2023 High School Football

Salpointe grinds past nemesis Saguaro, beating Sabercats for first time on field

SCOTTSDALE — The No. 10 Salpointe Catholic Lancers are now 8-1 overall following a 21-14 victory over No. 11 Scottsdale Saguaro for the first time in school history in a game on played on the field, not winning by forfeit, in the 6A non-region game.

For Salpointe, the win over Saguaro was a long time coming, and coach Eric Rogers was beaming with pride following the game.

“I’m just so proud,” Rogers said. “We talked to the kids on Saturday morning and told them there were a lot of kids that came before them and a lot of coaches that have come before them, and we’ve never been able to find a way to beat these guys. That’s just a great, great football team.”

Salpointe went 0-3 against Saguaro during the highly successful Dennis Bene era, including in consecutive state championship games in 2017 and 2018. The Lancers won by forfeit in the state quarterfinals over Saguaro in the COVID-19-impacted season of 2020 (when the Sabercats were under COVID-19 protocol) and then lost to the Sabercats 49-21 in Scottsdale in 2021.

Rogers said going into Friday’s game once again at Scottsdale, the Lancers looked at what happened against Liberty in a 49-0 on the road two weeks ago and they talked about it.

He told them the pressure was on Saguaro and not on Salpointe, and talked to them about what the game meant to the program. He thinks this was part of the difference in why they were able to pick up the win.

Things got off to a good start from Salpointe from the coin toss. After winning, they elected to defer.

Saguaro had a chance to get on the board first with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter on a field goal attempt, but the kick was no good. Salpointe took over possession but struggled to do anything with the ball, ultimately punting it away.

On Saguaro’s following possession, the Sabercats were able to get on the board first with a short run by Jaedon Matthews. The extra point was good, making it 7-0 with 6.7 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Salpointe was quick to answer, though, as Taylor Nagore was able to connect with Nathan Spivey for an explosive touchdown on a play of more than 50 yards. The kick was good, making it tied at 7-7 with 11:06 left in the second quarter.

With 6:48 left in the quarter, Salpointe extended the lead to 14-7 on a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Nagore and a good extra point attempt.

Defense stepped up big time with an interception by Kayden Steptoe, son of former Arizona standout receiver Syndric Steptoe, setting up Nagore for yet another touchdown run, this time from around midfield. The extra point attempt was good, making it 21-17 with 2:27 left before the half.

On Saguaro’s final possession of the half, the Sabercats were able to answer with a touchdown to make it 21-14 going into the half.

The second half of the game was a defensive battle more than anything, with no points scored by either team. Spivey had his sixth interception of the season in the third quarter, while Richard Archuleta had a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to help seal the deal.

“That’s big-time defense, big-time playoff football,” Rogers said. “That’s a really good offense, too, and they’re big up front.”

Salpointe will now prepare to close out the regular season on the road against Brophy for the 6A Central title.

Rogers said the win over Saguaro will give his team some momentum to build on as it competes for the region title next week.

“I think our kids are starting to believe that we’re a pretty good football team,” he said, “and we’ve got a really good defense. It’s gonna be playoff football from here on out.”

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