When you think of eastside Tucson football, you think of both Sahuaro and Sabino and the intense rivalry between the two schools, which are 7.3 miles away from each other.
The rivalry lived up to the hype Friday night in an instant classic — a 27-23 Sabino comeback win in the game’s final minute.
Late in the fourth quarter, with a minute left in the game, things looked bleak for Sabino as Sahuaro drove the ball deep into enemy territory and capped off the drive with a rushing touchdown to put themselves up by 10 with 51 seconds to go in the game.
Like any rivalry game, expect the unexpected, especially in a season where every game could be your last due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Sabino star quarterback A.J. Skaggs would get the ball with 51 seconds in a game that looked like Sahuaro had put the nail in the coffin.
“I was focused on scoring, once I saw that score I knew we had to make a play,” said Skaggs.
Skaggs struck quick with his team down 10, connecting with wideout/corner Derek Sanchez for a long touchdown pass bringing his team within three points of Sahuaro.
“I saw Derek one-on-one and let it go for him because I knew he would go up and make a play,” said Skaggs. “After that, it was just rallying everyone because we still had a shot at the onside kick.”
The touchdown gave Sabino life with 41 seconds left in the game needing an onside kick to have a shot at the end.
The Sabercats were able to recover the onside kick, giving them the ball back to a hot-handed Skaggs with just 36 seconds to go in the game.
A couple of plays later, Skaggs found Sanchez again, hitting him in stride for a long touchdown pass to take the lead with under 25 seconds left in the game.
“I knew Derek would have the post if I looked that other safety off, and I just let it fly again for him knowing he would clutch it up for us,” said Skaggs.
Sanchez had two catches for 100 yards with two touchdowns in the last two scoring drives to lift Sabino over rival Sahuaro for the first time since 2017.
“It feels amazing to beat them senior year on our senior night,” said Skaggs. “It was my main goal this year to beat that team, and it feels so amazing to finally end the two-year losing streak.”
Here’s Sabino head coach Ryan McBrayer talking about his team fighting back against Sahuaro, and how his team has worked hard for this moment:
Sahuaro in the last 30 seconds drove the ball down field and came inches away from pulling the game out in the final seconds.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.