We had some breaks early and they got some breaks late," Saguaro coach Mike Reardon said. "My hat is off to that team. It was a great game."
Cummings led the Firebirds with a pair of touchdown receptions and his interception in the game's final minute sealed the outcome. He finished with five catches for 115 yards.
"We know anyone in 4A-I can beat anyone else. We never consider ourselves the underdog," said Cummings, who caught touchdown passes of 26 and 46 yards.
After taking the early advantage, Saguaro's offense went in reverse. The Sabercats committed turnovers on each of their first four possessions of the second half and finished with five for the game. They only had two first downs in the first half and six for the night.
Chaparral scored 24 consecutive points during the second and third quarters. Austin Swindle's 15-yard interception return gave the Firebirds a 24-9 lead with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
The Sabercats cut the margin to 24-15 on Beau Burton's 7-yard run midway through the fourth quarter. Saguaro pulled even closer on Burton's 3-yard dive with 2:25 remaining.
Saguaro forced Chaparral to punt on the ensuing possession and got the ball back at its 27-yard-line with 1:03 to play. Two plays later Cummings picked off Tim Ruben's pass, the third interception of the game.
"Our guys made plays all night. We finally got back to playing the kind of defense we did at the start of the season," said Estabrook, whose defense held Saguaro to less than 200 yards.
Saguaro took its early lead on a Max Tabach 63-yard punt return the first time the Sabercats touched the ball. On its next possession, Dan Golden converted a 27-yard field goal for the 9-0 lead.