2023 High School Football

6A Semifinals: No. 3 Scottsdale Saguaro vs. No. 2 Salpointe

Salpointe defensive end Elijah Rushing leads the Lancers with 13 sacks (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

No. 3 Scottsdale Saguaro (7-5) at No. 2 Salpointe Catholic (10-2)

Date: Friday

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Stream: NFHS Network (ONLY online streaming)

Saguaro coach: Zak Hill (13-10, second year overall, 7-5, first year at Saguaro)

Salpointe coach: Eric Rogers (35-11, fourth year overall and at Salpointe).

When Saguaro has the ball:

Run percentage: 49.9 percent (299 rushes)

Pass percentage: 50.1 percent (300 passes)

Zak Hill, the new Saguaro coach, is lauded for his coaching ability on offense after serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Boise State from 2016-19 and Arizona State from 2020-21. He took over for Jason Mohns, who left to join Kenny Dillingham’s staff at Arizona State as the tight ends coach after coaching 11 seasons at Saguaro. … Saguaro’s QB Mason Bray is a son of former Arizona Desert Swarm defender Heath Bray. The younger Bray, a senior, has completed 191 of 272 pass attempts for 2,424 yards with 18 TDs and seven interceptions. In the 21-14 loss to Salpointe on Oct. 27, Mason Bray threw for 271 yards while completed 22 of 34 pass attempts. He had a touchdown and two interceptions. … Six of the younger Bray’s targets have at least 312 receiving yards, led by 454 on 27 catches by sophomore Kamden Segall. Reiss Renaldi, a junior, has the most receptions with 40 for 342 yards. … Senior RB Jaedon Matthews leads the Sabercats with 806 yards on 147 rushes with 16 touchdowns.

Salpointe’s defense has tallied 92.5 tackles for loss with 47.5 sacks, led by LB Thomas Regina (73 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks). … The defensive bookends of Elijah Rushing and Keona Wilhite have combined for 105 tackles, 35.5 for loss and 21 sacks. … Rushing, who has committed to Oregon, has 17 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Wilhite, bound for Washington, has 54 tackles, including 18.5 for loss with eight sacks. … The Lancers’ junior linebacker Nate Spivey is one of the state’s leaders with six interceptions and has 62 tackles (five for loss) and two sacks. … SS Dinos Drossos has tallied 65 tackles (11.5 for loss) with six sacks. … LB Orlando Gonzalez had nine tackles, two for loss with two sacks, in the win over Saguaro last month. … Saguaro rushed for only 77 yards on 22 carries in that game.

When Salpointe Catholic has the ball:

Run percentage: 66.3 percent (389 rushes)

Pass percentage: 33.7 percent (198 passes)

Salpointe has made two significant changes in the last two weeks with Carlos Guerrero named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and freshman Matthew Avelar becoming the starting quarterback. Guerrero joined the varsity staff after coaching the Lancers’ freshman team. … Salpointe has gone mostly with senior Taylor Nagore at quarterback but Avelar has been given more opportunities in the last two weeks. Nagore has thrown for 917 yards while competing 79 of 132 pass attempts with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed 52 times for 408 yards with nine touchdowns. … Avelar, younger brother of former Sunnyside standout wrestler Mike Avelar and Walden Grove linebacker Rick Avelar III, completed 9 of 15 pass attempts for 169 yards in his first extensive varsity experience in the 41-0 over visiting Corona del Sol in the first round of the playoffs. Last week in the 35-25 victory over Williams Field, he completed 8 of 13 pass attempts for 155 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. … Two senior running backs are leading the Lancers on the ground — Jaxson Banhie (674 yards on 111 carries) and Jaylin Wills-Dennard (584 yards on 116 rushes). … Spivey also leads Salpointe in receiving (41 receptions for 435 yards with four touchdowns).

Saguaro senior LB Trey Morrison and junior LB Owen Pimbert lead the Sabercats with a combined 186 tackles. Morrison has 98 tackles with 4.5 for loss and Pimbert 88 tackles with 4.5 for loss. Pimbert had 14 tackles and Morrison 10 tackles last month against Salpointe. … Morris also is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two. CB Jakobi Spence also has two. Saguaro has nine interceptions as a team. … Senior DE Christian Nunnally leads the Sabercats with 6.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. … Saguaro has combined for 25 sacks and 61 tackles for loss.


Head coach: Eric Rogers
Lancers compete in the 6A Central. Bold are playoff games. Playoff games at 7 p.m.
9/1at Bishop Alemany (CA)W5221
9/8at Shadow RidgeW4924
9/15Valley VistaW506
9/29Desert VistaW3424
10/6Corona del SolW2920
10/13at LibertyL049
10/20Mountain PointeW3526
10/27at SaguaroW2114
11/3at Brophy PrepL1214
11/9Corona del SolW410
11/17Williams FieldW3525

Series record

Salpointe trails in the series 2-4 with three of the losses coming in the 4A semifinals in 2016 and 4A championship games in 2017 and 2018. The Lancers advanced past Saguaro in the 5A playoffs in 2020 when the Sabercats were forced to forfeit because of COVID-19 protocol. Saguaro won a regular-season game 49-21 at home in 2021. Salpointe finally beat Saguaro on the field this season with its 21-14 road victory on Oct. 27. This will be the first time Saguaro will play at Salpointe’s Ed Doherty Stadium.



ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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