Coming out of halftime, the Chaparral Firebirds chances of coming out on top were looking thin.
The Firebirds were down 20-7 and the momentum was in Saguaro’s favor after a first half that consisted of a 72-yard pick-six from senior safety Thomas Dechesaro and a run game that could not be stopped.
To make matters worse, on their first drive of the second half senior quarterback Brayten Silbor threw three consecutive incomplete passes forcing the Firebirds to punt.
But, on Saguaro’s first possession of the second half, something game-changing happened.
Saguaro sophomore running back Jaedon Matthews broke free for what appeared to be a breakaway touchdown, but Chaparral senior cornerback Davondre Bucannon chased Matthews down and forced a fumble on the three yard line that bounced out of the end zone for a Chaparral touchback.
This play changed the momentum of the entire second half.
“I wanted to get the ball out cause I knew if I stripped it it would go in the endzone, we’d get the turnover and then we’d have more momentum to win this game,” Bucannon said. “That’s what we needed. That spark of energy.”
From then on, the Firebirds went on a 20-0 run into the fourth quarter that changed the course of the game.
On a drive in the third quarter, senior wide receiver Grady Hickey caught a 39-yard pass to put the Firebirds in the red zone and senior running back Jamarei Ashby-phan carried the ball six times for 22 yards and capped off the drive with a touchdown.
After forcing a turnover on downs, the Firebirds got the ball back and took their first lead of the game just seven seconds into the fourth quarter on a 23-yard strike from Silbor to senior wide receiver Gavin Higley.
Then, after forcing another Saguaro punt, Chaparral took over on Saguaro’s six-yard line. On third and five from the 11-yard line, Hickey took a handoff 89 yards for a touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion, Chaparral found themselves up 27-20 with 5:45 seconds left in the game.
“It was an inside zone, I saw a hole outside and I just took it,” Hickey said.
Hickey finished the game with four receptions for 68 yards and four rushes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
But the game was not over just yet. The Saguaro Sabercats put together a three-minute drive capped off by a three-yard rush from sophomore wide receiver Jaci Dickerson.
In an attempt to take the lead, Saguaro went for two but failed to convert on a broken play in which senior quarterback Ridge Docekal tried to scramble up the middle. Docekal was met by multiple Chaparral defenders and stopped at the one-yard line.
Docekal finished the game with 147 passing yards, 10 rushing yards and a touchdown.
After a failed onside kick, the game looked all but over, but two kneels and a scramble for a loss from Silbor forced the Firebirds to punt with 8.8 seconds left. Then, the Chaparral punt went straight out of bounds and gave Saguaro one more chance from the Chaparral 45-yard line.
Docekal took one final shot to the end zone, where it was intercepted by a Chaparral defender securing the Firebirds first victory over Saguaro since 2013.
“We don’t look too much in the past, we’re just looking forward. It was all about tonight.” Chaparral head coach Brent Barnes said. “I found out a lot about our team. I know we got some guys that are gonna fight and scratch and claw.”
Next week Chaparral (3-1) will try to keep the momentum going against Sandra Day O’Connor. Saguaro (2-1) will travel down to Tucson to take on Salpointe Catholic (3-0).