From a cracked skull to cracking open the record books.
Not a bad turnaround for Jarek Hilgers.
Hilgers nearly set a Desert Vista school record for rushing yards in a single game Friday, rolling up 269 yards on 21 carries in the Thunder's 56-35 win over Division III power Saguaro.
It came a month after Hilgers had to leave Desert Vista's game against Mountain Pointe with blood streaming down his face before getting 12 staples in his head.
"I just had great blocks like we have all year from our offensive line -- they played a great game," Hilgers said. "The quarterback and other backs and receivers also help make it easy."
Hilgers scored four touchdowns -- on runs of 8, 1, 12 and 48 yards -- to ensure that the Thunder wouldn't need a last-minute field goal like they did in last year's meeting with the Sabercats.
Hilgers had 183 yards in the first half alone on 15 rushes, with a big chunk yardage coming on an 86-yard run on which he broke free from deep in his own territory and wasn't dragged down until the 4-yard line.
"We know what Jarek can do. We found out what can happen earlier in the season when he was not in the game," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said, referring to when Hilgers missed the second half of his team's loss to Mountain Pointe.
Hilgers was all the Thunder needed to win the battle of defending state champions, with Desert Vista improving to 5-1 in Division I and Saguaro dropping to 4-2 in Division lll.
The Thunder dominated the Sabercats early en route to a 35-7 cushion at halftime. However, Hinds knew that Saguaro, which has won the last two state titles and five of the last six, would battle back. He was right, as the Sabercats got back to within 14 points early in the fourth quarter before Desert Vista put it away.
"Saguaro is a talented football team, they made some adjustments and came back strong," Hinds said. "They loaded the box, and that got our passing game going, which opened things up."
Thunder quarterback Matt Young took advantage, as he connected on 11 of 14 passes for 162 yards with no interceptions and a pair of touchdown passes, one to Kaleb Germinaro for 51 yards and the other to Anthony Reaves for 3 yards.
Despite the loss, Saguaro got an impressive performance from signal caller Luke Rubenzer, who had three touchdown passes and 440 total yards of offense. Rubenzer finished 18 of 31 passing for 297 yards and three touchdowns, two to Cameron Koutsales for 28 and 36 yards and one for 68 yards to sophomore Christian Kirk. Rubenzer also had 143 yards on the ground.
The Thunder defense all but put the game away when senior safety Nick Farina intercepted a pass and weaved all the way to the end zone for a 76-yard touchdown, giving the Thunder a 42-14 lead.
"We watched film, and I saw that one develop. It was a good feeling, I great some great blocks and just took it to the house," said Farina, who had a rushing TD called back on a penalty in the first half.
Saguaro showed once again that it has the talent to hang with a DI power, but the Sabercats didn't have quite enough to get over the top.
"We dug a hole in the first half. You have two choices at halftime ,and they made the right one and battled back and showed character," Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. "We wanted to throw the first punch, but instead we got hit first. But we showed the rest of the state that we can play with anybody in the state, even the Division I schools, as we outscored them 28-21 in the second half."
Saguaro's goal now is to repeat the second half of last season.
"Desert Vista beat us last year, and we came back and won the state championship," Saguaro lineman Devin Brunatti said. "This has to be it for losing. We have to take the rest of the games to the house, and we can win it again this year."
Desert Vista 56, Saguaro 35
Saguaro 7 0 14 14 -- 35
Desert Vista 21 14 7 14 -- 56
DV- Hilgers 8 run (Pietenik kick)
DV- Gonzalez 4 run (kick blocked)
S - Kirk 68 pass from Rubenzer (Ball kick)
DV- Germinaro 51 pass from Young (Hilgers run)
DV - Hilgers 1 run (Pietenik kick)
DV- Reaves 3 pass from Young (Pietenik kick)
S - Koutsales 28 pass from Rubenzer (Ball kick)
DV- Farina 76 yard interception return (Pietenik kick)
S- Koutsales 36 pass from Rubenzer (Ball kick)
S- Robinson 12 run (Ball kick)
DV- Hilgers 12 run (Pietenik kick)
S- Adams 6 run (Ball kick)
DV- Hilgers 48 run (Pietenik kick)
Saguaro Desert Vista
First Downs: 17 18
Rushes-Yards 33-320 44-373
Passing Yards 297 162
Comp-Att-Int 18-31-2 11-14-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 8-55 11-120