Going in to Friday nights much anticipated rematch between Cactus and Chaparral both teams were averaging well over forty points a game. Any fans who were looking for a shootout in the semi-final matchup were disappointed as Cactus won 9 to 6 to make it to the state title game for a third year in a row.
The first quarter of the game would set the tone for the evening, as neither team was able to score. It is fitting that the first points of the night came when the Cactus D lead by Jake Liber and Ezra Ricks tackled Chaparral RB Kyle Williams in the endzone for a safety. On the ensuing possession Cactus scored as QB Jon Tobin hits WR Tony Lopez for a thirty-one yard TD strike. With fifty seconds left in the half Spencer Rothery would score from two yards out. Once again, Jake Liber would make a big play and block the PAT 9 to 6 Cactus up.
The 2nd half would see the same combination of sloppy O and stingy D as both offenses struggled to get anything going. The Cactus O was held in check by two more interceptions by DB Mike Cummings with his two picks in the first half Cummings had four on the night. His last pick with 4:14 left in the game looked to be the most important as he stole a Tobin pass at the one yard line stopping an apparent Cactus score. From there, Chaparral attempted to move the ball but with fifty-nine seconds left in the game David Pollock hauled in his seventh pick of the season on an acrobatic interception off a tip to take away the Firebirds bid at a comeback.
Bottom Line: It is a cliché, but defenses win championships. The Cactus O has gotten most of the headlines but the D may be the most solid unit on the squad. All season the fast Cactus D has limited opponents and made plays. Stopping the Chaparral O is no easy task with the Firebirds wide array of offensive weapons led by Rothery and Williams.
Game Balls: Appropriately these go out to two defensive players. Sophomore DB Mike Cummings had four interceptions against Cactus' highly touted pass game. The pick at the end of the 4th gave Chap a shot at winning the game. Jake Liber of Cactus has made big plays all year and Friday nigh was no exception. His safety, not only gave Cactus two points but helped set up the only Cobra TD of the night. Add in the blocked extra point and that is one big night.