In a heavyweight bout, the Scottsdale Saguaro Sabercats beat the Canyon Del Oro Dorados 41-34 on Saturday, claiming the 4A-1 state football championship, ending the Dorados' 27-game winning streak, and handing second-year coach Dustin Peace his first loss as a head coach.
The matchup has turned into one of the best non-conference rivalries in Arizona. The teams are now 3-3 versus each other over the last few years. The Dorados were the state champions during their unbeaten season of 2009, while the Sabercats won it all in 2006, 2007, 2008 and now in 2010.
In his final high school game, Ka'Deem Carey gained 173 yards rushing on 25 carries, and scored two touchdowns for the Dorados. The Sabercats had their own show-stopper in quarterback Teddy Ruben, who rushed 25 times for 162 yards and scored four touchdowns, including the game-winning, five-yard run with 2:25 to go for the Sabercats. Ruben completed 10 of 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. D. J. Foster also gained 124 yards for Saguaro.
"They were a heck of an opponent," said CDO senior quarterback Jason McBrayer.
It seemed inevitable the game would come down to the wire. The regular-season meeting came down to a pass off the fingertips at the 2-yard line. This time, the two high-powered offenses played to a 27-27 tie after three quarters. It seemed like the last team on offense would win.
The Dorados had been held scoreless in the third quarter, but their offense went on the attack early in the fourth. Carey ran for nine yards, giving the Dorados a first down at the Sabercat 42. On three plays, McBrayer carried to the 30, and was speared, drawing a penalty that put the ball on the 16. Carey scored on a nine-yard run, giving CDO the lead, 34-27.
The Sabercats showed why they've won four of the last five state titles, marching 80 yards to paydirt and a 34-34 tie.
"We have a great group of kids in the back field," Ruben said. "We fought all four quarters."
Carey appeared to take over on the next drive, as he broke runs of 28, 11, and three yards down to the Sabercats 27-yard line. Then, Carey ran 12 yards but the ball popped loose, and was recovered by Foster. Carey did not lose a fumble during the entire regular season.
The Sabercats marched for what would be the game-winning touchdown, capping an 85-yard drive, as Ruben went five yards to make it 41-34.
From a 27-14 halftime lead, CDO saw momentum begin to shift on a fourth-down play on its opening possession of the third quarter. Instead of punting, coach Peace gambled, going for it at the CDO 29. McBrayer was nailed for a five-yard loss.
"It was a bad call," Peace said. "Because it didn't work."
The Sabercats pounced on the opportunity, scoring on five plays to cut the lead to 27-20.
On the Dorados next series, CDO lined up punter Tilghman Harvey just a few yards back from where the quarterback normally waits for a snap. Harvey, who had kicked his last punt 55 yards, had this one blocked. A few plays later, Foster broke away for 23 yards and the tying touchdown at 27-27.
"They're skilled up front," said CDO senior Bobby Henkel. "You can't focus on one person."
Peace explained the loss.
"We didn't execute like we needed to," Peace said. "We didn't achieve the goal we wanted to, but the kids set the bar high for our program."
McBrayer still thought the Dorados could rally after falling behind in the fourth quarter.
"We had done it last week," McBrayer said.
"At halftime, we decided that everyone has to play like it's the last play," Ruben said.
What about Ka'Deem Carey?
"His career doesn't end here," McBrayer said.
Carey plans to go to the University of Arizona next fall. He ended his senior year with 1,754 yards rushing and ran for 26 touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 5,702 yards and 82 rushing touchdowns.
"Our coach made sure we were friends and family," said Henkel. "He's the best coach I ever played for."