October 16, 2004
No football coach is going to turn down a little extra help, including Saguaro coach Mike Reardon.
With the help of two Chaparral turnovers in the final four minutes, the Sabercats were able to take control of the 4A East Sky Region race with a 24-22 road victory over the Firebirds.
Saguaro took the lead with 9 seconds left when senior kicker Juan Bongarra kicked a 21-yard field goal.
"I think there was someone upstairs that was on our side tonight,’’ Reardon said. "We would have felt terrible if we didn’t take advantage of that.’’
A 31-yard touchdown run by Spencer Rothery, his third of the game, had given Chaparral a 22-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
About that same time the Saguaro ground game, which had been so successful, came to a halt and wasn’t able to move the football. With 4:15 left, Saguaro had to punt the football.
On Chaparral’s first play after receiving the kick, Rothery fumbled and the Sabercats’ Richard Bloom recovered.
Again, Saguaro couldn’t move the football. Reardon even tried a halfback pass on the Firebirds’ 27-yard line only to have John Casale throw an interception in the end zone. Adam Bailey picked off the pass for Chaparral.
The Sabercats immediately got the ball back when Chaparral quarterback Nick Neuenfeldt fumbled the football away to Saguaro’s Josh Mendenhall.
"We had the game won,’’ Chaparral coach Ron Estabrook said. "We gave the ball to them twice.’
With 2:33 left, the Sabercats (6-1, 3-0) had one more scoring chance and moved the football to the Chaparral 4-yard line. After several timeouts and a couple of penalties, Bongarra kicked the game-winning field goal.
The Firebirds (5-3, 2-1) couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. On the very first play from scrimmage, a simple run up the middle by Saguaro, defensive lineman Ekom Udofia suffered a possible broken left ankle and had to leave the game. Udofia, one of the top college prospects in the country, was taken by cart to the Chaparral locker room and later to a hospital.
"Our defense is built around him,’’ Estabrook said.
Saguaro’s running game, behind its big offensive line, was working from the very beginning with junior Tyler Porras carrying the football. He had huge holes to run through as he scored both first-half touchdowns for the Sabercats.
Porras had 180 yards on 24 carries while Rothery had 195 yards on 18 carries for Chaparral.