Sabino scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to hold off explosive rival Sahuaro at home on Thursday night.

Sabino opened the season with a 41-35 win over Sahuaro despite the Cougars scoring three touchdowns of 44 yards or more.

While Sabino was No. 2 in the 3A in the AIA’s preseason rankings and features 27 seniors, Sahuaro led 28-21 after three quarters.

“It was an incredible game,” Sabino coach Jay Campos said. “ You look at the game as a whole and it was like a tale of two halves. The first half nobody could stop each other and the second half nobody could score until the end.”

Sahuaro senior Matt Paquette ran for 156 yards on nine carries and scored an 80-yard touchdown. Cougars quarterback Nick Fountain ran for 152 on 13 carries to steal some of the spotlight from UA commit and Sabino senior athlete Drew Dixon.

Fountain was also 11-for-20 passing for 215 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown to senior Tyler Wood.

Dixon scored three first-half touchdowns and rushed for 280 yards on 28 carries.

After winning 11 of the first 16 meetings against east-side rival Sabino, Sahuaro has beaten the Sabercats just four times since 1992.

Dixon said beating Sahuaro is huge.

“I tip my hat off to Sahuaro, they came out ready,” Dixon said. “They hit us we hit them and but at the end of the day, it’s just who wanted it more and I think that we wanted it more.”

Dixon, who lined up at running back and receiver and returned punts, admitted he was a bit anxious about his first start at running back. Last year he played quarterback.

He had seven catches for 81 yards.

“I was a little anxious about getting that first play,” Dixon said. “After that first play I felt great, but then I got those cramps and our trainer got me right and I just came back out and gave it all I had.”

Thursday's game marked the renewal of one of Southern Arizona's top football rivalries. The game was one of two held in the state on Thursday night. Southern Arizona teams will play in a half-dozen games Friday night, with the rest opening their seasons next week.

Dixon is seen by many as the next local standout to make an impact at the UA. He committed to the Wildcats over the summer as an athlete, meaning he could play quarterback or receiver at the next level. He was the first Sabino player to commit to the UA since the tandem of Brooks Reed and Glyndon Bolasky nearly a decade ago. Reed is now a veteran outside linebacker with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.