This time, Scottsdale Saguaro, under first-year coach Jason Mohns, didn’t hold back against Scottsdale Chaparral.
Everybody played. But it didn’t matter.
Chaparral, showing its rival that there’s a bit of a jump from Division III to II among elite teams, scored 35 unanswered points in the first half after giving up a touchdown and rolled to a 38-20 victory Thursday night before a near-capacity crowd at Saguaro.
Last year, then-head coach John Sanders held out most of his players, including All-American running back D.J. Foster, out of the Chaparral game to keep them healthy for the D.III playoffs, and Chaparral won 65-0 in a laugher.
After Kash Robinson broke a tackle at the 10 en route to a 24-yard touchdown to give Saguaro a 7-0 lead, Gary McKay took the ensuing kickoff back 75 yards for a touchdown and Chaparral dominated the rest of the half.
“I was ready to go,” McKay said. “I had to make a play when I got the ball.
“We were really fired up to finally get a challenge against these guys. We were fired up.”
Receiver Josh Aganon scored on a 39-yard screen pass and quarterback Brad Schencker, running option, scored on a 1- and 11-yard keepers.
Saguaro lost a fumble on a pitch that led to a Chaparral touchdown and had a long pass play between Luke Rubenzer and Christian Kirk called back by an illegal-shift penalty. It also had three personal foul penalties and burned all three of its timeouts with still almost 11 minutes left in the half.
Saguaro (7-3), which has won five state titles since 2006, could start the playoff next week on the road as a 9 or 10 seed. Chaparral (7-3), which has won six in a row since a 1-3 start under first-year coach Dave Huffine, likely clinched home field in the first round to begin its quest for a fourth consecutive Division II championship.
Saguaro had only 86 yards and Rubenzer was 2 of 8 passing in the first half. Senior linebacker Jake Roh tackled Rubenzer behind the line and deflected a pass.
“Our defensive coordinator, Conrad Hamilton, is one of the best,” Roh said. “He dialed it up and it showed tonight.”
Schencker, who threw a career-high six touchdown passes in last week’s 55-20 win over Phoenix Horizon, passed for 124 yards in the half, completing 8 of 14 passes.
Chaparral had minus-6 yards in the third quarter, but Saguaro wasn’t able to capitalize on a first-and-goal from the 1 with an illegal shift and four straight run plays that resulted in negative-1 yard.
Gena Adams scored on a 21-yard run and Rubenzer cut the score to 38-20 with 7:24 left on a 1-yard run.
Huffine gave credit to his defensive assistants, led by Hamilton.
“Our defensive staff, these guys are the best in the business,” Huffine said. “They had these kids dialed in. You could give the MVP to the defense. But you could also give it to the defensive staff. They did an unbelievable job.”