This one lived up to the billing.
The Sahuarita Mustangs kept their perfect season intact on Friday night, knocking off the previously undefeated Nogales Apaches, 47-33 in Sahuarita.
The significance of the win was not lost on the capacity, partisan crowd, which chanted “6 and 0! 6 and 0!” as the game wound down in the fourth quarter.
The game featured two powerful offenses, neither of which had to punt the ball until Sahuarita’s first punt with a 14-point lead and only one minute left in the game.
“We had to play our best game as a team,” head coach David Rodriguez said. “We came out tonight ready to go.”
The Mustangs seemed to have the game well in hand after scoring on the first play of the game, a Bryant Eaves 95-yard kickoff return, and all three first half possessions, the last of which came on a Josh Lee quarterback sneak with :16 seconds left in the half, to put them up by 14, 26-12.
“We took the kickoff because they dared to kick to us and well, that’s just the way it is,” Rodriguez said. “Then we come out and run a 10-play drive, take minutes off the clock and go up 14-0, that was a statement drive.”
“It was non-stop, get after them, physical football. Everyone thinks we’re a spread team, but we can play black-and-blue football with the best of them.”
But Nogales would come back and tie the game at 26-26 in the third quarter, setting up another special teams gem.
Aric Howard caught the ensuing kickoff close to the left sideline and brought it all the way across the field, when Sam Mitchell made the block that sprung him.
“My man Sammie had an excellent block that made it pretty easy for me,” Howard said.
“I’ve got your back, Aric,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got his back no matter what.”
The 86-yard return put Sahuarita back up by seven and a Nogales fumble on the next play set the Mustangs up deep in Apache territory.
Six plays later, halfback Chris Snodgrass walked in from six yards out, putting the Mustangs back up by 14, 40-26.
The Apaches immediately answered with a score of their own, but the Mustangs responded with an 8-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard TD pass from Lee to Joey Howard, and with only 2:09 left, the win was sealed.
Snodgrass ran for 120 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns, almost all of which came in the first half. He had to sit out most of the second half with cramps in both legs.
He gave all the credit to his offensive line.
“The line blocked perfectly and they reacted exactly like we thought they would,” he said. “They have talent, but couldn’t move laterally, so we just decided to go vertical.”
The win was celebrated by several of the Mustangs’ players.
“It feels fantastic,” Snodgrass said. “Especially beating another ranked opponent.”
“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true and everything we wanted right now,” Howard said.
Tanner Fanning, the all-everything field goal kicker for the Mustangs, pitched in on offense with four catches for 41 yards, two of which went for huge first downs in the game.
“It felt great,” he said. “Yeah I want the ball thrown to me, but the most important thing is that we won the game.”
Lee would finish the game 9-for-17 for 114 yards and the one rushing touchdown in a workmanlike performance.
While the mood was definitely euphoric on the field after the game, Snodgrass best summed up what the win means for the Mustangs.
“Yeah, it feels great to be 6-0,” he said. “But we’ve got one night to celebrate and then it’s back to work, because what good does this win do if we lose to an unranked team next week.”
The Mustangs travel to Amphi next week. Game time is 7 p.m.
Kevin Duke: 547-9747