The last time Sabino faced Tempe, in 1996, most of the players on this year’s teams were either toddlers or newborns.
This time, the Sabercats got the win.
Sabino outscored and outmanned the Buffaloes 56-49 Friday night in the first round of the Division III playoffs, avenging a 17-year-old playoff loss. Seventh-seeded Sabino (9-2) moves on to play No. 2 Scottsdale Saguaro in next week’s quarterfinals.
Zach Joseph ran for 194 yards and five touchdowns on 23 carries to lead the Sabercats to their first postseason win since 2011.
Friday’s high-scoring affair came as no surprise to Sabino head coach Jay Campos.
“We knew there was going to be some points scored tonight,” Campos said. “I told the guys coming in that this was going to go down to the bitter end.”
The two teams combined for 10 first-half touchdowns, and the Sabercats went into the break leading 42-28.
Tempe scored twice in the third quarter with side-arming touchdown passes from junior quarterback Emanuel Gant to cut the deficit to seven.
The Buffaloes had a chance to tie the game after starting the fourth quarter on the Sabercats’ side of the field, but Sabino’s defense held.
Marcus Edwards picked up his second sack of the game on first down, forcing Tempe to play behind the sticks.
Joseph then made sure Sabino would keep the lead by scoring his fifth touchdown of the game with five minutes remaining.
“Our blocking upfront was ridiculous,” Joseph said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys on the line.”
Added Campos: “Whenever we are down, the guys find a way to step up.”
The Sabercats sealed the victory with 3:22 left in the game when Sabino senior lineman Deandre Dixon recovered Tempe’s attempt at an onside kick.
The game was delayed 30 minutes with 1:22 left on the clock because of a serious injury to Tempe’s Terry’on Anderson, a fullback-defensive end who left the stadium in an ambulance.