The No. 15-seeded Mingus Union High School football team saw its season end in a 45-13 loss in the first round of the Conference 4A playoffs at the hands of No. 2 and four-time defending state champion Saguaro High School.
The Marauders [5-6, 5-1 Grand Canyon] trailed just 7-0 after the first quarter, but a 31-point second quarter sentenced the game by halftime at 38-0. However that scoreline was somewhat deceiving, as the defense played well but the offense could not hold possession.
“I thought our defense did a lot better tonight than last week. We had some stops, last week we never stopped them once,” Marauders head coach Bob Young said. “Our defense honestly did a pretty good job for the most part. Our offense, we kept getting off the field, and the defense was on the field the whole night and you have no chance doing that.”
The Mingus defense did have a chance to get off the field early when it had the Sabercats [8-2, 4-0 Skyline] at a third and one, but senior running back Josiah Bradley picked up a first down. Three plays later Saguaro senior wide receiver Logan Pettijohn caught his first of two touchdown passes from senior quarterback Max Massingale, a 19-yarder.
Marauders junior quarterback Antoine Zabala was sacked after taking his first snap of the evening, but gained his team’s first first down on a fourth-down keeper. Even though the offense was forced to punt the ball away, it got it right back when the Marauders defense recovered a fumble on Saguaro’s ensuing possession.
The Sabercats turned it over on downs the following possession as well, but scored on the following five series, all in the second quarter.
Three of those scores were touchdowns that came on drives of two plays or less. The first came on a short-field situation after the Sabercats recovered a dropped shovel pass intended for Marauders senior running back Martin Soria. Massingale rushed for five yards and on the next play handed off to senior running back La’Ray Lucas, who took it 14 yards to the end zone.
Mingus went three-and-out, and Massingale hit senior wide receiver Zach Wilson for a 43-yard strike for a one-play score.
Saguaro recovered a fumbled snap on the Marauders’ first play of their ensuing drive. Five plays later, Bradley walked in from three yards out to make it 28-0 with 4:55 left in the half.
Mingus again punted as the Sabercats’ defensive front seven continued to swarm around the backfield, eventually sacking Zabala at least four times and tackling the running back duo of senior Tyler Kelly and junior Alex Nelson for a loss throughout.
“They were beating us off the ball so there was nothing we could really do,” Kelly said. “They just beat us.”
Massingale hooked up with Pettijohn for a 65-yard touchdown pass for the hosts’ second quick-strike score. Mingus had scored as the first-half clock expired the last two weeks, but this time it was Saguaro who split the uprights with a
35-yard field goal as the clock struck zero.
Kelly picked off Massingale near the end zone on Mingus’ first defensive series of the second half, but again the offense was not able to get moving.
Saguaro junior running back Connor Soelle rushed eight yards for a score with 6:09 left in the third quarter, pinballing off of Marauders defenders. From there, the Sabercats’ second string offense played out the rest.
Marauders junior wide receiver Chaz Taylor broke the shutout with a 40-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It appeared to be the exact play, a go route down the right sideline, which the team ran on its first play of 7-on-7 games during the summer.
That score was set up by a big gain by Soria on the same play that had led to Saguaro’s second touchdown.
Taylor found pay dirt again with six seconds left, bobbling the ball but showing enough concentration to pull it in. Kelly set that one up with two big plays, the second ending with him running over a Sabercats defender.
“We played a lot better, so at least we ended the second half with something good to say,” Kelly said. “It just sucks to get beat that bad in my last game.”
The team had a successful year by claiming the Grand Canyon Region title, the 20th region title in program history.
While the team parts ways with players like Kelly and Soria as well as defensive backs Jordan Huey and Marcos Valenzuela, both lines return as well as key skill players. Next season will start soon, as Young and Taylor both talked about getting stronger in the weight room to close the gap with teams like Saguaro.
“I’m excited; it’ll be fun,” Taylor said. “We’re all really close and we’ve been playing for a long time, since I was like seven, together with some of them, so it’ll be fun. We should be pretty good.”