At times on Friday night, Saguaro looked like a team that could knock off defending champion Tucson Canyon del Oro in the postseason.
At other times, it looked like a team that could be ripe for a postseason upset.
We’ll find out soon enough.
The No. 2 Sabercats (8-2, 4-0) got big nights from Teddy Ruben and D.J. Foster to overcome a slew of penalties and beat No. 4 Queen Creek, 31-28, in a 4A-I Desert Sky contest that decided the region championship at Queen Creek.
Ruben had 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Foster added 185 yards rushing and a score, but Saguaro needed to recover a late onside kick to hold off the pesky Bulldogs.
Queen Creek quarterback Adam Brzezcek connected with Todd Kirchner on a 59-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to three points with 4:28 remaining, but Saguaro recovered the subsequent kick and ran out the clock behind Ruben and Foster.
“We wish we could have a few plays back, but I’m sure they could say the same thing, too,” Queen Creek coach Joe Germaine said. “It was a good football game.”
Queen Creek (8-2, 3-1) played the game without star tailback Chim Nga, who suffered a bruised foot last week against Cactus Shadows. Germaine said Nga could have played if he was absolutely needed, and he wasn’t just held out simply because the Bulldogs were pretty well wedged into the No. 2 seed in the 4A-I postseason.
Germaine said the team very much wanted to try for the region title.
“We were playing for a lot tonight,” Germaine said. “We really were.”
Saguaro jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Bulldogs scored 21 unanswered points to take a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter. The Sabercats rallied to score the next 17 points and then held on for the win.
Saguaro moved the ball well all game, but continually shot itself in the foot with penalties on both sides of the ball. The Sabercats finished with 14 penalties for 131 yards.
“I need a calculator to count the penalties,” Sanders said. “That’s just horrible. We’ve got to clean it up.”
Saguaro will be the No. 3 seed in the 4A-I state tournament, ending up on the opposite side of Canyon del Oro. Saguaro and Queen Creek could play again in the state semifinals if both make it that far.
“They did a great job,” Sanders said. “They hung with us without that back of theirs. We’ll see Queen Creek again.”
Brzeczek threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns, but he was picked off twice. The final one came in the fourth quarter by Vince Silva as the Bulldogs were trying to drive for a game-tying touchdown.