A 28-point third quarter looked a little more like the Scottsdale Saguaro football team people were used to.
The No. 2 team in Division III held a slim six-point lead at the half over No. 10 Gilbert Higley but pulled away in the second half for a 55-28 win on Senior Night at Saguaro High School.
It was the Sabercats' eighth straight win as they completed a perfect record in section play.
“It was Senior Night here and we have a great senior class,” said Saguaro coach Jason Mohns. “I think they were a little sad that it was the last regular-season game for the seniors. We weren’t ourselves, but you have to give some credit to Higley.”
Sabercat quarterback Luke Rubenzer went 61 yards on a keeper on the first play of the second half to start the third-quarter onslaught. An interception by Christian Kirk followed and led to another Saguaro score, a Kirk 6-yard run, quickly increasing the lead to 35-14 with less than five minutes gone in the second half.
When Higley tried to keep pace with Ricky Marshall’s 13-yard touchdown run, the Sabercats (8-1) put an exclamation point on their quick answers, scoring twice in the latter minutes of the quarter.
Rubenzer led a four-play, 61-yard drive, with a pair of completions and a pair of long runs, the second a 15-yard touchdown jaunt. Later, the senior did his work on defense, intercepting a Tyler Bloom pass and returning it 36 yards to the Higley 4. On the next play, he connected with Brett Adams for a touchdown and 48-21 lead with still 1:58 left in the third.
“(The start of the second half) was a big momentum change,” said Rubenzer. “Coach Jason stressed to come out strong the first couple drives and we did exactly that and our defense stepped up in the second half.”
Though admittedly sluggish, the Sabercats led 20-14 at the break. They scored three times, but only had four possessions. Higley (5-2) had 46 offensive plays to Saguaro’s 18.
“I told our guys it’s a sign of a good team when you’re not yourself, but you still lead at the half,” Mohns said.
Higley led 14-12 and was moving in on extending its lead when Marshall fumbled inside the Sabercat 20, Kirk recovered and returned the ball to the Saguaro 40. Rubenzer hit Adams for a 30-yard gain on the next play and found Adams again from the 9, to give the hosts the lead for good, 20-14.
“In big games like this you have to take full advantage of turnovers,” said Kirk, who also had an interception and an impressive reverse of field 66-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass.
Rubenzer either ran or threw for six of the eight Saguaro touchdowns and he completed two passes for a pair of two-point conversions. He finished with 12 rushes for 149 yards and three scores, while throwing for three more and connecting on 15-of-18 for 343 yards.
“We had a great game plan coming in,” said Rubenzer. “It was a little rough in the first half. We only had the ball four times, but we scored three and the only one we didn’t was because of a penalty. We stuck with it and it worked out well for us.”
Kirk had six catches for 140 yards, Adams and Nettleton each had 90 receiving yards, Adams on five catches, Nettleton on three.
Marshall finished with 149 yards on 29 carries.
Saguaro 55, Higley 28
First Downs: H 25, S 22
Rushing: H 41-194, S 27-205
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): H 18-33-1-217-2, S 17-22-3-376-0
Fumbles-lost: H 1-1, S 0-0
Penalties-yards: H 3-20, S 7-82
Higley 7 7 7 7 -- 28
Saguaro 12 8 28 7 -- 55
S: Kirk 66 pass from Rubenzer (kick failed)
H: Johnson 9 run (MIller kick)
S: Rubenzer 3 run (kick failed)
H: Colson 21 pass from Bloom (Miller kick)
S: Adams 9 pass from Rubenzer (Nettleton pass from Rubenzer)
S: Rubenzer 61 run (Koutsalas pass from Rubenzer)
S: Kirk 6 run (Tjaarda kick)
H: Marshall 13 run (Miller kick)
S: Rubenzer 15 run (Tjaarda kick)
S: Adams 4 pass from Rubenzer (kick blocked)
S: Reece 3 run (Tjaarda kick)
H: Marshall 32 run (Miller kick)