Matt Haggerty has been like a caged animal on defense recently.
Teams have been so run-heavy against Seton that its star defensive back hasn’t had much to do.
On Friday night, he was freed.
Tempe quarterback Emanuel Gant threw the ball 50 times and Haggerty intercepted three of them, leading the No. 3 Sentinels (Div. IV) to a 41-25 victory over the Buffaloes in a non-division matchup.
Seton led just 20-17 at halftime, but that’s when the Seton coaches changed up their scheme and allowed Haggerty to roam freely. He watched Gant’s eyes lock on receivers and pounced, the last interception coming in the end zone as Tempe tried to cut the deficit to one possession late in the fourth quarter.
“After awhile we kind of get bored (in the secondary) because nothing ever happens to us,” Haggerty said. “Coming into this game it was really exciting. It’s fun because the game was going to rely on our shoulders.”
For Seton coach Rex Bowser, it was a no-brainer to give Haggerty spy duties and let him track Gant’s reads.
“It’s not a coincidence (picking off a quarterback three times),” Bowser said, “You can’t just stumble into being in the right place at the right time.”
Tempe turned the ball over seven times in the contest — two fumbles and five interceptions — which consistently killed drives even though the team moved the ball well.
Gant threw for 349 yards and the team had more than 400 yards of total offense but Seton pulled away in the second half.
Daniel Garlid made the defining play, picking off Gant and returning it 78 yards for a touchdown for a 34-17 lead with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Haggerty caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 41-17 with 7:20 remaining in the contest, but the Buffaloes had one last push.
An 18-yard touchdown from Gant to Raija Holt and a two-point conversion made it 41-25, and then Tempe recovered the ensuing kickoff. The Buffaloes scored just a few plays later but it was called back on offensive pass interference.
Tempe had first-and-goal at the 10, but Gant was sacked and then Haggerty clinched the victory with the interception.
“He’s still young,” Tempe coach Brian Walker said. “We’re not going to use that as an excuse, but he did force a couple throws there. But he’s my quarterback. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
Seton had impressive balance offensively, as quarterback David Gesicki was 20-of-32 for 254 yards with three touchdowns and the Sentinels (8-1) added 274 yards on the ground. Third-string running back Antonio Campanella filled in because of injuries and had 21 carries for 142 yards.
Massiah Smith had eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns for Tempe. The Buffaloes only ran the ball 14 times, and two were sacks.
S - 7 13 14 7 -- 41
T - 7 10 0 8 -- 25
First downs: S 24; T 19
Rushes-Yards: S 50-274; T 14-56
Passing yards: S 254; T 349
Compt-Att-Int: S 20-32-1; T 31-50-5
Fumbles-Lost: S 3-2; T 3-2
Penalties-Yards: S 6-88; T 8-68
S - Haggerty 28 run, Garlid kick
T - Smith 6 pass from Gant, Perez-Rodriguez kick
S - Gesicki 6 run, Garlid kick
T - Smith 29 pass from Gant, Perez-Rodriguez kick
S - Krick 4 pass from Gesicki, pass failed
T - Perez-Rodriguez 32-yard FG
S - Krick 14 pass from Gesicki, Garlid kick
S - Garlid 78-yard interception return, Garlid kick
S - Haggerty 13 pass from Gesicki, Garlid kick
T - Holt 18 pass from Gant, Smith from Gant