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CHAMPIONSHIP: Class 3A (known as Class A at the time)
SCORE: Santa Cruz 40, Willcox 36
DATE: December 1, 1978
SITE: Amphitheater High School
GAME SUMMARY: Mike Cade produced one of the most remarkable individual performances in a state championship rushing for 299 yards on 20 carries, scoring 38 points on six touchdowns and a two-point conversion run.
Cade, who went on to play at ASU, scored on a 70-yard kickoff return and had touchdown runs of 73, 54, 38 and 64 yards.
He broke four Class A state championship records including most yards gained and most points scored in a game.
Santa Cruz coach Jay Denton used a counter-option play to get the flow of Willcox’s defenders going one way with Cade cutting the opposite direction. The play was adjusted to the playbook at the outset of the playoffs.
Cade scored the last touchdown on a power play off left tackle with 1:53 remaining on a 10-yard run eluding tacklers.
Willcox’s Steve George countered with 150 yards on 34 carries and scored four touchdowns.
Santa Cruz (12-1) took a 19-14 lead at halftime after Cade scored on a 38-yard run with 1:11 left in the half.
George gave the Cowboys (10-3) the lead after the first possession of the second half on a 4-yard run that capped a 74-yard drive in 13 plays.
On Santa Cruz’s very next offensive play, Cade broke free for a 64-yard touchdown to put the Dust Devils back ahead 27-21.
Six plays later, George tied the game on a 1-yard run and Mike Patterson made the extra-point atttempt to give Willcox a 28-27 lead.
The Cowboys tried to execute a surprise onside kick that backfired as Cade scooped up the ball and ran 70 yards for the touchdown to put Santa Cruz ahead 33-28.
The back-and-forth affair continued with Willcox scoring after a 13-play drive, 81-yard drive capped by a 2-yard scoring run by Scott Hilborn. After a successful 2-point conversion run by Willcox quarterback Hoak Harris, the Cowboys led 36-33 with 8:00 remaining.
Santa Cruz answered with its winning 10-play possession that covered 64 yards and was culminated by Cade’s 10-yard scoring run. The extra-point kick by Mossy Cade, Mike’s brother, made it 40-36 with 1:53 left.
The game was a rematch from a regular-season game in which Santa Cruz defeated Willcox 26-14 at home.
THEY SAID IT: “I just broke through the interior line and looked for daylight. I’ve been waiting for this for three years, ever since I was a sophomore. We lost the division that year and last year. I wanted this one real bad.” — Mike Cade to the Tucson Citizen.
DID YOU KNOW: Mike Cade was recruited heavily by Oklahoma and Arizona but chose ASU, where he rushed for only 478 yards in three seasons with the Sun Devils. He went on to a brief USFL career. His brother Mossy Cade played defensive back at Texas and progressed to the NFL.