Mingus Union earned its third straight trip to the state tournament but will face a formidable foe.
The No. 17 Marauders (5-5, 5-1 Grand Canyon) will play at No. 2 Saguaro (8-2, 4-0 Skyline) on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
The playoffs are four rounds with the championship game being contested on Dec. 2 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The Sabercats have won four state championships in a row and 10 overall, nine this century. Mingus Union won the state championship in 1997.
If the Marauders upset the Sabercats, then they face the winner of No. 7 Peoria (7-3, 1-3 West Valley) and Walden Grove (7-3, 2-2 Kino).
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.
Prescott finished 3-3 against the top 25 according to the Daily Courier and ahead of two region champions in the power rankings.
Mingus Union went 0-4 against the 4A tournament field. The Marauders lost to 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).
Saguaro looked vulnerable earlier this season by actually losing a pair of games but once they returned to AIA play they reasserted their dominance. The Sabercats have won 31 games in a row against Arizona teams.
Saguaro lost 51-20 at Liberty (Nevada) and 35-14 to Salt Lake City East. Maxpreps has Liberty ranked 55th in the country and East 59th.
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.
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.
Mingus Union junior quarterback Antoine Zabala was 13-for-20 passing for 175 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Sunrise Mountain beat Mingus Union 61-17 in the regular season finale last year and then 49-6 in the first round of the state tournament 49-6. The Mustangs received the No. 1 seed in the tournament and will host No. 24 Apache Junction (6-4, 5-0 Black Canyon) in the first round of the playoffs.
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