Nogales pulled off the first big upset of the AIA post-season football tournament, stunning 3rd seed Sabino at home 36-34 in Division III.
The Apaches (9-2) set the tone from the game's outset letting everyone know they'd arrived on the east side of Tucson prepared to play some football.
Senior quarterback Marcel Renteria working out of a shotgun offense found his big running back Brian McCarty for a 46-yard strike to help set up the Apaches first score, a one-yard sneak by Renteria for an eight-nothing advantage.
These two teams would trade punches in the opening half as each scored on their first two offensive possessions.
The Sabercats (10-1) answered with a 22-yard touchdown run from quarterback Jordan Hughes to make it an 8-7 game.
To win big games like this sometimes you have to gamble and Vince Villanucci took his first gamble on his second offensive series, going for it on fourth and ten from the Sabino 44 yard line. Renteria again found McCarty who beat the Sabercat defenders to the sideline and took the short pass in for the score.
Again Sabino answered on a two-yard dive up the middle by senior tailback Sunthi Dahn. Nogales' lead was 15-14.
This is where the Apaches special teams shifted the course of the game. A blocked punt by Alex Arementa led to a touchdown and then a squib onside kick set up Nogales for another score.
When Alan Garcia punched it in from three yards away late in the second quarter, The Apaches led 29-14.
Two field goals by the Sabercats Bailey Nottingham and a seven-yard TD run by Zach Joseph helped Sabino slice that deficit to 29-27.
But two points was as close as the Cats could get and when Sabino's defensive line jumped offsides on a 3rd and one late in the game, their dreams of a state title extinguished.
Nogales will now travel to face Peoria Sunrise Mountain (9-2) in a quarterfinal matchup next Friday night.
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