November 13, 2004
Like it has all season, Saguaro didn’t quite get out of the box quickly. But the sixthseeded Sabercats looked like they had most of the season in the third quarter — enough for their 10th straight win and a berth in the 4A quarterfinals.
"We came out pumped in the second half," said quarterback John Sanders of the 35-10 firstround playoff win Friday over visiting Tucson Amphitheater. "I mean there were a lot of seniors who knew we were not going to lose this game. We weren’t going to lose. We were determined to win the game."
Saguaro now travels to Tucson next Friday to face defending state champion and thirdseeded Sunnyside.
Tyler Porras rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown to lead Saguaro (10-1) past the Panthers (7-4) and legendary coach Vern Friedli, who has 299 wins in his career.
The shrewd old-school coach looked like he had an upset on his mind, after his team took the opening drive 79 yards in five plays and led 7-0 with 10:06 left in the first quarter. The Panthers had a 10-7 advantage at halftime.
But Sanders found John Casale on a 42-yard pass play that set up an 8-yard TD pass to Mike Bloch on the first possession of the third quarter.
A pair of penalties and a botched pass play left Amphi deep in its territory, and Saguaro used the short field after a punt to quickly score again — Porras’ 4-yard run gave the Sabercats a 21-10 lead. Before the quarter was out, Sanders found Casale again, this time on a 31-yard scoring play.
"We lost our first game, we’ve come back, we’ve won ever since," said Sanders, who was 1-for-5 with two interceptions in the first 24 minutes. "We’ve had to fight all season, but we’ll keep fighting because we are going to the quarterfinals now."
Saguaro coach Mike Reardon explained the first half as nerves and the second half as the team that has won 10 in a row. "The kids settled down," Reardon said. "We had jitters because we hadn’t been here before. (A lot) of these kids hadn’t been in a playoff game and they showed it."
Amphi had the Sabercats on the ropes, outgaining them 214-72 in the first half. But Saguaro held Amphi to minus-6 yards passing in the second half and just 18 yards total after halftime.