Saguaro breezes past Cactus on way to 4A semifinal

The five-time defending state champion Saguaro High School Sabrecats met little resistance in their second-round 4A playoff matchup, cruising past No. 7 Cactus High School 69-6 Friday night at home.

Each side of the ball was equally as dominant for No. 2 Saguaro (11-1), which took a 55-0 lead at halftime. In the first half, each of Saguaro’s eight drives yielded a touchdown while none of Cactus’ nine drives yielded a first down.

“I think we’re playing complete team football,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “We don’t scoreboard watch, we don’t play down to our opponents. We’re holding ourselves to a high standard, and I think we’re playing to that standard right now.”

Saguaro quarterback Tyler Beverett hands the ball off during the Sabercats’ 59-28 win over Desert Mountain. (Photo Courtesy of Donna Mundy)

Saguaro will face No. 3 Goodyear Desert Edge High School (9-3) in the semifinal game 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 at Coronado High School. When Saguaro hosted Desert Edge during the season, the Sabrecats won 38-21.

Coach Mohns said when the playoff bracket was released, they expected to be facing Desert Edge again in the semifinals.

“It’ll be a great game,” he said. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’ve got a ton of athletes. They’re big up front, and they do some good stuff … They’re going to get our full attention.”

The winner will either meet No. 1 Salpointe Catholic or No. 5 Sahuaro, both from Tucson, in the 4A state championship game Friday, Nov. 30. By virtue of those two Tucson teams in one semifinal, the final is guaranteed to be played at University of Arizona Stadium.

Cactus (8-4) saw its first season under coach Joseph Ortiz come to an end with the loss Friday. Coach Ortiz said his team knew they were up against stiff competition against Saguaro.

“You know, they battled all game. They didn’t quit. We knew what we were up against, and they fought. I’m super proud of them for it,” he said. “It’s been a fun ride. You know, we made it to the quarter final my first year here, and it’s a great stepping stone for the future.”

It was the Cobras’ third straight trip to the 4A quarterfinals.

It didn’t help that the Cobras were without starting quarterback junior Conner Cordts, who broke his hand in the last game of the regular season. Top wideout, senior Zaach Cullop, stepped into the role and the team relied heavily on the run. They were constantly stymied by Saguaro, netting negative yards at halftime.

Junior quarterback Tyler Beverett led the way for Saguaro, throwing for 206 yards and four touchdowns. It was Beverett’s third game back since missing a month with a knee sprain.

“You can see he’s starting to get comfortable,” Coach Mohns said. “He made good decisions with the ball. He didn’t force anything; he took what the defense gave us. And he’s surrounded by a lot of playmakers.”

Junior running back Israel Benjamin led the ground attack with 99 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Through the air, senior tight end Hayden Hatten had 105 yards and junior wideout Josiah Jacobs had 93. Both caught two of Beverett’s four touchdowns. Jacobs added another touchdown on the ground.

Before the Sabrecat offense even took the field, senior Connor Soelle opened scoring with a 56-yard punt return touchdown after the Saguaro defense forced its first three-and-out.

Senior safety Nate Polk had a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Junior running back Anthony Flores had the Cobras’ only score — a 14-yard rushing touchdown with four minutes left in the game.

Flores had much more success against the Sabrecats’ second team than the starters. He netted no yards on nine carries in the first half but had 48 yards on six carries in the second half — an average of eight yards per carry.

Saguaro High School football team. (Photo by Joe McInerney)

Cactus didn’t complete its first pass until the last drive of the first half. Cullop completed only two of 10 passes for eight yards and had an interception.

He did what he could with his legs, but netted 18 yards on 13 carries. For most of the night, the Cactus offense consisted mostly of rushes from Cullop and Flores, with little success. As a team, Cactus averaged 1.8 yards per rush.

Coach Ortiz said the offense had to improvise without Cordts.

“Our offense is predicated on throwing the ball. We haven’t been able to do that, so it hinders us,” he said.

While Cactus’s season is over, Saguaro has an eye for the future.

“We’re playing our best football at the best time of the year,” Mohns told his team after the game. “ … Let’s keep raising the bar.”

Saguaro is after its sixth state championship in six years and its 10th in 12 years.

Running up the score?

Coach Ortiz accused Coach Mohns and the Sabrecats of running up the score in his team’s 69-6 defeat. He didn’t take issue with the Saguaro starters taking the field coming out of the half up 55-0, but he said they should have stopped throwing the ball.

“They threw the ball up 55; they were still throwing the ball deep. To me, that’s pretty classless, and I’m not afraid to say it, ‘cause they ran up the score,” Ortiz said. “… I don’t know what you’re gaining from that. But like I said, have fun beating up on the little guys.”

Coach Mohns said there aren’t really any “little guys” still playing at this stage of the season.

“I mean, they’re in the second round of the playoffs, so they’re not the Sisters of the Poor,” he said.

Coach Mohns also said he approached Friday’s game the same way he’s approached each blowout victory in his seven years heading Saguaro.

“We’re going to come out, and our game plan is regardless of who we’re playing and what the score is, we play the whole first half and we play the first series of the second half with our starters. And we play football. And after that, then we pull all of our guys out, we run the ball and we back off,” Mohns said.

The Sabrecat starters took the ball on offense after the second half kickoff and scored on a four-and-a-half-minute drive, that included four passes of nine or more yards, to put Saguaro up 62-0. The defensive starters played one series, that resulted in Polk’s pick-six, which made the score 69-0.

The Saguaro second string did not score on two possessions, passing only once. The game had a running clock since midway through the second quarter when Saguaro went up 49-0.

Editor’s Note: Mark Carlisle is the Glendale Today News Editor for Independent Newsmedia.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment