This Division III semifinal football game was not just about Luke Rubenzer.
He said that over and over after his Sabercats outlasted Goodyear Desert Edge, 77-48, Monday night at Arcadia High School.
But no one can ignore the performance the senior quarterback had against the previously-unbeaten Scorpions. Engineering a near-perfect offensive outing, Rubenzer completed 26 of 30 passes for 541 yards and nine touchdowns to help Saguaro advance to the state championship game on Friday against Queen Creek. The title game will be played Friday at 1 p.m. at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.
"I had all day back there to throw the football," Rubenzer said. "I think I got pressure once or twice. I was just part of a great team effort."
Yes, Rubenzer was protected well, and that protection allowed him to fire pinpoint passes all over the field. J.T. Nettleton was on the receiving end of many of those passes, finishing with eight receptions for 223 yards and five touchdowns. He came up a yard short of another score.
Saguaro's Christian Kirk had seven catches for 165 yards and scored three times. He also rushed for 69 yards.
"Our offense is humming right now," Sabercats coach Jason Mohns said.
But it was Rubenzer making it all happen for Saguaro. He is now less than 100 yards from going over the 4,000-yard mark in passing this season and has thrown 58 touchdown passes to go along with only three interceptions.
With the Sabercats leading 42-20 at the half, it was Rubenzer who spoke to his team and reminded them they had a significant lead over Desert Edge in last year's quarterfinals only to lose, 38-35.
That wasn't going to happen Monday.
The three key possessions in this game came very early. Desert Edge (12-1) got the football first and was forced into a rare punt, which the Scorpions downed inside the 1-yard line, putting the Sabercats in an immediate hole. Three plays later, Saguaro (12-1) had moved the football out to its own 25-yard line. That'swhen Rubenzer found Kirk open for a 75-yard touchdown that started the scoring fest.
On Desert Edge's next possession the Scorpions were driving, but freshman running back Roshaun Johnson was stripped of the football by Saguaro defensive back Isaiah Bradley.
That made it the Sabercats' turn to move the football, and after driving to the Desert Edge 30-yard line, they faced a fourth-and-2. Standing steady in the pocket, Rubenzer found Nettleton for the first of his five touchdowns.
The score gave the Sabercats a 14-0 lead, and the Scorpions, despite a potent offense of their own, could never catch up.
"Our goal this year has been to win this thing, and we are one step away," Mohns said. "Our motto this year has been 'unfinished business.'"
In a typical game, Desert Edge quarterback Anthony Hernandez would have gotten the game ball, as he threw for 477 yards and five touchdowns. But it wasn't close to being enough in this one.
In all, the two teams combined for 1,265 yards of offense.
Saguaro 77, Desert Edge 48
First Downs: Saguaro 25; Desert Edge 26
Rushing: Saguaro 28-130; Desert Edge 20-117
Passing (Comp-Att-Yards-TD-Int): Saguaro 26-30-541-9-0; Desert Edge 32-45-477-5-1
Fumbles-Lost: Saguaro 1-1; Desert Edge 1-1
Penalties-Yards: Saguaro 12-90; Desert Edge 11-95
Saguaro 14 28 21 14 - 77
Desert Edge 7 13 14 14 - 48
S: Kirk 75 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedale kick)
S: Nettleton 30 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedalekick)
DE: Murphy-Richardson 1 pass from Hernandez(Davalos kick)
S: Koutsalas 60 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedalekick)
S: Kirk 10 run (Rosedale kick)
DE: Marks 63 pass from Hernandez (Davaloskick)
S: Adams 14 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedale kick)
S: Nettleton 40 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedalekick)
DE: Murphy-Richardson 1 run (kick failed)
S: Kirk 40 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedale kick)
DE: Marks 14 pass from Hernandez (kickblocked)
S: Nettleton 8 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedalekick)
DE: Jackson 13 pass from Hernandez(Murphy-Richardson pass from Hernandez)
S: Nettleton 9 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedalekick)
DE: Johnson 3 run (Heard pass from Hernandez)
S: Nettleton 75 pass from Rubenzer (Rosedalekick)
DE: Johnson 40 pass from Hernandez (passfailed)
S: Reece 1 run (Rosedale kick)