Sahuaro entered Friday night’s game on a five-game winning streak, though all of their victories came against sub-.500 teams.
With Sierra Vista Buena in town, the Cougars needed a statement win.
They got one. With senior Cole Sterns and the Sahuaro defense leading the way, the Cougars shut down the Colts’ high-powered offense and cruised to a 45-12 win.
“Everyone was focused all week; we knew what this game meant to us,” said Sterns, who intercepted a Buena pass and, on the other side of the ball, finished with 81 receiving yards and two touchdowns. “They’re all big from here on out, we just got to keep preparing like we’ve been preparing.”
Sahuaro (7-1) opened the season with a three-point win at Tucson, a win that gets more impressive with every week.
Friday night’s victory likely ranks as the Cougars’ second-best win.
Sahuaro held a Buena offense that was averaging 48.6 points on the season to a season-low 12 points. The Colts fell to 4-4.
“I just thought the defense was outstanding tonight,” Sahuaro coach Scott McKee said.
Sahuaro held Buena’s Rafael Adames, the second-leading passer in Division II, to just 159 yards. The Cougars intercepted him a season-high three times.
And although Colts running back Dominique Drake rushed for 103 yards, the majority of them came on a 69-yard draw play right before halftime.
“Those skill kids that Buena has are outstanding,” McKee said. “We were fortunate we got some kids that can cover some of theirs.”
Open-field tackling was key for the defense, McKee said.
The quick-strike Colts finished with just three plays of 20-plus yards, and one of them — a 37-yard touchdown catch by Adarius Blake — came with 10 seconds left in the game.
“We had a hard time establishing the run,” Buena coach Ryan Scherling said. “Therefore, they were dropping a lot of guys into coverage, which made it harder to pass.”
Sahuaro took control of the game from the opening kickoff, building a 21-point lead before the Colts had even run four offensive plays.
Junior Derik Hall delivered most of the damage, gaining 133 yards on the ground. He also had a 27-yard touchdown catch when quarterback Laramie Brown found him early in the second quarter.
The error-prone Colts had four turnovers and now face a tough road to the playoffs. Buena was ranked No. 15 in the latest rankings but will need to win its final two games to secure a winning record.
“We just have to get better,” Scherling said. “We got two weeks left. We can’t focus on this; we just have to move on. Playoffs are still in the big picture, and we just have to keep fighting.”
Friday’s blowout gives the No. 9 Cougars another marquee win and an easier road as they try to make their third straight playoff appearance.
“People want to reflect on who we’ve played, but we’re a good football team,” McKee said. “Our best football will be ahead of us because our kids prepare and they work hard.
“We have a long way to go, but it was good having a nice victory tonight.”