A lot will happen in the middle of a game that coaches will not like. But there are two things teams can do to help their coach forget all that stuff:
Start strong; finish strong.
That is the formula visiting Saguaro used Friday night to pull out a 40-31 victory over previously-unbeaten Williams Field in a key Division III matchup.
The Sabercats blitzed the Black Hawks for 27 points in the opening quarter and then tallied 13 and a key fourth-down stop in the final period. It all (mostly) made meaningless the middle two quarters that saw a 24-point lead whittled to two before Saguaro knocked off an undefeated team for a second straight week.
Not surprisingly, the common thread between Saguaro's first and fourth quarters was quarterback Luke Rubenzer.
The senior amassed 305 total yards in those two periods. Rubenzer had just 61 total yards in second and third quarters.
"Sometimes football is not that complicated," Sabercats coach Jason Mohns said."You have a player like Luke Rubenzer, you call a play for him and let him go make plays. He's done it since he was a sophomore, he's going to continue to do it, and we're going to continue to put the ball in his hands when the game's on the line. ... He wasn't going to let this team lose."
Rubenzer finished with 261 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, and 105 rushing yards, including 39 in the fourth.
"I was just making plays as best I could," said Rubenzer, who completed seven of his first nine pass attempts and had 199 yards through the air at halftime. "I just kept going to the sidelines telling coach I wanted the ball in my hands. I believed in myself to get the first down.
"It kind of seemed at the beginning like we were going to roll away with it. But their coaches made some nice adjustments and it ended up being a really good game."
Rubenzer's two touchdowns put Saguaro up 24-3 at the end of the first and then ahead nine midway through the fourth, which ultimately allowed the Sabercats (6-1) to follow up last week's win over Queen Creek with another.
"Everybody said Williams Field had too much depth for us, coming off Queen Creek," Mohns said. "But we just beat another undefeated team. We lost our first game of the year (to Chaparral) but we don't plan on losing any more.
"They hadn't been scored on like this before. I told our team, 'You have 27 points at halftime and then finish with 40. I'll take that against Williams Field any time.' Sometimes is hard to play with a lead. Obviously, you'd rather play with a lead than from behind. Sometimes when you have a 20-point lead, as a play caller, you get conservative. You don't want to give up a big play and that gets you out of a rhythm. We got things back on track in the fourth when the game was on the line."
Williams Field (6-1), meanwhile, is left to ask, "What if?" What if they hadn't started so timid? What if they didn't give away 134 yards in penalties, many at the most inopportune times? What if they had picked up a couple more inches on a late fourth-down play?
Or, as coach Steve Campbell said he'll do, take the positives and move on. In the Black Hawks' case, the stuff in the middle of the game.
"A loss is a loss, no matter how it happened," Campbell said. "The biggest thing is all the other stuff. Not the falling short but how these guys fought back. I guarantee most teams that fell behind 27-3 haven't fought back to (33-31). There are far more things to draw from this, even in a loss, than to negatively focus on."
The Blackhawks got 213 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries from undersized-but-undeterred running back Jacob Anderson, but were hampered by 12 penalties and an absentee passing attack resulted in six straight incompletions to start the game.
SAGUARO 40, WILLIAMS FIELD 31
S — Reece 2 run (Tjaarda kick), 10:04
WF — Ruiz 39 FG, 7:09
S — Reece 2 run (Tjaarda kick), 5:14
S — Reece 3 run (Tjaarda kick), 1:26
S — Kirk 50 pass from Rubenzer (kick failed), 0:05
WF — Anderson 3 run (Ruiz kick), 8:31
WF — Forsgren 34 pass from Fagg (Ruiz kick), 0:37
WF — Anderson 6 run (Ruiz kick), 4:00
S — Swanson 7 run (pass failed), 11:01
WF — Page 29 run (Ruiz kick), 8:55
S — Nettleton 14 pass from Rubenzer (Tjaarda kick), 7:21
Saguaro 27 0 0 13 — 40
Williams Field 3 14 7 7 — 31
First downs: S 27, WF 19
Rushing: S 46-195, WF 43-288
Passing (Comp.-Att-Yards-TD-INT): S 15-24-1-261,WF 5-18-1-115
Fumbles-Lost: S 2-0, WF 0-0
Penalties-Yards: S 10-85, WF 12-134
RUSHING — Saguaro: Rubenzer 24-105, Swanson 11-48, Reece 9-43, Kirk 2-(-1); Williams Field: Anderson 30-213, Page 3-33, Fagg 5-25, Gill 4-19, Mason 1-(-2).
PASSING — Saguaro: Rubenzer 15-23-0-261, Kirk 0-1-1-0; Williams Field: Fagg 4-17-1-85, Patterson 1-1-0-30.
RECEIVING — Saguaro: Nettleton 5-103, Kirk 3-63, Koutsalas 4-51, Bradley 3-44; Williams Field: Forsgren 5-115.
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