Saguaro

Saguaro's football program became the third in the state to beat an out-of-state opponent this season in a 24-7 win over Sierra Canyon Friday night.

For the third time this season one of Arizona’s elite high school football programs took on competition one of the surrounding states.

First it was Chandler overcoming a slow start to beat Cherry Creek from Colorado. Then, Hamilton’s wild comeback against Nevada power Bishop Gorman in the final minute of play was on display for the nation to see. On Friday, it was Saguaro’s turn to represent the state against one of southern California’s best programs, Sierra Canyon.

It was a slow start initially for the Sabercats, who were held to just three points in the first two quarters of play. But a big second half propelled by a top-notch performance by the defense ultimately paved the way for Saguaro’s 24-7 win over the Trailblazers.

“Arizona high school football is the real deal,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “I go around the country speaking at clinics and the level of respect for the programs in Arizona is at an all-time high. We might not have as many good programs as California or Texas based on sheer population, but out best teams out here can roll with anybody. I feel confident in that.”

Saguaro had the opportunity to deploy its transfers for the first time this season as they had officially passed the five-game threshold. Junior wideout Deric English wasted little time getting comfortable on the Saguaro offense, as he was on the receiving end of three passes for 68 total yards.

But later near the end of the first quarter while attempting to make a catch, English went down awkwardly without taking any contact. He immediately grabbed for his right knee and was carted off the field. A short time later Zaccheus Cooper, one of the top junior running backs in the state, exited the game with a knee injury.

Both were seen with braces on after the game. Mohns said the extent of either injury is unknown as of now, but they wanted to play it safe.

“It breaks your heart,” Mohns said of the two injuries. “Deric has been, truly for a new guy on our team, one of the heart and souls of this program. We don’t really know what it is yet. Obviously any time it’s the knee you don’t want to run a kid back out there and make it worse. Hopefully it isn’t too serious and we have them back sooner rather than later.”

The sixth game of the season also offered the opportunity to deploy junior quarterback transfer Devon Dampier, who rotated every other offensive series with senior Ridge Docekal.

The first half proved to be difficult for both quarterbacks, who were constantly pressured by Sierra Canyon’s talented defensive front. Docekal found a rhythm late in the first quarter as he drove the Sabercats into the redzone but came away with a 24-yard field goal from Michael Ortiz.

The defensive units for both squads took over the first half. Neither offense could muster any positive yards. Penalties also played a factor at times.

Sierra Canyon, behind three Division I offensive line recruits, went to the ground late in the first half. Sophomore running back Terrell Cooks, who shared touches with senior Jason Jones, broke free for a 38-yard gain to put the Trailblazers in Saguaro territory. A few plays later, Jones capped off the 68-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown.

Jones finished with 38 yards on the ground and the lone score. Cooks, who was unable to find the end zone, had 109 rushing yards. As a team Sierra Canyon rushed for 163 yards. The Trailblazers had just 40 passing yards between two quarterbacks. They were pressured on a consistent basis by Saguaro’s defensive line, led by defensive end Tristan Monday who had a strip sack in the fourth quarter.

“Tristan is a beast,” Mohns said. “We try to block him in practice and the days he isn’t on offense are bad days. He’s that guy where if he’s on the other team you don’t really like him but when he’s on your team you love him.”

Saguaro’s first-half offensive woes disappeared coming out of the half. With Docekal at the helm, the offense took its first possession of the third quarter and drove down the field. Javen Jacobs, Saguaro’s do-it-all player on offense and special teams, found a crease in the Sierra Canyon defense and took it 27 yards for the Sabercats’ first touchdown.

On the Trailblazers’ next drive, Saguaro’s defense forced a fumble. The offense capitalized by way of a double pass from Docekal to Jacobs to Junius Marsh in the back of the end zone. A Myller Terameau interception set up Saguaro inside the Sierra Canyon 20 heading to the final quarter of play.

That drive was capped off by JoJo Clark out of wildcat formation from 8 yards out.

Saguaro scored 21 unanswered points out of the half. Docekal found a rhythm through the air and finished 8 of 13 for 114 yards. Jacobs had 104 total yards of offense, most of which in the second half.

“Whatever I can do for my team I’m going to make it happen, I’m going to do it,” Jacobs said. “We looked forward to getting this team on the field. We executed and got the dub. It feels good.”

Mohns said they will continue to develop Dampier and use both quarterbacks going forward. Dampier completed just two passes for 18 yards and had 16 more on the ground.

But Mohns admitted throwing Dampier into the mix against a team like Sierra Canyon was something he knew would be difficult.

“It makes you nervous a little bit putting him in a game like this,” Mohns said. “The style they play, they’re totally opposite of each other. We are going to continue to develop that but Ridge showed he had a good command of this offense and I think Devon just has to continue getting his feet wet.

“Once both those guys are playing at high level I think that will make it tough for a defense to stop.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira

 

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