If this game would have been on ESPN, they would dub it an "Instant Classic". As it was, the game between the Saguaro Sabercats and the Greenway Demons has to go dowon as one of the most exciting games in the Cox Game of the Week's history.
Saguaro coach Mike Reardon knew his defense would have their hands full against the potent Greenway offense conducted by Head Coach Mike "The Professor" Brown. He was right. The Demons threw caution to the wind all night on their homecoming, and the Sabercats were forced to match them touchdown for touchdown.
On Greenway's first possession, the Demons were stopped on fourth and short and turned the ball over to the ‘Cats near midfield. From there, junior QB T.J. Rauch hit senior tight end Ronnie Luko for a 30 yard score to take a 7-0 lead. Luko, who caught 3 passes for 71 yards on the night, is fast becoming the go-to guy for the Sabercats. He had 2 touchdowns last week against McClintock and if the college scouts are smart, they'd pay him a visit. At 6'5" with hands of glue and the ability to put on 25-30 more pounds, this kid has the ability to be a D-1 player.
Greenway struck right back, as you would expect them to. Senior signal caller Nate Hodges hit wideout Dan Oakey on a 72 yard bomb for a score. The Demons went for two on the conversion and made it to go up 8-7. After a Kenton Thomas touchdown made it 15-7, Greenway's Nick Certo took things in his own hands, first blocking a punt and then taking a handoff to paydirt as Greenway stretched their lead to 21-7. The capacity homecoming crowd went nuts.
The mark of this years Saguaro team is one of never giving up. The Sabercats drove 85 yards in a little over three minutes, Rauch to a wide open Max Tabach from 31 yards to close to 21-13 after the missed extra point. With three fifteen to go in the half, Brown again decided to roll the dice and went for it all on fourth and fifteen from his own thirty yard line. Hodges missed a wide open Oakey deep down the middle to turn the ball over. The Sabercats cashed in on a bit of trickery, with back-up quarterback Tim Ruben taking a handoff from Rauch and then throwing back to Rauch who was wide open in the end zone. The two point conversion was good and the game was tied 21-21 at the half.
If you thought the first half was good, the second half was even better. Hodges, apparently inspired by being named the homecoming king at halftime, came out determined to put a so-so first half behind him. He went 23 yards and 9 yards on the option for two scores and hit Oakey for 44 yards as the Demons built a 42-30 lead. With just over two minutes left, Greenway seemingly had this one wrapped up.
But, that's why the game is 48 minutes long. The Sabercats capitalized on a Hodges fumble on a great play by linebacker Adam Coe deep in Demon territory and scored on a short run by Rauch to cut the lead to 42-37. The never say die Saguaro team then executed a perfect onside kick that was recovered by the smallest player on the Sabercat team, 5'7", 135 pound Kyle Horwarth. This set up what would turn out to be one of the most exciting finishes of the year.
Rauch turned in the key plays, first a 29 yard scamper down the sideline on third and long to get the ‘Cats in position. After a holding call pushed them back to the 23 yard line, Saguaro was down to it's final play. Fourth and 18, the Sabercats called on their main man, Tyler Porras, who had been uncharacteristically quiet on the night. They sent him on a "wheel" route where he was guarded man to man. Rauch put up the perfect pass and, despite getting interfered with, Porras hauled in the prayer with 8 seconds left on the clock to pull out a 43-42 Saguaro win.
Game balls go out to quite a few players. The Demons got great efforts from Hodges, Oakey, Nick Vaden, and Certo. Hodges was 6 of 12 passing for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. He rushed for another 53 yards and the two big scores in the second half. Oakey had 3 receptions for 125 yards and two scores. He also played some good defense. Vaden was a force in the first half on defense. He was in the ‘Cat backfield time and again and was a major reason why Porras was held to 47 yards on 11 carries.
For the Sabercats you have to begin with Rauch. The junior came up with the game of his life in a game Saguaro had to win. He was 12 of 20 passing for 3 touchdowns. He came into the game with just 2 touchdown passes on the year. He rushed for 67 yards and a score and also caught a touchdown pass. Porras was efficient, gaining the 47 yards on the ground and 68 through the air, including the winner. Alex Ruben picked up another 66 yards and a touchdown as the young Sabercat offensive line continues to improve each game.
Greenway looks like they will make
the playoffs. Games against Apollo
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This was another big win for Saguaro. They had to have this one. A loss with rival Chaparral up next week would have been devastating to the ‘Cats playoff hopes. Now, it looks like they at least have a good shot with a win against either Chaparral or Pinnacle. The win will certainly keep their momentum going. Four wins in a row against a killer schedule. You don't want to play Saguaro come playoff time if you're a top seed. The Sabercats have to believe they're a team of destiny at this point.