Mingus Union football is back in the state playoffs but faces a stiff test.
The No. 17 Marauders (5-5, 5-1 Grand Canyon) will play at No. 2 Scottsdale Saguaro (8-2, 4-0 Skyline) on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
It is their third straight trip to the playoffs.
“That’s the expectations here (laughs),” said Mingus head coach Bob Young when asked about making it back to the state tournament.
The Marauders made the post season despite starting the year 0-3.
Young said getting to the playoffs wasn’t something they were talking about in early September.
“We don’t talk about winning and losing, we just talk about getting better,” Young said. “So we know if we get better and do what we’re supposed to do, then at the end of the season we have a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Saguaro has won four state championships in a row and 10 overall, nine this century. Mingus Union won the state championship in 1997.
Saguaro’s only losses this year were at Liberty (Nevada) and 35-14 to Salt Lake City East. Maxpreps has Liberty ranked 51st in the country and East 56th.
The Sabercats have won 31 games in a row against Arizona teams. They beat No. 1 Sunrise Mountain 24-21 and No. 3 Higley 42-14.
“They’re extremely good,” Young said. “We played Higley and we played Sunrise and Saguaro beat both of those teams. I think those teams are on par, Saguaro’s just a little better than them, so they’re very good.”
247 Sports’ recruiting rankings have four Sabercats in their top 50 recruits in the state. Saguaro players have received offers from schools like ASU, Washington, California and Louisville.
Max Massingale is second in the state in passing and has committed to Air Force as a dual threat quarterback.
Mingus Union earned the state tournament berth after No. 16 Prescott (7-3, 5-1 Grand Canyon) beat No. 25 Bradshaw Mountain (4-6, 4-2) 44-27 on Friday night. The Marauders and Badgers finished as co-champions of the Grand Canyon Region but Mingus Union beat Prescott 38-6 on October 6 to take the region’s automatic berth in the playoffs.
On Friday Walden Grove upset Catalina Foothills, who made it to the state championship game last year. Saguaro beat them 42-14 to win the title.
Prescott finished 3-3 against the top 25 according to the Daily Courier and ahead of two region champions in the power rankings.
“I thought they were going to get in, but when Walden Grove upset whoever they played I knew they weren’t going to get in because Walden Grove was supposed to lose,” Young said. “At 7-3, Prescott deserved to get in.”
The Marauders made it into the state tournament despite losing their regular season finale 61-34 to No. 1 Sunrise Mountain (9-1, 4-0 West Valley).
Mingus Union led Sunrise Mountain 8-6 after the first quarter and trailed only 27-22 at the half. However, the Mustangs ran past the Marauders in the second half, scoring 34 points, including 28 in the third quarter.
Marauder senior Tyler Kelly ran the ball 20 times for 129 yards. Junior Alex Nelson had 92 yards on 16 rushes and senior Martin Soria averaged 6.7 yards a carry.
“First half offensively we played as well as we could play,” Young said. “I thought the offense did a great job. On defense we struggled all night slowing them down but it was 27-22 at halftime and they came out and got two quick scores second half and that hurt us and got us out of what we wanted to do but I thought offensively we really played well.”
Young said that yes, the Sunrise Mountain game showed the Marauders can play with teams like that, at least for a half and then laughed.
Mingus Union went played four playoff teams, Sunrise Mountain, No. 3 Higley (9-1, 4-0 Desert Sky), No. 5 Cactus (8-2, 3-1 West Valley) and No. 8 Cactus Shadows (6-4, 3-1 Skyline).
“That’s the only thing we got going for us, is that we played teams like this, so we’re not gonna come and be scared, I know that,” Young said.