November 20, 2004
TUCSON - Two yards. That’s all that stood between Tucson Sunnyside and a game-tying touchdown and the potential game-winning extra point.
But two yards was more than enough for the Saguaro defense.
The Sabercats kept the defending 4A champion Blue Devils out of the end zone with a last-minute goal line stand that secured a 6-0 upset Friday in the 4A state quarterfinals at Sunnyside.
Saguaro (11-1), seeded sixth, will ride an 11-game win streak into next week’s semifinal date with Glendale Cactus, the only team to beat the Sabercats this season.
"They have answered the bell every time they have been asked," said Saguaro coach Mike Reardon. "And it doesn’t get any more obvious than on that goal-line stand."
Saguaro used tough defense to shock the usually potent Blue Devils offense, and held them to just 115 total yards in the game.
The Sabercats were able to move the ball but the only points they could muster came off the strong right foot of senior Juan Bongarra, who kicked first-half field goals from 29 and 45 yards away.
"We say our team is a family, and we all fill in for each other," Bongarra said. "There is no better feeling than helping us win."
Saguaro quarterback John Sanders, who had 59 yards passing, said when the offense is unable to get the ball in the end zone, he is confident that Bongarra will put points on the board.
"Juan has stepped up all year for us," Sanders said. "Even if we don’t score the touchdown, we know we have Juan."
The Saguaro defense set the tone early, as Sunnyside (11-1) — the No. 1 team in the Tribune rankings and the No. 3 seed for the state playoffs — went three-and-out in its first possession. That would become a recurring theme as the Blue Devils had just one first down in the first half.
The Sabercats then marched down the field with ease to set up Bongarra’s first field goal.
At the start of the second quarter, Saguaro’s Tyler Porras picked off a pass from Sunnyside quarterback Jaime Cota. Bongarra followed the interception with his 45-yarder.
Just when Sunnyside began to move the ball in the fourth quarter, Mike Bloch sacked Cota for an 8-yard loss, shifting the momentum back to the Sabercats.
With the clock winding down, Sunnyside recovered a fumble to give it the ball at midfield and one last shot that a win.
After Cota launched a 57-yard pass to George Garza, the Blue Devils had the ball on the Saguaro 2. But Saguaro held strong for four plays, keeping running back Xavier Smith out of the end zone, and ending the Blue Devils’ hopes of a repeat championship.
While he would have liked to see more points on the board, Sanders said the hardfought win might help in the long run. "Sunnyside is a great football team," Sanders said. "Beating them here the way we did gives us a lot of confidence for the next round."