A brotherhood of success: Saguaro wins sixth consecutive state title

The 2018 Saguaro football team. (Photo courtesy of Saguaro Sabercat Football Foundation)

Every Friday morning during the fall, Saguaro High School football coach Jason Mohns takes his daughter to get donuts, a tradition he shares on Twitter each time punctuated with a #donutsfordubs.

Saguaro running back Marqui Johnson tries to evade the Salpointe Catholic defender during the 2018 state championship game in Tucson. (Photo courtesy of Saguaro Sabercat Football Foundation)

The weekly tradition started this season but it provided Coach Mohns a chance to spend time with his daughter, who he calls his “buddy.” He said being with her helped him relax and not focus on what he deemed as most important: family.

After the first week of the tradition, Coach Mohns’s superstition kicked in as Saguaro’s football team won that night. He made it a special time between a father and daughter where she could associate football Fridays with time with dad.

As for the superstitious side of the tradition, it definitely paid off this season.

The Sabercats won their sixth consecutive state championship, 12th overall, with a 42-16 beatdown of Salpointe Catholic High School Friday, Nov. 30 at the University of Arizona stadium in Tucson.

Saguaro (13-1) was no stranger to lopsided scores this season as only two of their wins were by one score and its lone loss was 20-12 to Liberty High School out of Las Vegas.

Looking at the season as a whole, Coach Mohns said his team’s growth into a more unified team is what stands out to him about this particular run.

“At the beginning, we weren’t all in and we weren’t all together,” he said. “Most of them were but by the end, we were a machine, we were team and we were pretty formidable.”

“The haters”

With success also comes the inherent criticism, and social media has provided a megaphone. After Saguaro’s record-breaking win, there were some on Twitter who questioned if the Sabercats belonged in 4A and questioned their strength of schedule.

The Saguaro football team hoists the state championship trophy. (Photo courtesy of Saguaro Sabercat Football Foundation)

That criticism doesn’t faze Coach Mohns as he shrugs off what the “haters” say.

“The one thing we’ve accepted that we like is if you’re not winning, they’re not talking about you,” he said. “The reason people are talking and hating is because we’ve won at a high level for a long time. That just goes with the territory.”

Coach Mohns said he plays were the Arizona Interscholastic Association places his team, something out of his control. The Sabercats did play in Division II in 2015 — at the time, the state’s second-highest division — and won the state championship.

In petitioning to get a higher spot, Coach Mohns said the AIA requires the entire school to petition, not just one program. He said it wouldn’t be fair to the school to move up to 5A because of football when the rest of the school’s athletics are fit in 4A.

“The minute that the AIA separates football from the other sports, we will happily go to 5A, that’s really where we’d like to be,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you play where they put you.”

Saguaro’s non-region slate included Liberty (a state runner-up in Nevada’s highest division); Helix High School (runner-up in the open division of the San Diego Section); Desert Mountain High School (did not qualify for playoffs); Chaparral High School (lost in the first round of the 6A playoffs); and Desert Edge High School (lost in the 4A semifinals).

“Our kids are having fun, our parents support it and the people within our community are excited, believe in it and feel good about it. That’s all that matters to us,” Coach Mohns said.

High quality kids

Saguaro had 19 seniors on roster. What impressed Coach Mohns the most about this group was the high quality of kids they were.

He cited an average 3.55 GPA among them, not getting in trouble and their kindness to others as attributes of those seniors.

“I thought they treated our young players well,” Coach Mohns said.

“They treated them with respect. They led by example on and off the field. They just did it the right way. They did the things that, as a coach, you want your guys to do. It wasn’t just about being talented football players, it was about being good young men too. They bought into that and they lived up to it.”

Saguaro quarterback Tyler Beverett winds up for a pass during the 2018 state championship game in Tucson. (Photo courtesy of Saguaro Sabercat Football Foundation)

Coach Mohns, on numerous occasions, refers to his team as a brotherhood, a sentiment players echo.

Junior quarterback Tyler Beverett said he is close to many of the players because he’s known them a long time.

“We bond great and we welcome everybody into the program. That’s why Saguaro football is awesome,” Beverett said.

Saguaro has a unique dynamic. Players transfer to the school regularly so not all players have played together since a young age. Some of this year’s transfers included Hayden and Hogan Hatten from Pinnacle High School and Marqui Johnson from Chaparral.

Per the AIA transfer rules, players who transfer must sit out half the season. In Johnson’s case, that lasted longer since he fought the AIA in court after the organization deemed he violated the prior contact rule since a new Saguaro assistant coach was on Chaparral’s staff the season before.

Regardless of the time out, transfers came in late in the season to try to bolster a team that was already churning smoothly.

“We just give everybody a fair shot and treat everybody like a family,” senior linebacker Connor Soelle said.

“We know the work that goes into it. You’re not just going to walk into it and just earn a spot. For those guys that can come in, contribute and do a lot and help the team, we’re super thankful for them. We’re not going to push anybody away. We’re always going to accept people in.”

In welcoming transfers, Coach Mohns said the key is to teach them about “the brotherhood.” He tries to foster this with various experiences such as a five-day camp in California and a senior bonfire where players can share personal anecdotes.

This has led to some transfers, who have only been at the school for a short time, feel that connection to the program and try to stay close to it after graduation.

“You don’t need to be here for all four years to be one of our brothers,” he said.

“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of our kids and our program. We create a culture that’s very welcoming. It’s inclusive, not exclusive. If you come in, work hard and do things the right way, then you get accepted into this family. There’s a bond that they don’t want to let each other down.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment