All the accolades wouldn’t have mattered much without the ring. Scottsdale Saguaro quarterback Tim Ruben hit the elusive 2,000-yard rushing, 2,000-yard passing milestone in the third quarter of the 4A-I championship game against Tucson Canyon del Oro on Dec. 8, but it was the furthest thing from his mind one quarter later.
A startling comeback by Canyon del Oro put Ruben and his Saguaro mates on the ropes for the first time all year. A 21-20 deficit with 3:09 left threatened to derail a perfect season and end hopes of a repeat title.
“I was definitely shocked,” Ruben said. “We hadn’t been put in that position. It was something new to us.”
The Saguaro offense raced out onto the field for its final drive, and as the other 10 members of the Saguaro offense stared at him in the huddle, the Tribune’s player of the year stayed calm. Afterward, teammates credited Ruben’s steady demeanor as a deciding factor.
If only they knew.
“Oh, I was nervous,” Ruben said, “but I didn’t want to show it. If I was nervous, then other kids were going to be nervous. I was hoping for a miracle.”
Nerves or not, Ruben never panicked, driving the Sabercats 67 yards to set up Steven Chiappetti’s game-winning 30-yard field goal with two seconds left.
Ruben ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in the game, but converted two fourth downs on the drive with the right arm that scouts think is too weak for the Division I level.
On the second one — a 17-yard pass to Andrew Johnson that directly preceded the Chiappetti field goal — Ruben was almost hauled down, and it would have ended Saguaro’s season.
“I’ve watched the film since, I didn’t realize how close I was to being sacked,” Ruben said.
It couldn’t have been much more of a storybook career for Ruben, who finished 24-1 with a pair of state titles as the starting quarterback.
He earned player of the year honors from multiple outlets and ended his senior season with 2,227 yards passing, 2,023 yards rushing and 44 combined touchdowns. He lost only two fumbles and threw four interceptions.
From one game to the next, Ruben would find a completely different way to beat you, driving opposing coaches crazy in the process.
But if that Canyon del Oro defender would have reached him, honors like this one would have been hollow.
“All the awards, everything, would have meant nothing to me if that field goal didn’t go through,” Ruben said.
“You build, you work all of this to try to get that one goal. If you don’t complete that one goal you’ve completed nothing. To go out and lose, all that hard work means nothing.
“But having it turn out this way, it’s amazing.”
Looking Back: Memorable moments from the 2007 season
Barn-burner of the year: Nothing better than to have a title game come down to the final play. Scottsdale Saguaro drove from its own 20-yard line into field goal range in the final three minutes after 17 of the 4A-I title game’s 44 points were scored in the final five minutes. Steven Chiappetti’s 30-yard field goal with two seconds left gave Saguaro a 23-21 victory over Tucson Canyon del Oro and back-to-back titles.
One-man wrecking crew: Chandler Basha running back Quinn Evans scored five touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 54-yard offensive fumble recovery to give the Bears a stunning 41-34 victory over Mesa Dobson in the first round of the 5A-I playoffs.
Long-range sharpshooter: In their first game as region foes, Crismon Road rivals Mesa Skyline and Mesa Desert Ridge produced a classic. Down 22-0 early in the second quarter, the Jaguars rallied to tie the game at 29-all with 42 seconds remaining. But the Coyotes answered when kicker Jared Smith booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired for 32-29 victory.
All hail Queen Creek: With the 4A-II East Sky Region title on the line and just seconds remaining in the regular-season finale, Queen Creek quarterback Richie Edwards unloaded a Hail Mary pass from just beyond Gilbert Higley’s 35-yard line that Jensen Nevitt hauled in to give Queen Creek a 30-28 victory.
Too many tragedies: Football took a back seat during a somber six-week stretch from August to October. On Aug. 24, Tempe High volunteer assistant Paul Northcutt, Jr. died of an allergic reaction. On Sept. 21, Chandler Valley Christian’s Danny Pasanella died of a heroin overdose. Mesa Dobson junior varsity player Raegan Pride was shot and killed just two days later. On Sept. 30, Scottsdale Saguaro’s Jake Dunn crashed his longboard and needed several brain surgeries to stay alive, though he did watch the Sabercats win the 4A-I title. On Oct. 6, Chandler’s Dion Jordan suffered severe burns when attempting to turn off a vacuum he was using to siphon gas from a vehicle. He missed the rest of the season but is now playing basketball.
