Two prep football powers reignite their rivalry Friday, as Sahuaro hosts Sabino.
One matchup stands out, as Sahuaro’s experienced defensive line tries to contain Sabino’s star quarterback A.J. Skaggs. The junior signal caller completed 16 of his 24 pass attempts for 152 yards with a touchdown and one interception in a 14-7 win at Casa Grande, and after filling the role of game manager as a sophomore, Skaggs now is the focal point of the Sabercats’ offense.
“I don’t know if he was expecting to come in as sophomore,” coach Ryan McBrayer said. “He was behind some guys and was just trying not to mess things up.
“Now, he knows he’s the man, and he’s happy to have a bigger voice. He’s always been able to make all the throws, but now his confidence is building.”
Limiting Skaggs will be a challenge, but Sahuaro passed a similar test last week. The Cougars (2-0) stifled Sierra Vista Buena (1-1) and its elusive quarterback, Jovoni Borbon, in a 26-8 road win, avenging their only home loss last season. That followed a dominant performance in the season opener, a 55-0 win over Casa Grande Vista Grande, which included linemen Anthony Hogan, Armando Ramos and Tobias Barger combining for five of the team’s eight sacks.
“They’re a bunch of really good older guys that have worked really hard to get stronger and be the centerpiece of us,” said Sahuaro coach Scott McKee.
Along with east-side bragging rights, the showdown carries plenty of weight, as each program reached the state semifinals in their respective classes last fall.
Canyon del Oro is 2-0, and for now, that is all that matters.
As coach Dustin Peace left Ken Lindley Field at Prescott High following a 23-13 win, he could count how many of his players were still wearing uniforms.
“We finished the game with just 20 kids dressed,” Peace said. “We just had a flurry of injuries. They were a physical team. So what stuck out to me was just our overall grit to stay with it and keep fighting.”
CDO has a chance to improve to 3-0 this weekend with a visit from Apache Junction, which lost to the Dorados 55-26 last fall. However, with so few players, nothing is easy.
“Each week we will get more and more back,” Peace said. “But it’s just tough because both of our corners were out, our best safety, our best linebacker, our top ballcarrier wasn’t playing and our quarterback went out. With all that, to pull out a victory despite a four-hour trip says a lot about our team.”
Assembling the puzzle
Cienega coach Pat Nugent is in the opposite situation, trying to unlock his team’s best combination.
The Bobcats (1-0) crushed Cholla (0-2) 48-7 last week, but the game was so lopsided it turned into a tryout of sorts, perhaps a good thing for a team returning just four starters.
However, the three-headed monster in the backfield, Collin Thomas, Gabe Levy and Jahn Flores, saw only seven carries total. They made the most of them, rushing for 126 yards.
“We’re the largest program in southern Arizona with 208 kids, so that’s a great number to have but it also creates a lot of problems with getting kids opportunities,” Nugent said. “But we can interchange a lot of bodies and keep people fresh and motivated.”
Cienega has a stiffer test the next two weeks, traveling to Phoenix Sunnyslope (0-1) and hosting defending Class 5A state champ Peoria Centennial (1-0).
The road back
Mountain View coach Matt Johnson said his team’s season opener at Ironwood Ridge had a playoff atmosphere.
It wasn’t just due to the rivalry between the schools, separated by less than four miles, but rather the offseason build up to a game between Johnson and his former program. Yet, after the Mountain Lions (0-1) came out on the short end, losing 21-7, at least nine more games lie ahead. Off a bye, Johnson feels ready to tackle that challenge.
“Any time you play in kind of a playoff situation, you get a chance to really see what’s working and what’s not,” Johnson said. “We truly believe we have the potential to be a good team. I feel like our spirits were actually pretty good on that Saturday after the game. We had good practices, no absences. So really things are in a good spot.”
Mountain View could get a boost in the coming weeks as Johnson expects two-way starter Isaiah Sparkman to return from a preseason knee injury. The Mountain Lions travel to Gilbert Higley (0-2) this week before hosting Queen Creek Casteel (1-1).