October has arrived and the cool air made Friday night’s matchup of old rivals feel like even more of a big-time matchup as Sabino squared off with Sahuaro.
Sahuaro (0-3) came into the contest with only two games played so far this season due to cancellations because of COVID-19 concerns. The Cougars were looking to get on track.
“We have to play some football games,” said Sahuaro coach Scott McKee, whose team lost to Sabino 34-22 after having to cancel last week’s game at Desert View. “As you get to game number 3, 4, 5, all of a sudden you get your the transition from your offensive to your defensive packages, and you get better.”
Sabino (4-2) came into the contest looking to build momentum as they continue the fight through tough 3A competition.
“All we can do is get better each week and we’ll see where the chips fall, at the end of the day we have to go through everybody in 3A… 3A is pretty dang competitive” said Sabino coach Ryan McBrayer.
Sabino came out and immediately took control of the game, scoring within the first minute on a pass from sophomore quarterback Cameron Hackworth to Isaiah Aguirre, who took the long catch-and-run play to the end zone, to make it 7-0.
The Sabercats got the ball back quickly, and once again drove down the field and punched it in the end zone thanks to a Kenneth Blackman 3-yard touchdown run.
After another 35-yard touchdown pass by Hackworth to a wide-open Robert Maultsby, it seemed as though Sabino would run away with this one taking a 20-0 lead with 1:01 left in the first quarter. It was a far cry from last year’s game at Sabino when the Sabercats scored twice in the last minute behind the passing of A.J. Skaggs to win 27-23.
Sahuaro began to chip away at the lead thanks to a Neo Watson 2-yard touchdown run and a successful two-point conversion had the Cougars, and their very raucous crowd, back into the game.
Sabino answered back with yet another Hackworth touchdown, this time finding Savaughn Berryhill on a 15-yard slant route that looked awfully similar to the play that got the Sabercats their first touchdown of the night, making it 27-8.
Hackworth came into this game already having thrown for more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns, and he certainly added to that total.
“Cameron is a stud. He made his reads that he needed to, got the ball to where they wanted. He did a great job,” McBrayer said of his young quarterback’s performance.
Hackworth is a part of a freshman class that only got two games last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But McBrayer says he is already demonstrating growth and an understanding of the Sabercats’ playbook.
“He did everything right as a freshman, even with only having two games,” said McBrayer. “He paid attention, he was in his playbook. I gotta get him to stop texting me all the time.”
Hackworth finished the night with four touchdown passes, each a bit different. McBrayer said that because of the size of Sahuaro’s interior defensive lineman, the passing game was an emphasis in their gameplay this week.
He credited his line for making that happen.
“Kudos to the offensive lineman, I don’t think many guys were close to (Hackworth) him in that pocket,” McBrayer said.
And so began the back and forth scoring affair that saw Sahuaro take some momentum into the half after an Angel Hightower touchdown pass with 1:30 left in second quarter to make it 27-16 at the half.
Sahuaro did not attempt to kick all night, electing to go for two each time.
Hackworth finished off his impressive night in the with another touchdown pass to put the Sabercats up 34-16 after the extra point was blocked.
Sahuaro however did not go down without a fight, controlling time of possession for much of the final quarter and a half of play. They had opportunities to close the gap on their rival, but mistakes and penalties ultimately costed the team their first win of the season.
The Cougars scored on another Neo Watson 1-yard-run to close the gap at 34-22 with just more than four minutes left in the game, but that would be as close as they would get.
McKee said the Cougars did not leave Friday’s game empty handed.
“We found some guys who can help us as football players tonight, couple running backs and a couple guys who can really help us defensively, but overall we just have to get to consecutive practices,” Mckee said, referencing the interruptions his program has had with COVID-19 concerns to start the year.
McKee said his team “missed some execution” when talking about the troubles the Sabino defense gave his offense and cited the drives where they were able to move the football, but had trouble “finishing the drive.”
Sabino will take on a 5-1 Pusch Ridge Academy on Friday at home in a much-anticipated 3A South showdown, while Sahuaro will play at Catalina Foothills, which is 1-4.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.