Sabino controls Independence

‘Cats down Pats 31-6 in last week's Cox 7 game of the week

Lots of questions this season down in the Tanque Verde Canyon regarding the two-time 4A-1 runners-up Sabino Sabercats.  Who would fill in for 1,400 yard rusher Chris Lundgren?  How would the graduation of three year starter Justin Randall affect the offense?  Can Lucas Volk make the transition to linebacker, allowing Lucas Reed to play defensive end?  After Friday's win against Independence, consider all questions answered.


From the opening kickoff that Scott Brown returned for a score only to have it called back on a holding penalty, to the end of the game, Sabino showed that, once again, it has the goods to contend for a state title.  Quarterback Will Naas, a better athlete than Randall, ran the offense with proficiency and will get better.  A tailback by committee featuring Brown and Mark Dragoslovich looks like they will combine to meet or beat the numbers of Lundgren.  Volk is a monster at middle linebacker.  Reed looks like the next coming of, well, brother Brooks.  And the offensive line led by Jason Nottingham is among the better lines in 4A. 


After the opening kick was called back, the Sabercats calmly drove down the field and scored on a short run by Brown to go up 7.  Independence came up with some trickery on their kick return, reversing the ball to fast Tyquan Wilson for 62 yards, Cat kicker Bobby Bird forcing him out.  The Patriots, winners of nine games a year ago and coached by former Sabino head Gary Buer, couldn't score on the good field position.  Sabino took over and promptly moved down the field, scoring on a Naas to Reed pass, the first of two hook-ups for touchdowns by the duo. 


Independence had their shots.  Junior strong safety Jacob Hiles pick off Naas and returned it deep into Sabino territory.  Again, the Sabercat defense held.  On the night, the Patriots struggled running the ball.  Wilson, who averaged seven yards per carry a year ago, had negative yards rushing after 10 carries.  Coach Buer started sophomore Tyler Peoples at quarterback, but brought senior Jeff Seelinger into the game late in the second quarter after Peoples struggled.  The loss of top receiver Kyree Perkins to a broken arm hurt the passing game.  Defensively, Diego Bencomo, a two time state wrestling champion, was very effective and penetrated into the backfield several times for the Pats.  Fullback Edward Mendoza scored the only Independence touchdown in the fourth quarter on a run up the middle.  Mendoza was also effective on short swing passes out of the backfield.  This is an Independence team in search of an identity.  A big ,talented offensive line needs to assert themselves.  The talent is there and don't be surprised if they win six or seven games and get to the playoffs. 


Sabino continued to dominate in the second half.  Their defense caused havoc and the offense mixed up the pass and run well.  They need to develop a deep threat for Naas at the wide receiver slot, but they have got a legitimate red zone go-to guy in the six foot six inch Reed.  Game balls to Reed for his two touchdowns in his first varsity start and Volk for the successful transition to linebacker from the end spot a year ago.  Final score:  Sabino 31 Independence 6. 

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