The No. 1-seeded Sahuaro Cougars (9-2) got a tougher matchup expected from a No. 16 seed in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday night.
Sahuaro led only 19-12 at halftime against Glendale (8-3) thanks to costly penalties on both sides of the ball, but tightened up in the second half en route to a 46-25 victory in front of its crowd.
“I didn’t think they (Glendale) were a true No. 16 team,” Sahuaro coach Scott McKee said. “Their offense and coaches are absolutely outstanding, and their running back is one of the best in the entire state. We just had to get away from penalties and turning the football over.
"That’s a team that’s averaging over 50 points a game and our defense really stepped up.”
The ground game was working all night for the Cougars, as they ran for 471 yards. The trio of Jamir Gasaway, Izaiah Davis and Trevion Watkins each ran for over 100 yards, with Davis scoring once, Watkins twice and Gasaway leading the way with 166 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries.
“We stuck to the game plan and kept working since Monday,” Gasaway said. “The offensive line and receivers all held their blocks and we did what we needed to do.”
Gasaway took his first touchdown 62 yards to start the scoring, but Glendale came right back with a touchdown of its own. After two touchdown runs from Watkins made the score 19-6 late in the second quarter, the Cougar defense forced a Glendale fumble on the goal line to shift momentum, before ultimately fumbling themselves with under a minute left before halftime.
A Glendale touchdown made it 19-12 going into the half, but Sahuaro scored 20 unanswered in the second half to put things away for good.
The Sahuaro victory wasn’t without it’s faults, however. The Cougars surrendered 278 yards on 24 carries to Glendale running back Kevin Daniels, and had 11 penalties for 147 yards. The offense was all on the ground as well, as not a single yard was gained throwing the ball.
Despite the errors, McKee knows the victory is what matters when it is win or go home.
“It’s amazing,” McKee said about getting a home playoff victory. “I’ve got a great staff and these guys work really, really hard. It’s special that the program continues to evolve and get better every year where it’s no longer the first time, it becomes the norm.”
The Cougars will be back at home next Friday, as they face No. 9 Yuma Gila Ridge in the quarterfinals.