Nearly two years ago, the #6-seeded Canyon Del Oro Dorados came within moments of winning a state championship, before a late field goal gave Scottsdale Saguaro the crown, 23-21.
The catalyst for the Dorados' rally in that game?
A freshman named Ka'Deem Carey, whose 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown sparked CDO.
Much has changed in the last two years.
Now a junior, Carey is one of the most dominant backs in Southern Arizona, having racked up nearly 1,000 yards rushing and 13 all-purpose touchdowns on the young season, and helping CDO to an unbeaten 5-0 record.
The Dorados are also sporting a new coach — Dusty Peace in his first year — and an even newer quarterback in Jason McBrayer, who will be making his second start ever. He had a successful debut in a 56-13 romp over Nogales last week, filling in for the injured Mike Lewis.
What may be more important for CDO, however, is what remains the same.
Since that victory in 2007, Saguaro hasn't looked back, taking home the 4A-I championship trophy last season to put its streak at two.
For the Dorados to break that pattern, they will have to focus on stopping an offense that has outscored opponents 133-41 this season.
Junior quarterback Teddy Ruben has been particularly effective for the Sabercats, averaging more than 200 all-purpose yards per game, throwing for 570 and zero interceptions, and running for another 251 on 39 carries. Another dangerous weapon: senior running back Bobby McGinty, who has carried the ball 44 times for 293 total yards, an average of 6.7 per touch. Talented sophomore wide receiver DJ Foster leads all Saguaro receivers with 293 yards on 13 receptions.
CDO's defense has allowed two teams to score more than one touchdown, (Ironwood Ridge and Nogales) and both came late in games that had essentially been decided.
Senior safety Jared Tevis leads the Dorados in total tackles with 38, making it difficult for opposing receivers to find space in the defensive backfield, while the linebacker duo of senior Garret Henderson and junior Bobby Henkel (64 combined tackles, 6 sacks), and 6-4, 246-pound junior lineman Jesse Caldwell will look to stifle Ruben and McGinty at the line of scrimmage.
In addition to strength on the defensive side of the ball, senior wide receiver Kelton Beattie (118 yards on 10 catches) has shown skill as a pass-catcher on a team that has been largely reliant on the run, thanks to Carey's prodigious output.
Also intriguing is McBrayer, who finished the game at Nogales with 108 yards through the air and four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). McBrayer will have to look out for the Sabercats' 6-4, 240-pound defensive lineman Jordan McDonald, a senior who has notched nine sacks.
Whatever the outcome of the game, CDO's Peace is well aware of the challenge presented by the Sabercats.
"They'll be tough," said Peace earlier in the season.