Howard's 86-yard kickoff return gets Sahuarita back on track with game tied
Just when it looked like Sahuarita was running out of gas, the Mustangs proved they still had more left in the tank.
Sahuarita's 14-point halftime lead had disappeared after its offense was unable to produce and Nogales managed to score two touchdowns and tie the game at 26 early in the fourth quarter.
Then Aric Howard came to the rescue with one big play.
The senior returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown to give Sahuarita a 33-26 lead and power the Mustangs to a 47-33 win over Nogales and the first 6-0 start in school history, according to coach David Rodriguez.
The Mustangs have a shot at a 10-0 finish with their final four games against teams with losing records ,but Rodriguez said they are going to take it week by week.
"If we take our eye off the ball these next few games, it won't happen," he said. "I know it sounds clichéd but we're going to take it one game at a time."
Nogales (5-1) pulled within seven points of the Mustangs with 4:37 left in the third quarter when quarterback Marcel Renteria hit Mikey Lopez with a 13-yard touchdown pass to cap a seven-play drive.
Two plays into Sahuarita's next possession, Nick Colgate intercepted quarterback Josh Lee at the Sahuarita 40.
Nogales tied the game when Coy Colgate scored on a 1-yard run to cap an 11-play drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversions.
But then Howard responded at the most critical time, with his return up the Sahuarita sideline.
"It was awesome and I had great blocking," Howard said. "We have to keep it going, 7-0, 8-0, one game at a time."
Then Nogales' Brian McCarty fumbled the ensuing kickoff near his own 30. Sahuarita recovered and six plays later had another 14-point lead after running back Chris Snodgrass galloped 5 yards for a touchdown, his third of the night.
The Mustangs didn't look back from there.
"I was a little worried we were losing juice," Snodgrass said. "I was cramping the whole night. I didn't think I was going to make that touchdown.
"It was a breaking point and got us all back into the game."
Snodgrass ran for 120 yards on 20 carries while Nogales running back McCarty, the No. 2 rusher in Southern Arizona, finished the game with 14 carries for 81 yards.
Sahuarita was also electric at the start of the game.
Senior Bryant Eaves returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Then the Mustangs put an end to Nogales' first possession when Joey Howard intercepted Renteria on the fourth play.
"All 11 of us on the field decided to take it to them," Eaves said. "They didn't come ready to play tonight."
Sahuarita cashed in on the turnover with an 11-play scoring drive than ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by Snodgrass and gave the Mustangs a 14-0 lead with 4:31 left in the opening period.
Nogales coach Vince Villanucci was disappointed about the loss but said that some of his team's mistakes were crucial.
"It was a hard game," Villanucci said. "Our kids played hard. A little bit sloppy but we played hard."