Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the defense for Saguaro and Phoenix Thunderbird, please return immediately.
Both were missing on Friday, but it was Saguaro who outscored and outlasted host-Thunderbird, 43-39, as new coach Jason Mohns earned his first win of his coaching career the hard way.
The defending state champion Sabercats came off a disappointing season-opening loss to Paradise Valley one week ago. Jason Mohns couldn’t handle another disappointment like that.
“I don’t know if I could have slept this week if we didn’t pull this one out,” he said.
It took a remarkable performance from quarterback Luke Rubenzer to even give Saguaro a chance. The junior threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more including the game-winner with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 39-36 with 3:39 remaining, the Sabercats (1-1) had the football at their own 37-yard line. On that six-play, game-winning drive, Rubenzer completed 3-of-4 passes and rushed twice for 27 yards. He got the last three with a hard-earned run into the end zone.
The Saguaro coaches were putting the fate of the Sabercats in the hands of Rubenzer and he came through. In all, the quarterback had 457 yards of total offense. He threw for 306 and ran for another 151.
“The coaches called my number,” Rubenzer said.
Trailing 39-36, the Sabercats tried to tie the game with 5:40 left when Garrett Ball attempted a 32-yard field goal. It was blocked.
“We never kick field goals, but he was stroking it tonight and he told me he could make it,” Mohns said.
Neither team had more than a seven-point lead and neither team had a problem moving the football. The only time Saguaro didn’t score was when it turned the ball over. Other than a punt on its first possession, Thunderbird (0-2) didn’t have to give the football back to Saguaro until late in the fourth quarter on a punt.
The two teams combined for an astounding 46 first downs and 979 yards of offense as they moved up and down the football field with ease. It didn’t help the Sabercats that they were missing all four regular starters in their secondary to injuries. Heck, Rubenzer even played safety the entire second half. He was exhausted.
“I had to dig deep on that last drive,” Rubenzer said.
Saguaro struggled to match the speed of the Chiefs with running backs Kani Benoit and Darren Dorrsey often getting into the secondary.
Benoit was sensational as he rushed 23 times for 206 yards and three touchdowns. That including a 95-yard run early in the second half that gave Thunderbird a 26-21 lead. It came after a Saguaro fumble.
“I can’t believe our kids were able to keep their cool,” Mohns said. “The kids are resilient.”
Quarterback Jake Glatting was impressive in his first start of the season completing 15-of-22 pass for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scoring throws came on fourth down.
Saguaro 43, Thunderbird 39
Saguaro 7 14 8 14 - 43
Thunderbird 7 13 13 6 – 39
First downs 26 20
Rushes-yards 30-247 36-257
Passing yards 306 169
Passes 22-27-1 15-22-0
Fumbles 2-2 0-0
Penalties 9-75 11-65
S – G. Adams 2 run (Ball kick)
T – Turner 26 pass from Glatting (Reilly kick)
S – B. Adams 6 pass from Rubenzer (Ball kick)
T – Raynak 26 pass from Glatting (Reilly kick)
S – G. Adams 11 pass from Rubenzer (Ball kick)
T – Ganados 4 pass from Glatting (kick failed)
T – Benoit 95 run (run failed)
S – Seminara 3 pass from Rubenzer (B. Adams pass from Rubenzer)
T – Benoit 5 run (Reilly kick)
S – Rubenzer 56 run (Ball kick)
T – Benoit 1 run (kick blocked)
S – Rubenzer 3 run (Ball kick)