Class 5A All-Tribune second team
OFFENSE — QB: David Viel, Marcos de Niza, Sr. RB: J.R. Hamm, Corona del Sol, Sr.; Luckas Scott, Mesquite, Sr. WR: Donald Richardson, Marcos de Niza, Sr.; Ty West, Highland, Sr.; Archie Woulard, Chandler, Sr. OL: Richie Couch, Gilbert, Sr.; Shaumik Torres, Marcos de Niza, Sr.; Colton Porter, Red Mountain, Sr; David Hakes, Mtn. View, Sr; Chris Veto, Hamilton, Sr.; RS: Bryce Lamb, Chandler, Jr. K: Brock Jolly, Desert Vista, Sr.
DEFENSE — DL: Mike Tree, Brophy, Jr.; Danny Mullarkey, Desert Vista, Jr.; Derek Raymond, Pinnacle, Sr. LB: Thomas Brown, Skyline, Jr.; Matt Padilla, Brophy, Jr.; Adam Holzmeister, Brophy, Jr.; Roman Abreau, Marcos de Niza, So.; DB: Zack Alger, Basha, Sr.; Matt Galterio, Desert Mountain, Sr.; Ryan Milus, Hamilton, Jr.; James Morrison, St. Mary’s, Sr. P: Jason Barkac, Marcos de Niza, Sr.
Class 5A honorable mention
BASHA: Quinton Andrews, DL, Jr.; Quinn Evans, RB, Sr.; John Fontes, OL, Sr.; Troy Graham, QB, Sr.; Bo Matthewson, LB, Sr.; Ryan McBurney, TE, Sr.; Bryan Rheault, LB, Sr.; Jay Smith, DL, Jr. BROPHY: Anthony Hooks, DB, Sr.; Hank Mackey, OL, Sr.; Tanner Martin, OL, Sr.; Ray Polk, RB, Sr.; Bobby Rodriguez, RB, Sr.; Billy Sanders, DL, Jr.; John Wells, K, So.; CASA GRANDE: Harnish Ayora, RB, Sr.; CHANDLER: Dion Jordan, DL, Sr.; Kyle Trella, P, Sr.; Tommy Jilek, OL, Jr.; CORONA DEL SOL: Evan Altheide, LB, Jr.; Eric Benson, WR, Sr.; Kyle Benson, LB, Sr.; Wyatt Cahill, OL, Sr.; Austin Cartwright, DL, Sr.; Elijah Chang, DB, Sr.; Tyler Gionnanatti, OL, Jr. DESERT MOUNTAIN: Tyler Davidson, DL, So.; Joe Marinan, OL, Sr.; James Rana, DB, Sr.; DESERT RIDGE: Josh Cain, QB, Sr.; Chris Heldore, WR, Jr.; Lucas Robinson, WR, Sr.; Tali Sili, OL, Sr. DESERT VISTA: Keith Anglin, DB, Sr.; Allante Battle, RB/DB, Sr.; Steven Figueroa, TE, Sr.; Brock Jolly, K, Sr.; Brandon Lewis, DL, Sr.; Luke Matthews, WR, Sr.; Cole Pembroke, QB, Jr.; Mason Stanley, LB, Sr.; Zeb Togiai, DL, Sr.; Connor Wilson, OL, Jr.; DOBSON: Kadeem Holman, RB, Sr.; Kyle Henson, OL, Sr.; Melvin Douglas IV, LB, Sr. GILBERT: Beau Gardner, OL, Sr.; Drew Swartz, DL, Jr.; Jeremy Mendoza, DB, Sr.; HAMILTON: Anthony Cascio, K, Sr.; Anthony Jones, LB, Jr.; Covaughn DeBoskie, RB, Sr.; Michael Sylvestre, DL, Jr.; HIGHLAND: Jeremy Fuhst, QB, Sr.; Mike Madrid, LB, Sr.; HORIZON: Chris Prosch, DL, Sr.; Cru Casey, DB, Jr.; J.D. Souder, LB, Jr.; Rob Stanford, OL, Sr.; Joe Riccio, OL; Sr. MARCOS de NIZA: Quinton Baker, DB, Sr.; Donavan Henley, DB, Jr.; Michael Greer, OL, Sr.; Jimmy Mamane, DB, Sr. MESA: Keelan Johnson, RB, Sr.; Joe Matney, OL, Sr.; Pasiaka Fahina, DL, Jr. MESQUITE: Adam Marquez, DB, Jr.; Bryant Mole, OL, Sr.; Mike Bolicek, DL, Jr.; Nolan Jeffries, LB, Sr.; Trevor Kohl, TE/LB, Sr. MOUNTAIN POINTE: Gage Gorman, P, Sr.; Marquese Wheaton, RB/DB, Sr.; Markus Wheaton, WR, Sr. MOUNTAIN VIEW: Ron Taylor, WR, Sr.; Brett Hardison, TE, Sr.; Carlos Seanz, OL, Sr; Brandon Mathews, LB, Jr.; Alex Salas, DB, Jr. PINNACLE: Evan Johnson, QB, Sr.; Max Zemezonak, WR, Sr.; Fred Herdman, DT, Jr.; Jake Gibson, S, Sr.; Jonathan Crist, CB, Sr. RED MOUNTAIN: Aaron Ellsworth, WR, Sr.; Colton Sinsabaugh, OL, Sr.; Anthony Smith, DL, Sr; Kolten Molina, DB, Sr. SKYLINE: Bryce Albertsman, WR, Sr.; Lance Hyer, DL, Jr.; Elija McPherson, RB, Sr. ST. MARY’S: Sean Alvarado, OL, Sr.; Josh Hart, LB, Sr.; Joe Jajou, LB, Jr.; Robert Mendoza, DL, Sr.; Jacob Santa Cruz, WR, Jr. WESTWOOD: Brandon Large, QB, Sr.; Kyle Deering, OL, Sr.; Ben Parker, LB, Sr.; Adam Garcia, DB, Sr.; Calvin Washington, DB, Sr.
