After two decisive wins on the road, traveling to Casa Grande and Sierra Vista, Sahuaro is coming home to play neighborhood rival Sabino tonight in the 41st Annual Rick Botkin Memorial Game.
The Cougars, who have defeated Vista Grande 55-0 and Buena 26-8, will host a Sabino team that is coming off a defensive battle against Casa Grande at home in which the Sabercats tallied 6.5 sacks in a 14-7 win.
Sabino’s senior outside linebacker Zakri Porter-Trainer had three of the sacks, and seven tackles total, to lead the Sabercats.
An interesting element of the game — other than the eastside rivals meet for the 42nd time with Sabino leading the series 25-16 — will be the Sabercats’ defense going against Sahuaro’s potent running game that tallied 420 yards against Buena last week, led by Izaiah Davis‘s 266 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns.
Sabino has a senior-laden defense led by Porter-Trainer, linebacker Mareise Stubblefield (12 tackles against Casa Grande, one for loss), free safety Danny McAllister (nine tackles and one pass deflected), senior safety Diego Armijo (nine tackles) and senior defensive end Jason Petty (five tackles). Luke Thompson, a junior linebacker, led the Sabercats with 13 tackles against Casa Grande.
“We move around, we’re fast,” said Sabino coach Ryan McBrayer, who is 20-6 in his third season with the Sabercats. “We don’t have a lot of size that other teams do. We try to use the advantages that we have and move around inside the box and make plays where we can.”
Sahuaro has allowed only one touchdown through the first eight quarters of the season, none yet on the ground. Last week, Buena was held to only 68 yards rushing on 21 carries. The week before at Vista Grande, Sahuaro’s defense held the Spartans to only 55 yards in total offense, 11 on the ground.
The Cougars’ two top tacklers with 12 are juniors — linebackers Trevion Watkins and Miguel Yslas — and junor defensive end Anthony Hogan leads the team with 2.5 sacks. Sahuaro has a phenomenal nine sacks through the first two games with six players contributing to that total including senior defensive tackle Armando Rios with two.
“Defensively, it starts with Brian Graves, the defensive coordinator, a longtime guy for me,” said Sahuaro coach Scott McKee, who is 63-48 in his 11th season with the Cougars and has 75 wins overall in 16 years of coaching.
“(Graves) has done a great job and then it starts with the front four. That’s three returning seniors and then a junior that’s sprinkled in there and then our secondary is a very, very talented group. … We’re just trying to get better each day and and do the best that we can do every night.”
Sahuaro’s defense will face an offense led by an experienced quarterback for the second straight week. The Cougars defeated Buena and senior quarterback Jovoni Borbon last week and now face three-year letterman A.J. Skaggs, a junior with the Sabercats.
Skaggs, a 6-foot-1 and 200-pound prospect who is starting to be recruited, completed 16 of 24 passes — connecting with six different receivers — for 154 yards and a touchdown last week against Casa Grande.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.