GILBERT — Sabino’s football team has been so dominant lately that coach Jay Campos couldn’t remember the last time they trailed by 14 points.
Yet the fifth-seeded Sabercats trailed No. 1 Show Low by two touchdowns in Saturday’s Class 3A state semifinals on Saturday at Gilbert Williams Field before rallying to win 23-21.
The Sabercats (12-1) will face No. 3 Queen Creek American Leadership Academy (12-1) next Saturday for the state championship at Scottsdale Chaparral. Sabino beat ALA 16-13 in September.
“That start was very concerning to me because if do that against American Leadership, it’s going to be ugly early,” Campos said. “At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a bad semifinal win.”
Show Low senior quarterback Rhett Ricedorff ran for a 13-yard touchdown on their first drive and then a 10-yard score after an interception.
Sabino fumbled the second half’s opening kickoff and Ricedorff scored again to put Show Low (12-1) up by eight.
“It took us a while to adjust because we were used to being up my like 28 at halftime, so after we adjusted, we started driving down the field on offense and our defense stopped the run game,” Sabino junior quarterback Alex Bell said.
Bell completed 16 of 25 passes for 237 yards. Senior athlete Drew Dixon, an Arizona Wildcats commit, added 127 yards of total offense.
Sabino senior receiver/defensive back Andrew Carlsen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass as to cut the lead to 21-20. He intercepted a Show Low pass minutes later.
“Oh man, our coaches call perfect plays,” Carlsen said about his touchdown and pick. “From there on, momentum was all on our side.”
On the ensuing drive, junior Bennett Nottingham kicked a 39-yard, go-ahead field goal.
Sabino is looking for its first state championship since 1998, when then-coach Jeff Scurran led the team to a title. The Sabercats have reached three state championship games (2005, 2006 and 2009) under Campos.
“This is what we’ve been working for, we’ve been with each other since Pop Warner,” Carlsen said. “We knew this was what our senior year would be like and now we just have to capitalize against ALA and get the rings.”