Class 4A-2A All-Tribune second team
OFFENSE – QB: Sean Renfree, Notre Dame, Sr. RB: Tyree Parker, Paradise Valley, So.; Ryan Tully, Scottsdale Christian, Sr; Brad Jackson, Coolidge, Sr. WR: Nick Gleiser, Seton Catholic, Sr.; Malcolm Martin, McClintock, Sr. OL: Chris Merrill, Saguaro, Sr.; Eddie Mayora, Apache Junction, Sr.; Steve Hardy, Higley, Sr.; Ryan Reardon, Notre Dame, Jr.; Jake Hendrickson, Seton Catholic, Sr. RS: Paul Porras, Saguaro, Jr. K: Steve Langston, Fountain Hills, Jr.
DEFENSE — DL: R.J. Arriaga, Higley, Jr.; Chris Manship, Cactus Shadows, Sr.; Jesus Trujillo, Coronado, Sr.; Jeremy Loya, Apache Junction, Sr. LB: Jon McDonald, Seton Catholic, Sr.; Devon Torres, Florence, Sr.; Jake Goddard, Queen Creek, Jr. DB: Andy Wilder, Notre Dame, Jr.; Dylan Borys, Paradise Valley, Sr.; David Carroll, Arcadia, Jr.; Pedro Rubio, Tempe, Sr. P: James Carew, Queen Creek, Sr.
Class 4A-2A honorable mention
APACHE JUNCTION: Nate Scola, LB, So. ARCADIA: Maurice Willingham, DL, Sr.; Kramer Hope, LB, Sr.; Colby Kirkegaard, QB, So. CACTUS SHADOWS: Anthony Stephens, DB/RB, So.; Matt Williams, LB, Sr. CHAPARRAL: Tyler Williams, TE, Jr.; Spencer Stone, QB, Jr.; Derek Oesterblad, DB, Sr. COOLIDGE: Jeremy White, RB, Jr.; Rodney Reagans, RB, Jr. CORONADO: J.D. Harper, TE, Sr.; Bryan Dunlavey, WR, Jr. FLORENCE: Andy Martinez, WR, Sr.; Chase Simon, LB, Jr. FOUNTAIN HILLS: Josh Trulson, WR, Sr. HIGLEY: Tito Gonzalez, LB, Sr.; Eddie Rodriguez, DL, Sr. MARICOPA: Derek Gonzales, LB, Jr. MCCLINTOCK: Kelly Kurzman, QB, Sr; Robert Mahoe, DL, Sr. NOTRE DAME: Shaun Ramirez, LB, Jr.; Matt Kron, OL, Jr. PARADISE VALLEY: Chris McFaul, DB, Sr.; Jake Brown, RB/LB, So. QUEEN CREEK: Tod Workman, RB, Sr.; Brighton Solomon, LB, Jr. SAGUARO: Beau Burton, RB., So.; Michael Kirkegaard, DB, Sr.; Brett Spotleson, LB, Sr. SCOTTSDALE CHRISTIAN: Jim Crowell, OL, Sr.; Jeff Matney, LB, Jr.; Paul Jurewicz, LB, So.; Jake Storrer, DB, Jr.; Mike Munsil, DL, Jr. SETON CATHOLIC: Corey Vaughan, RB, Sr. TEMPE: Dylan Jodsaas, LB, Sr.; Donald Horvath, OL, Jr. VALLEY CHRISTIAN: Anthony Kereluk, RB, So.; John Kredit, OL, Sr.; Jon Durst, OL, Sr.; Jordan Morgan, P, Fr.; Thomas Drane, LB, Sr.; Nick Dwyer, DL, Sr.