SCOTTSDALE — Queen Creek American Leadership football spoiled the fairytale ending to Sabino coach Jay Campos’ career.
American Leadership beat the Sabercats 31-14 in Saturday’s Class 3A state championship game, played at Scottsdale Chaparral High School.
The loss was the first for Sabino (12-2) in more than two months, and the first loss to a team from Arizona. The Sabercats’ last defeat was at San Marcos (California) Hills.
“In order for us to win this football game, we had to protect the football and we didn’t do that early in the game tonight,” Campos said. “That’s on us, but I’m proud of my guys, proud of what we accomplished this season. A lot of people don’t even get the chance to go to playoffs, much less win a playoff game, much less play in the state final.”
No. 3 American Leadership capitalized on Sabino mistakes early on to build a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Patriots avenged their 16-13 at Sabino on Sept. 2.
Sabino got out to a rough start when it fumbled on its first offensive play and American Leadership recovered at the Sabercats’ 3 yard line. A few plays later, the Patriots took the lead with a 10-yard pass to junior receiver Haiden Stowers.
American Leadership went up 14-0 after a 27-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Bujon Boyd.
“I don’t know what’s worse: When you fall doing everything you can and you just can’t help it or fall when you could have done some more,” Sabino senior James Offerman said. “But I knew I did everything I can and it just makes me feel not good, but I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of where we’ve come, we haven’t been here in a long time and I just wish I could have done more to help my team and my coaches.”
American Leadership is a charter school in its third year in the AIA.
After a 1-yard run by senior quarterback Dallin Edwards that put American Leadership up 21-0, Sabino fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Patriots kicked a field goal.
Sabino got on the board with a touchdown by Damen Gibson, but American Leadership responded with 28-yard touchdown reception by Kade Lunt.
Campos finished with a 133-35 record at Sabino in 14 seasons. He also led the Sabercats to the title game in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
“I’ve coached a lot of great people during those years,” Campos said.
Quarterback Drew Dixon said playing for Campos was great. He took much of the snaps at quarterback in the second half. He scored on an eight-yard run, but was also intercepted twice.
“It’s been very fun,” said Dixon, who is UA-bound. “He’s been my right-hand man, well all of high school, he’s been right there through everything and he’s a great man and a great coach.”
While Campos is expected to have to step away due to his new assistant principal duties, he isn’t closing the door on coaching in the future.
“I’m done for now,” he said, “but we’ll see.”