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Cameron Hackworth returns, Sabino earns at least “48 more minutes” in 3A state playoffs


Sabino coach Ryan McBrayer improved his record to 6-4 in his fifth postseason as coach at his alma mater (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Told by their coaches that they played their way into more practices, Sabino’s football team let out a roar in approval.

Never has the thought of practices felt so good.

Another week of practice in the postseason, in what is Sabino’s 20th straight year playing this late in the season, translates into “48 more minutes” of playing a game.

The battle cry of “48 more minutes” was heard by the jubilant players after No. 7 Sabino’s 49-23 victory over No. 10 San Tan Foothills in a 3A state playoffs first-round game Friday night.

The Sabercats (8-3) next play at No. 2 Mesa Eastmark (10-1) on Friday in the quarterfinals. The game is a rematch from when Eastmark defeated Sabino 56-19 at home Oct. 14. The Firebirds beat Monument Valley 50-0 on Friday night in a first-round game.

NO. 7 SABINO (8-3)

Sabercats compete in the 3A South. *Region game. +3A state playoffs. Games at 7 p.m.
DateOpponentW/LOvr
8/19CoolidgeW, 42-201-0
9/2@ ALA-West FoothillsW, 47-272-0
9/9SahuaroW. 41-203-0
9/16@ Palo Verde*W, 55-64-0
9/23Safford*W, 68-145-0
9/30@ Pusch Ridge*L, 41-205-1
10/7Sequoia PathwayW, 73-406-1
10/14@ EastmarkL, 56-196-2
10/21@ Thatcher*L, 35-76-3
10/28Benson*W, 55-07-3
11/4San Tan Foothills+W, 49-238-3
11/11@ Eastmark+

Sabino coach Ryan McBrayer and his staff were pleased to get about 25 minutes out of prolific-passing quarterback Cameron Hackworth against San Tan Foothills (7-4).

He sat out last week’s 55-0 win over visiting Benson in the regular-season finale after suffering a clean dislocated right (throwing) shoulder injury the previous week at Thatcher.

Asked when he knew he could play, Hackworth said, “Thursday, when I went to the doctor and they cleared me.”

“Since the week I got hurt, I’ve been saying I was going to come back and play in this playoff game,” he continued. “When I got cleared on Thursday, I just came out here and did my thing.”

His thing is connecting with an array of receivers and leading the Sabercats to victories.

After itching to play, watching from the sidelines as backup Leaf Moylan played the first series, Hackworth entered and immediately sparked the Sabino offense.

He completed his first pass of 12 yards to Brit Roberson, followed by a perfect strike to Shamar Berryhill along the sideline for a 44-yard score with 7:04 remaining in the first quarter to put Sabino ahead 14-0.

“It felt good — the connection’s back,” said Berryhill, who finished with six catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns. “We’re going to keep making it big every week.”

Hackworth showed his smarts, protecting the shoulder by not running and purposely threw the ball away instead of getting tackled. Those incompletions did not happen often, however, as he completed 20 of 25 pass attempts for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“It did feel normal,” Hackworth said about his shoulder. “I came back ready than ever.”

Sabino’s 5-foot-8 and 175-pound running back/linebacker Mason Cade, physically “chiseled” as McBrayer describes him, helped keep some of the pressure off Hackworth by running for big gains while busting free from tackles.

Cade gained 53 yards on three carries in Sabino’s first possession that resulted in a 2-yard scoring run by Andres Baca.

His 54-yard run on the first play from scrimmage on the Sabercats’ third possession resulted in a touchdown after he broke through five tackles en route to the end zone to increase the lead to 21-7 with 3:27 left in the first quarter.

Cade, who also had an 8-yard scoring run in the third quarter that put Sabino ahead 42-7, finished with a career-high 200 yards on 10 carries.

“I just came in with the mentality that I wanted to hit somebody, and I did not want to go down,” Cade said.

His 57-yard run set up Hackworth’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Roberson with 10:14 remaining in the second quarter that put the Sabino ahead 28-7.

Hackworth completed 8 of 9 passes for 88 yards in Sabino’s last possession of the first half, culminating on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Berryhill with 28.1 seconds left that gave Sabino a 35-7 lead going into halftime.

“He’s one of the best kids in the state of Arizona as a football player, so anytime you can an add No. 1 (Hackworth’s jersey number) back there, it’s definitely a boost to your team,” McBrayer said. “As we saw, when he went down, guys stepped up all around him starting with Leaf taking the quarterback spot, Tristan Jessup getting some throws in …

“Our two running backs … more than that, three or four of them … Mason Cade, Andres Baca, Devon Waxwood, JuJu Cordova … the list goes on and on. The guys just stepped up. We’ve had our fair share of injuries this year — more than we’d like to have but it has just been one guy after the other making different plays.”

Savaughn Berryhill. who has 43 receptions for 822 yards this season, did not play for precautionary reasons because of a sore right ankle.

Other than targeting Savaughn’s brother Shamar, Hackworth spread the ball to Roberson (three catches for 40 yards), Dominik Wayne-Parsons (three receptions for 36 yards), Jeremy Gigstad (four catches for 35 yards) and Waxwood (two catches for 23 yards).

Baca, who had a 9-yard reception, finished with 83 yards on the ground on eight carries.

McBrayer has coached the last six seasons at his alma mater and has reached at least eight wins and the quarterfinals in Sabino’s five full seasons in that span (the Sabercats played only two games in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season when Hackworth was a freshman).

His 2018 team that was 10-3 advanced the furthest under him, to the semifinals, after winning 10 straight games following an 0-2 start.

What’s it going to take to earn another 48 minutes and reach the semifinals this time around?

“We have to go up to Eastmark, get off the bus and play our game,” Hackworth said. “I mean, no one can dictate our game besides us, and if we do that, we’ll get a big win.”

NOTES: McBrayer is 45-16 in his six seasons as head coach. In Sabino’s current 20-year playoff streak, he has taken part in half of them — four of them as a player from 2003 to 2006 playing for Jay Campos. … Sabino PK Steve Bishopp made all seven of his PAT attempts. He is on a streak of 16 straight. … The temperature was in the 40s by the end of the game. McBrayer summoned the cheerleaders over to his celebrating players on the field and told his team the cheerleaders deserved to take part in the celebration because they braved the weather. … Stanley Berryhill Jr. attended the game to watch his son Shamar, who has received a scholarship offer from Arizona. The elder Berryhill said he’s taking a flight to Detroit on Saturday to watch another son, Stanley III, potentially play Sunday for the Lions against the Green Bay Packers. Stanley III, a former Mountain View and Arizona standout, is on the team’s active 53-player roster for the second straight week after he was signed to the practice squad last month.


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