No asterisk needed this time.
The Saguaro football team’s starters played every snap against Chaparral on Friday night, but the end result was the same as a season ago.
The Firebirds scored 35 straight points in the first half to again turn this rivalry game into a bore, cruising to the 38-20 win at Saguaro.
Last year, then-Sabercats coach John Sanders rested his starters in the regular season finale against Chaparral so they would be ready for the playoffs, and the Firebirds won, 65-0.
This one wasn’t quite that easy, but after a Kash Robinson touchdown run put the Sabercats ahead 7-0 midway through the first quarter, Chaparral turned it on and won in blowout fashion again.
“They outplayed us and they outcoached us,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “That’s all you can say.”
Gary McKay answered Robinson’s score with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and Josh Aganon gave Chaparral the lead by catching a 39-yard touchdown pass with 12.7 seconds left in the first quarter.
Quarterback Brad Schencker had a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs and running back Emerson Carrethers added a third as the Firebirds proved their superiority.
Chaparral’s defense was dominant, stuffing Saguaro’s running game and giving Saguaro quarterback Luke Rubenzer little time to throw the ball.
Rubenzer finished with 125 yards passing and 77 rushing, but was completely bottled up in the first half when the Firebirds jumped out to the big lead.
Chaparral played conservatively in the second half by running the ball to milk the clock, relying on its defense to shut down the Sabercats — a rarity against a program that is known for its explosive offense.
“We stopped them on everything,” said Chaparral defensive back Tyler Whiley, who had a key fumble recovery in the first quarter. “We knew what they were going to do before they lined up to do it.”
Chaparral started the season 1-3 but has now won six straight heading into the postseason. The Firebirds were on the playoff bubble just two weeks ago but now should have a home game in the first round.
More importantly, the three-time defending champions seem to be rounding into form at the perfect time. Chaparral graduated many of its key players from last year’s title team, including quarterback Connor Brewer and wide receiver Davonte Neal.
But the new group showed its worth against Saguaro and will look to build on it moving forward.
“We’re on a serious roll,” Chaparral coach Dave Huffine said.
Schencker finished 12-of-22 for 162 yards with a touchdown and added the two rushing scores. Josh Aganon had five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Saguaro was No. 8 in the Division III power rankings and may now have to play on the road in the first round.
Chaparral 38, Saguaro 20
C - 14 21 0 3 --38
S - 7 0 0 13 -- 20
First downs: C 15; S 15.
Rushes-Yards: C 35-72; 41-173
Passing Yards: C 162; S 125
Comp-Att-INT: C 12-22-1; S 7-17-0
Fumbles-Lost: C 0-0; S 2-2
Penalty-Yards: C 11-95; S 11-95.
S — Robinson 24 run, Tjaarda kick
C — McKay 85 kickoff return, McReynolds kick
C — Aganon 39 pass from Schencker, McReynolds kick
C — Schencker 1 run, McReynolds kick
C — Schencker 11 run, McReynolds kick
C — Carrethers 5 run, McReynolds kick
S — Adams 21 run, Tjaarda kick
C — McReynolds 30 kick
S — Rubenzer 1 run, kick blocked