This is Saguaro’s time of the year.
The visiting Sabercats used a blitzkrieg offense and scored on its first four possessions Friday as No. 9 Saguaro upended No. 8 Glendale Cactus, 42-14, in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
Saguaro (8-3) will again be on the road next Friday as the Sabercats travel to face No. 1-seeded Goodyear Desert Edge in the quarterfinals. The Scorpions (11-0) trounced No. 16 Surprise Shadow Ridge 49-9 in the opening round.
Saguaro posted its ninth straight playoff victory, including a 31-23 victory over Cactus in the state championship game last fall, but this was the first playoff victory for first-year coach Jason Mohns.
“In a playoff game against a team as well-coached as Cactus, that is a great start,” said Mohns, who inherited a program that has posted two straight state championships. “I don’t think we thought it would be quite like that.”
Saguaro, who defeated Cactus 67-14 in the regular season, didn’t seem to have any hangover after suffering a loss to rival Chaparral a week earlier.
Quarterback Luke Rubenzer utilized the screen game and passed for three touchdowns in the first quarter of 46, 25 and 39 yards to three different Saguaro wideouts.
“Our receivers are athletes and the coaches really emphasized that this week,” said Rubenzer, who finished 14-of-18 for 290 yards and a career-high 5 TD passes . “Coaches said ‘get the athletes the ball and make them make plays.’ That’s what they did tonight.”
On the other end of Rubenzer’s hot hand were Gena Adams and Christian Kirk. Adams caught 3 passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns while Kirk hauled in 6 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
“As we get into the playoffs, we know to turn it on,” Kirk said. “Practice is different, so much more up-tempo and intense. We know every week we got to come out because we know we are playing a good opponent, but that is what we do best.”
Ayden Richards also had a 39-yard TD catch while Isaiah Bradley caught an 8-yard TD pass in the third quarter.
Rubenzer paced the Sabercats on the ground, rushing for 109 yards on 13 carries. Adams accounted for 85 yards, including a 64-yard TD run in the first quarter.
“We live for tough games, we live for the playoffs,” Rubenzer said. “Ultimately our goal is to win state.”
Despite the uncharacteristic three regular season losses, Mohns believes the tougher schedule will be a benefit as the Sabercats pursue a three-peat.
“We feel like we are battle tested and we are going to play whoever is lined up across from us,” Mohns said. “You have to beat good teams to win a state championship.”
Saguaro 42, Cactus 14
Saguaro 28 7 7 0 – 42
Cactus 0 0 0 14 – 14
First Downs: Saguaro 24, Cactus 12
Rushing: Saguaro 31-302, Cactus 30-67
Comp-Att-Int: Saguaro 14-18-0, Cactus 11-19-2
Passing Yards: Saguaro 290, Cactus 159
Fumbles-Lost: Saguaro 0-0, Cactus 1-0
Penalties-Yards: Saguaro 14-125, Cactus 11-65
S – Kirk 46 pass from Rubenzer (Tjaarda kick)
S – Adams 25 pass from Rubenzer (Tjaarda kick)
S – Richards 39 pass from Rubenzer (Tjaarda kick)
S – Adams 64 run (Tjaarda kick)
S – Adams 45 pass from Rubenzer (Tjaarda kick)
S – Bradley 8 pass from Rubenzer (Tjaarda kick)
C – Armbrust 52 pass from Whipple (Lopez kick)
C – Marshall 13 run (Lopez kick)