In front of one of the largest home crowds in recent history, the Sahuarita Mustangs wasted little time in establishing their dominance over the Palo Verde Titans with a 53-14 win Friday night.
With the touchdown horn, the bell, the siren and with Coach Watt’s new twist – cowbells - on hand, Sahuarita seemed to have erased the sting of the season opening loss to Santa Cruz.
Watt told the team in the post-game huddle, “This is payday. Today you got paid. You got punched in the mouth two weeks ago and tasted your own blood, but you spit that out and you came out ready to shake it off. This is a great team win. You won every part of this game.” He closed by giving the team Saturday off. He also told them to make good choices as they celebrated the win and to be ready to go back to work this coming week.
The Mustangs controlled both sides of the lines of scrimmage. The defense shut down the Palo Verde running game, the Titans had minus one yard rushing the ball, but they did however, manage 165 yards in the air, most coming from the connection of senior quarterback Dario Marchica to senior wide receiver Demier Nelson.
Sahuarita’s outstanding offensive line play was key in the 449 yards of total yards gained, 319 yards on the ground and 130 through the air.
Following the game, in the post-game team huddle, quarterback Orlando Williams thanked and commended the offensive line.
“Great job, O line, not one time on any pass play did I ever touch the ground tonight,” he said.
Senior Bryce Williams led the Mustang offensive attack scoring four touchdowns. Williams racked up 141 yards on offense, running for 96 yards and another 45 yards receiving, with 25 more special team yards.
Friday night the Mustang ground game was a case of the “old and the new.” Or if not “old and new,” than “the familiar and the fresh.” Joining seniors Bryce Williams and Cristian Gonzales was freshman Brady Radovich, who scored twice as he picked up 119 yards on 18 carries.
Junior Tanner-James Friend also scored twice on catches of 41 and two yards.
The Mustangs wasted little time in bringing the Sahuarita fans to their feet. On the first play from scrimmage Bryce Williams slashed through the Palo Verde defense for 57 yards and the endzone.
One play, one touchdown, with failed Pat, 6-0.
SHS defense proved to be tough going for the Titans early on. Palo Verde’s first series was three downs and out. The second series wasn’t much better, two penalties and a fumble that was recovered by RJ Ahumada at the Titan’s two-yard line.
The Mustangs again made quick work of scoring as Bryce Williams high stepped into the endzone again, one play, one touchdown. Bryce added the PAT, 14-0.
Palo Verde managed to put together an 11-play scoring drive. Titan quarterback Marchica completed six passes in succession culminating with a 10-yard touchdown pass to senior Thomas Rinyu, with 1:41 left in the first period. Score 14-6, with failed PAT.
The second quarter opened with the Mustangs moving the ball down the field with runs by Gonzales, Bryce Williams and Radovich. Facing second down and 16 yards to go, Orlando Williams connected with junior wide receiver Friend for a 41- yard pass, catch and run to the endzone. 22-6 with Orlando adding PAT.
Aided by four Mustang penalties, the Titans were able to put together an 18-play, scoring drive. Narrowing the gap to 22-14.
Bryce Williams took the following kick-off 20 yards, setting Sahuarita up at the 50-yard line. A 17-yard toss from Orlando Williams to Aaron Sisk moved the ball to the Palo Verde 32-yard line. Radovich picked up 16 yards through the middle, then added six yards on the next play. Orlando Williams got to the four, and Bryce Williams made it to the one-yard line. Orlando Williams went to the air and connected again with Friend in the endzone for the junior wide receiver’s second touchdown of the night. A PAT toss to Sisk moved the score to 30-14.
The Mustangs and the Williams weren’t finished with first half scoring. A ‘Williams to Williams pass’, Orlando to Bryce for 45 yards and into the Palo Verde endzone. The Orlando Williams PAT sent the Mustangs into halftime leading. 38-14.
Palo Verde’s first drive of the second half stalled. The Mustangs, behind strong offensive line play, moved the ball steadily towards the Titans’ goal line on the legs of Radovich and Orlando Williams. Radovich for 14 yards, Orlando Williams for eight yards. A holding call moved Mustangs back to the 25-yard line. Radovich had two carries that moved Sahuarita to the five- yard line from which Radovich punched the ball in for the freshman’s first varsity touchdown. 46-14 with Orlando Williams PAT.
The final quarter of play started just like the first quarter of play. First play, Bryce Williams 21-yard touchdown. Diego Ibarra added the successful PAT kick. Final score, 53-14, with 11:52 left on the game clock.
Through the remaining fourth quarter Palo Verde was unable to respond, and soon younger Mustangs were able to find their time on the field of play.
Coach Watt said he could sum up the game with one word, that word was “Karma.”
During the SHS bye week he had been in the stands for the Palo Verde/Catalina Magnet 61-0 game and watched Palo Verde, “disrespect and disgrace Catalina. Catalina is having a down- year, they only have 22 kids and only about half of them probably have any football experience. Palo Verde never took their foot off the gas, they kept their starters on the field for the whole game. I felt they ran the score up and for me it was like watching somebody pick on your little brother. I asked our boys, ‘What would you do to somebody that picked on your weaker little brother?’ Karma, our boys took care of that.”
Watt and the SHS coaching staff may have had a reason to show no mercy. Some of the Palo Verde coaches had told Sahuarita coaches that when they beat SHS Friday night they were going to be the only blue and gold in the area and claim the Mustangs’ colors.
Even with that extra incentive and with 11 minutes and 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter the Mustangs took their foot off the gas.
“It was the right thing to,” Watt said.
Watt says Mustang Football is a leadership program that uses football to teach that.
“The game was won, so we elected to show sportsmanship at that point.”
Now 1-1 on the young season, the Mustangs must now ready themselves for a string of four away games before returning to Sahuarita.
First up, on Friday night is a trip to face the 3-0 Coolidge Bears. “Last year Coolidge came down here and beat us late in the game. They will be a formidable opponent, and I am sure our boys would like to go to their place and do that to them. We won on both sides of the line of scrimmage against Palo Verde, and we will need to the same against Coolidge.”
Next they’ll be heading to a neutral field meeting with Holbrook at the American Leadership Academy, Ironwood. The next week it is north again to face San Tan.
A trip east will open Region 3A competition with the Safford Bulldogs. The Mustangs will return to Burton Tingle Field on October 11 to host Pusch Ridge for homecoming.