The Mustangs picked up win number five Friday night in Tucson with a 34-26 victory over the Catalina Trojans. That takes SHS to 5-3 on the season and 1-2 in Region 3A South play with two games remaining.
On paper, the Mustangs were clearly the dominate team. Football games, however, are played on the field and not on paper. The field this game would be played on had been hit by rain Thursday evening and Friday morning and the grass was soggy in some places and soupy in spots on the eastern sideline.
A large group of Mustang fans made the trip to Tucson and saw the Mustangs take an opening drive down the field with Tucker Leinen capping it with a two-yard run for the first score. Bryce Williams picked up the two-point conversion, 8-0.
Catalina fumbled the ball on its first possession, but the Mustangs gave the ball back to the Trojans on the next play. There would be four fumbles, two by each team in the first quarter. About the same time the football started to hit the ground so too did the little pink flags. The game’s officials were using pink flags in a show of support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They must have liked how the pink contrasted with the natural grass as they tossed them every chance they could. By game's end, the Mustangs had been flagged 15 times for 146 yards.
Catalina would score on its next two possessions and be up 14-8 at the end of the first quarter. Sahuarita would regain the lead to open the second quarter with a six-yard Colin Fanning to Cristian Gonzales touchdown pass, add a Fanning to Cristian Felix pass for the two-point conversion, 16-14.
Catalina’s Leon Hayes must not have gotten the dominate team memo, as he took the ensuing kick-off all the way back to snatch the lead back, 20-16.
Oscar Martinez may have made the most exciting play of the game as the final seconds of the first half ticked away. He intercepted a Trojan pass near the SHS goal line and took off along the soggy eastern sideline, dodging and breaking numerous attempts to stop him. He was finally stopped inside the Catalina 10-yard line. Unfortunately, when his run ended so did the first half. The scoreboard clock said all zeros and the score remained 20-16.
During the halftime break, head coach Don Watt told the team they had come out playing “flatter than a three-day-old soda.” He also said they had taken Catalina too lightly, maybe looking ahead to Sabino next week.
“Now you are in a game. And this game holds your destiny. How are you going to respond?”
The Mustangs opened the second half by shutting down Catalina’s first drive forcing a punt. They then proceeded down the field, overcoming four flags and regaining the lead on a 16-yard Fanning run. With the failed PAT, 22-20.
The Mustang defense stiffened, forcing another Trojan punt and SHS scored again, this time on a Gonzales 24-yard run, failed PAT 28-20. This drive was highlighted by three more pink flags.
The final quarter opened with the Mustang defense forcing another Trojan punt. Gonzales returned this punt all the way to the Catalina end zone, moving the SHS margin to 34-20 with failed PAT.
With 2:25 seconds remaining in the game, Catalina would score its only touchdown of the second half, 34-26 with a failed PAT.
All season, Watt has preached football as a teacher of lessons for life. Following the game, he had this to say to the team: “Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. I am proud of the way you came back and never gave up.”
Watt and his assistants in turn warned the team about coming out flat against Sabino on Friday night.
Sabino sits atop the 3A South Region in the #1 spot at 3-0, with Safford in #2 with a matching 3-0 record. Pusch Ridge is #3, and is now 2-1, falling to Sabino 23-7 Friday night. Sahuarita is #4 and 1-2, above both Catalina and Tanque Verde at 0-3.
See Wednesday’s Sahuarita Sun for complete game story, stats and more photos.