Football: Sabino beat Casa Grande 14-7 with defense

August 31, 2019 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Sabino beat Casa Grande 14-7 Friday night in a defensive battle that saw both teams struggle in the red zone. The win by the Sabercats avenged a 21-6 loss to the Cougars from last year and the setback puts Casa Grande in a difficult situation.

The Sabercats started out 0-2 last year, but eight straight wins led to a No. 6 ranking heading into the 3A playoffs, and the team was able to rally for a semifinal finish. The Cougars, on the other hand, started the season out 5-1 but the 4A Kino Region is one of the most difficult ones in the state and losses to Salpointe, Catalina Foothills, Sahuaro and Canyon del Oro dropped the Cougars to 5-5 and out of the playoff hunt. Simply, Casa Grande needs wins to offset region play.

It was back and forth early on but Sabino drove deep into Casa Grande territory only to have senior safety Gregory Velasquez end the threat on an interception at the goal line with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.

The Sabercats got the ball back after stopping Casa Grande but the Cougars came up with another stop on downs to set up a short field. Sophomore RJ Keeton picked up most of the load on a drive that reached the 2-yardline but two straight defensive stops from the Sabercats kept the game scoreless.

“We’re tough in the red zone,” senior Diego Armijo explained. “Coach has us practicing those situations and it takes heart and conditioning to pull it off.”

Sabino was unable to move the ball after the stop and Casa Grande started at midfield once more, only to be turned back from a first-and-goal situation from the 2-yardline for the second drive in a row.

The Sabercats were able to breakthrough after senior Jayson Petty forced a fumble at the 30 and junior QB AJ Skaggs took over from there with five completions, including a 3-yard touchdown toss to Dawson Szarek with 4:20 left in the third.

The Cougars gave the ball back on downs with 6:29 left in the game and Skaggs took advantage of the short field with a 5-yard run to put the Sabercats up 14-0 with 1:58 left in the game.

Skaggs finished with 138 yards passing and Andrew Owen collected 89 yards rushing but Casa Grande sophomore QB Angel Flores came alive in the final moments he guided the Cougars to a score with 58.2 seconds left to cut the lead down to 14-7. The Cougars were aided by a few untimely penalties by the Sabercats but Flores finished with 185 yards passing and Keeton pulled down 74 of those yards and he rushed for 38 more.

Casa Grande came back with an onside kick but sophomore TE Michael Masunas pulled in the kick to preserve the win.

“We have to regroup and prepare for Pueblo,” head coach Jake Barro said. “Pueblo is a good team and we have to try to regroup.”

Pueblo beat Tucson 21-7 Friday night and the Warriors will present a challenge for sure. The Sabercats will visit Sahuaro next Friday night and the Cougars are coming off of a 26-8 win at Buena to move to 2-0 on the year.

As mentioned before, Casa Grande squandered two first-and-goal situations but that’s something Sabino head coach Ryan McBrayer takes pride in.

“Everything we worked on fell into place,” McBrayer explained. “The goal line situation came up during our scrimmage and the excitement of the situation brought our defense together.”

Casa Grande QB Angel Flores (Andy Morales/