Tucson High School Sports

Tucson Conquistadores High School Football Playoff Report: Salpointe, Sahuaro and Sabino Set for Semifinals

Friday and Saturday night will feature semifinal play in the Arizona state football championships with three teams from our coverage area still alive. Here is a capsulized preview of each of the games involving those teams, including a 4A semifinal matchup with Tucson teams Sahuaro and Salpointe tonight and Sabino playing Yuma Catholic tomorrow night in a 3A semifinal game in Phoenix:

Class 4A

No. 5 Sahuaro (10-2) vs. No. 1 Salpointe (12-0)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Mountain View High School, Marana


Head coach: Dennis Bene (173-42, 18 years, all at Salpointe, his alma mater).

Dennis Bene has his Lancers ready (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Salpointe leads the head-to-head series over Sahuaro 15-11-1 including the last seven games dating back to 1994. The streak includes a 28-12 win on Sept. 28, a game in which Salpointe star RB Bijan Robinson did not play because of an ankle injury. QB Devin Green threw for 148 yards with two TDs in the win and Cordero rushed for 188 yards. RB Mario Padilla had 70 yards of offense with a TD before resting a groin injury in the second half. Ransom collected 133 yards receiving with two TDs…. The Lancers won a state championship in 2013 and collected on runner-up finishes in 1981, 1991 and 2017. …

Salpointe beat No. 9 Mingus Union 62-22 in the quarterfinal round last week. Robinson rushed nine times for 259 yards with four TDs. Mario Padilla added 86 rushing yards with two TDs and David Cordero had two rushing TDs on 55 yards. QB Devin Green has 1,223 yards passing this year with 11 TDs, Robinson has 2,084 yards rushing with 30 TDs, Padilla has 603 yards rushing with 13 TDs and Division I safety/wide receiver prospect Lathan Ransom has six interceptions and 509 yards receiving with five TDs. LB Ray Figueroa has 106 tackles, LB Shamon Davis has 105 and LB Trent Strong has 94. …

Mario Padilla (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Bene is close to passing former Tucson and Palo Verde coach Todd Mayfield to become the third-leading coach locally in career wins. Mayfield won 178 games and Bene is now at 173. The late Vern Friedli, an Amphi legend, finished with a Tucson-record 331 wins with the Panthers and Jeff Scurran, who concluded his six seasons at Catalina Foothills this year, is at 228. Scurran also coached at CDO, Sabino and Santa Rita. …

Padilla, 5-8, 165, is rated the No. 56 prospect in Arizona for the Class of 2019 by 247 Sports. … Robinson, 6-0, 200, is the No. 3 prospect Class of 2020 in the state by 247 Sports, which projects he is a strong lean toward UCLA. … Ransom, 6-2, 183, is at No. 7 in the Class of 2020 and he is projected to wind up at Stanford.


Head coach: Scott McKee (61-47, 10 years, at Sahuaro, 74-87 overall, 15 years).

Sahuaro beat No. 13 Seton Catholic 63-19 in the quarterfinal round last week. RB Izaiah Davis rushed for 246 yards with two TDs and RB/LB Jakob Goerke added 105 yards with a TD. RB/LB Cameron Williams scored four TDs on the ground on 88 yards. Williams has 1,212 yards rushing on the year with 27 TDs. Goerke has 84 tackles and S Damion Wright has six interceptions. … Williams rushed for 118 yards with a TD in the loss to Salpointe in the regular season. … On defense, Williams has 59 tackles with nine tackles for loss, four of which are sacks. He is one of the most physically imposing players in Tucson at 6-0, 200.

Sahuaro coach Scott McKee talks to his players during a recent practice (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The Cougars shared the state championship with Peoria in 1994 in a 17-17 tie. That game marked the final game of coach Howard Breinig’s 32-year coaching career, including 12 years at Sahuaro. The Cougars drove 77 yards for a touchdown in 12 plays in the last 3:55 of the game, and scored on a two-point conversion, to tie the game. QB Aaron Dumsch ran for a 6-yard TD with 1:27 and he scored on the two-point conversion run. … The Cougars had runner-up finishes in 1984, 1991, 1993 and 1999. …

McKee, 39, is a Sabino grad who is a former walk-on player at Arizona (from 1998-2002) who earned a scholarship with the Wildcats, mostly as a valuable special teams member. He says he learned important life lessons from Dick Tomey and assistants such as Duane Akina, Charlie Camp, Larry Mac Duff, Charlie Dickey, Rich Ellerson and Marc Lunsford.

“The staff Coach Tomey put together was phenomenal,” McKee said. “They were always really good with people and they were always willing to do more than what other coaches did. They were willing to sit down and help with grades, girl problems, with anything that you ever had. They were like second fathers to us. The thing you think most about Coach Tomey is that you try to make sure the kids have the best experience that they can have and that they are all on this team for the same purpose.”

Sabino first-year coach Ryan McBrayer. (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Class 3A

No. 6 Sabino (10-2) vs. No. 2 Yuma Catholic (10-2)

When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Where: Shadow Mountain High School, Phoenix


Head coach: Ryan McBrayer (19-5, 2 years, at Sabino, his alma mater).

Sabino has won 10 straight games after an 0-2 start, including two wins in the state playoffs. The Sabercats reached the semifinals with 30-14 win at No. 3 Snowflake last week. QB A.J. Skaggs completed 20 of 30 passes for 235 yards with two TDs. RB Jamel Brown added 94 yards on 14 carries with a TD. WR Jimmy Hamilton had six receptions for 82 yards and a TD while fellow WR Jayson Petty had eight receptions for 78 yards. … LB Richie Piña had a pick-6 that gave Sabino the lead in the fourth quarter. He also finished with a team-high 10 tackles. He has two sacks this season. …

McBrayer, who attended Sabino in 2003, was promoted to head coach before last season after serving as the school’s defensive coordinator for two years under Jay Campos. …

A.J. Skaggs (left) with the handoff (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Skaggs, only a sophomore, has emerged as one of Tucson’s best quarterbacks. He has completed 110 of 165 passes (66.7 percent) for 1,558 yards with 18 TDs and only four INTs. He has good size at 6-foot and 195 pounds. … His receiving tandem of Petty and Hamilton is also one of the best in the city. Petty leads the Sabercats with 40 receptions for 515 yards and nine touchdowns while Hamilton has 38 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns. … Sabino does not have a 1,000-yard running back but it does have two players who combine for almost 1,000 yards — Brown (511 yards on 76 carries) and Daniel McAllister (452 yards on 57 carries). They each have seven rushing TDs. …

Yuma Catholic and Sabino share one common opponent — Safford, with both of them beating Bulldogs. Sabino won at Safford 20-17 on Oct. 26 while Yuma Catholic beat the Bulldogs 65-28 at home last week in the quarterfinal round.

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