Saguaro defeated five-time defending champion Chandler

Saguaro celebrated with his fans and the inaugural Open Division trophy on Saturday night. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365.com

Make sure you don’t burn one of the It’s a Small World boats at Disneyland, coach Jason Mohns.

Mohns and his family head to Disneyland on Sunday to celebrate a monumental win. His Saguaro team’s motto this season was Burn the Boats, which means win or fail.

On Saturday, Saguaro conquered the once impenetrable soccer island of Chandler Wolves, 20-15, at Sun Devil Stadium, shattering Chandler’s 5-year reign as champion. Saguaro’s reward was his first Open Division Golden Ball.

Both teams made big plays on either side of the ball during the match, but Saguaro landed the knockout blows. The first, a 45-yard touchdown pass from Devon Dampier to junior running back Jaedon Matthews in the middle with 4:25 left, had Chandler faltering.

But Junius Marsh’s interception near Saguaro’s sideline allowed his team to run out of time and hit Chandler.

“I knew it was coming to me,” Marsh said. “I just had to play the game and do what I do best.”

Junius Marsh (No. 2) had an assist and Chandler’s chances to triple as Open Division champion in Saturday’s game. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365.com

Matthews was open when he caught the eventual game-winning touchdown.

“They didn’t see me,” he said. “I got out quick. I told them they were going to remember me. And I got that take, the game winner.”

Besides fighting for football supremacy in the state, Chandler and Saguaro also share a certain respect for each other.

Chris Chick, a former assistant to both programs, brought them together. Chick was a beloved coach who passed away unexpectedly before the start of this season.

Saturday’s game was unofficially billed as Chris Chick Bowl II. Chandler and Saguaro met two years ago in the first Open final to be played.

Chandler won that match as well as last year’s Open, when COVID-19 forced Saguaro out of the playoffs. This season, Mohns and his boys have bounced back from other setbacks, including injuries.

In their first open meeting, it took a while for Saguaro to counter after Chandler’s surge. This year, Saguaro reacted immediately after being taken down in his biggest games of the year.

In the semis, Hamilton scored in his first match against Saguaro, as did Chandler. But just like in the semis, Saguaro responded with his own touchdown in the final.

“All due respect to Coach (Chandler) Rick (Garrettson),” Mohns said. “He’s one of my good friends. The first thing I said to him was how much I miss Chris Chick. The last time we were here, Rick, Chris and I met and had spoke to the midfielder. So, for us, it was one of those bittersweet things. It was only fitting that it was our two teams that were here. I’m glad the Chick Bowl is now shared one-on-one head.

“Huge effort. I love this team. We probably had more talented teams. I don’t know if we’ve ever had such a serious one.”

Mohns made the difficult decision to replace one of his leaders, quarterback Ridge Docekal, with Dampier, a junior quarterback with a solid frame and nasty juke moves.

The junior stepped in and did not disappoint in his first three starts, all in the playoffs. On Saturday, he rushed for 145 yards on 22 carries and also completed 12 of 17 passes and two touchdowns.

Saguaro’s Devon Dampier wasn’t easy to knock off during the playoffs. Photo by Jose Garcia/azpreps365.com.In his three starts, Dampier rushed for 451 yards. His teammate, Javen Jacobs, is a threat to score from anywhere on the court.

Chandler stopped Jacobs from moving freely, but Jacobs scored twice. His second sent Saguaro 12-1 at halftime 14-12.

This receiving score was created by an interception by Thomas Dechesaro. Dechesaro, the heart and soul of Saguaro’s defense, according to Mohns, also led his team with eight tackles in the Open final.

For 11-2 Chandler, running back Anyale Velazquez rushed for 153 yards on 21 carries.

Mohns burned a boat on Saturday for good luck before heading to Sun Devil Stadium. It was a model ship purchased by an assistant.

But don’t tell the Saguaro administration.

“I hope I don’t have a letter of recommendation in my school file on Monday,” Mohns said. “I told the principal whether or not I had set something on campus on fire.”

We’re sure all is forgiven, coach.

The 2021 Open champion: Saguaro.

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