Welcome to the 4A-I Desert Sky Region. The pregame handshake between captains was about as close as top-ranked Saguaro came to being kind hosts to Phoenix Shadow Mountain Thursday.
The visiting Matadors were in the 5A Conference a year ago and found out quickly the defending state champion Sabercats have no plans in relinquishing their top billing anytime soon.
Saguaro turned five first-half Matador turnovers into 28 points on its way to a 49-0 win in the opening league game for both teams.
It was the second straight shutout for the Sabercats (4-0, 1-0). They beat Aqua Fria 56-0 last week. The Matadors are 0-1 in the league and 2-2 overall.
“It was important that the kids came out the first region game and make a statement,” Saguaro coach John Sanders said. “Our defense has led us the five years I’ve been here (including four as an assistant coach) and it was important to get the shutout.”
The defense had three interceptions, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and nine tackles for loss, making life easy for the Sabercats offense.
Saguaro scored five first-half touchdowns. Four of the scoring drives came after turnovers and started at the Shadow Mountain 27 or closer.
“Our offense did a good job of putting points on the board and our defense did a good job getting them the ball,” Sanders said.
Senior quarterback Tim Ruben threw four touchdown passes and rushed for another. Two of his tosses went to Beau Burton (20 yards and 5 yards), who added a rushing touchdown.
“Coach (Sanders) talked all week how important the region games are,”
said Burton. “We came out and hit them hard.”
Robert Huffer, Austin Swindle and Kevin Keenan each had first-half interceptions. Swindle’s 21-yard return gave the offense the ball at the Matador 6, while Keenan’s 15-yard return, along with a 5-yard personal foul penalty, gave the Sabercats the ball at the Matador 5.
Ruben’s 5-yard pass to Brett Casale gave Saguaro a 35-0 halftime lead.
Ruben had a 6-yard second-quarter touchdown run and connected with tight end Max Smith to open the second half.
Defensive linemen Joe Kellogg and Corey Adams finished with three tackles for loss each. Adams also had a sack.