QB Luke Rubenzer gives Saguaro Sabercats their will to win
Originally published: Nov 14, 2013 - 12:00 am
Tap-tap . . . tap.
Click-click . . . click.
The ping-pong ball hits the paddle, goes over the net and lands on the other side.
Back and forth it goes, back and forth.
Scottsdale Saguaro football coach Jason Mohns has watched some of his players square off at the table this year, and it’s always an adventure.
The players are competitive, but probably none more so than Mohns’ senior quarterback, Luke Rubenzer.
“He’s a confident kid,’’ Mohns said. “He carries confidence. He expects to be great in everything he does, whether it’s in ping pong or football. He works hard to be great.’’
Asked about that trait, Rubenzer replied, “I really couldn’t tell you what it is. All I know is that last year, we lost (to Goodyear Desert Edge) in the second round (of the Division III playoffs). I hate that feeling, walking off the field, looking up at the scoreboard and seeing more points on the other team’s side. It is the worst feeling in the world.’’
Rubenzer and his teammates have another chance in 2013. The second-seeded Sabercats (10-1) have reached the quarterfinals, and will play host to No. 7 Tucson Sabino (9-2) on Friday night (Nov. 15) at 7.
The numbers for Rubenzer this year have been remarkable, as well as a certain career number.
He has completed 164 of 225 passes for 3,065 yards and 44 touchdowns with only three interceptions, those coming in a season-opening loss to neighborhood rival Scottsdale Chaparral, a Division II school.
There have been none since then.
He also has rushed for 1,003 yards and seven more TDs.
Rubenzer threw six scoring passes in a first-round win over Phoenix Washington last week, giving him a record 113 for his career, three more than the previous record-holder, Rathen Ricedorff of Show Low (2008-10). Rubenzer has thrown just 13 career interceptions.
Mohns, in his second season as head coach and seventh overall at Saguaro, said there have been times when Rubenzer “has put us on his back and carried us. He just makes plays with his arm and his feet.
“He is an athlete back there, but he also is a quarterback. There are some guys who are like a running back who can throw a little. He is a quarterback. He has always had a football IQ. He can run the ball and knows when to run, but he can also set his feet and go through his progressions (reads).’’
It always has seemed that way to Mohns, even when Rubenzer was a sophomore.
Rubenzer said much of his consistency has come through simple repetition, playing the same type of competition year after year and becoming a more mature player.
“After awhile, you kind of get a feel for it,’’ he said.
Maturity also has come through playing in nationally recognized summer camps. The two primary ones were The Opening and the Elite 11, the latter operated by former Baltimore Ravens quarterback and current ESPN commentator Trent Dilfer.
Rubenzer’s play in those camps helped him land a scholarship offer from the University of California.
The Golden Bears did not seem overly concerned about his size (6 feet and 186 pounds). There have been quarterbacks of a similar height that have had success – Russell Wilson (5-11) with Wisconsin and the Seattle Seahawks and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (6-1) of Texas A & M.
Rubenzer has played occasional defense as a safety at Saguaro and could convert in college, but he doesn’t see that happening. He believes he can fit in with the style of offense run by Cal head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
And he should fit academically. He has a 4.2 grade-point average thus far this year.
“The way I look at it, there might be other guys bigger than me who maybe can see the field a little better, but it can also depend on the style of offense, the coaching and the opportunity you are given,’’ Rubenzer said. “These days, you sometimes throw the ball throw in between the linemen or you roll out. When you roll out, you can have success and it doesn’t matter if you’re 6-5 or 5-11.’’
He enjoys running with the ball as well as throwing it. Mohns gives him the freedom to take off, within reason.
“He (Mohns) reminds me to stay within my game,’’ Rubenzer said. “You can run, but once you get about 15 or 20 yards down the field, maybe go out of bounds with it. Just be smart with the ball.’’
Rubenzer also points to his offensive line and a receiving corps that includes junior Christian Kirk who have been big reasons for Saguaro’s success.
The Sabercats usually gather for a team meal on Thursday nights, and if there’s time left, they head over for some ping pong.
Back and forth the ball goes, back and forth. And there is Rubenzer, right in the middle of all the action.
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