Loaded Saguaro secondary may be key to another title

Saguaro Head Coach Jason Mohns lifts the 4A state championship trophy as his team celebrates winning the state championship final at Arizona Stadium in Tucson in 2017. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

In high school football, it is a special occurrence to have a player receive an offer from a Power 5 school.

Two players at the same position? Highly unlikely.

All four defensive backs fielding Power 5 school offers? Nearly unheard of.

Yet, it happened at Saguaro High School.

It is a tradition there to develop great players and win championships. By securing their fifth straight title in December and setting the state record for consecutive championships, it is clear the Sabercats haven’t slowed down.

Eleven players are ranked on 247Sports’ list of top Arizona football players in the classes of 2019 and 2020, headlined by cornerback Kelee Ringo.

Ringo is widely regarded as the top player in Arizona for the graduating class of 2020 and the No. 1 cornerback in the nation. He is an important piece of one of the top secondaries in the state, along with junior Jacobe Covington and seniors Brandon Shivers and Nate Polk.

“We’re out here continuing to get better, continuing to keep working, to show these people why we have the hype right now,” Ringo said. “Honestly, these other people are out here sleeping while we’re out here continuing to keep working.”

Football never stops for this group. The team starts its workouts during the summer at 7 a.m., before most high school students get out of bed during their break.

Covington is the latest addition to this secondary, after transferring from Chandler last season. The defensive backs have formed a tight knit group that frequently eats together and tries to maintain a strong bond.

The secondary tries to get the rest of the defense involved as well.

“We try to set the example, set the tone,” Ringo said. “On defense you have to be hyped, have the energy to get the rest of the team going.”

Winning games is the most important thing on game day, but sometimes that’s not enough competition for this group. Inner battles between each other to see who will have the most interceptions, tackles and touchdowns lead to smack talk.

“We get at each other,” Covington said.

It goes both ways. Consequences are implemented over miscues during the game and guilty players have to pay the price.

“Oh, we’re running the next day, a lot,” Covington said.

“(Secondary) Coach (Bryant) Westbrook, he’s on us a lot with that,” Polk said. “It’s all technique, eyes, things like that. He keeps us disciplined.”

The secondary will play a big part in Saguaro’s quest to claim its sixth straight state football championship. Two big challenges ahead include regular-season games against out-of-state powerhouses Helix High (La Mesa, Calif.) and Liberty (Henderson, Nev.).

“Our main goal is to go undefeated and win these two out-of-state games,” Ringo said. “I’m going out there motivated. Just be hungry and want it more than they do. We need to come out there and kill their will and just get the W. We’re trying to set the standard.”

“We’re just trying to win the gold ball, the state championship, and keep the tradition going,” Polk said. “We have to go compete and give it all that we got.”

Expectations are high for Saguaro to bring home a state championship. That doesn’t stop this unit from having an even-keeled mindset heading into the season.

“I feel like getting big-headed, thinking that we are better than we actually are, stops us from what we are trying to accomplish,” Ringo said. “Every time we step on the field we should feel like we are facing the best competition we’ve ever faced.”

“We are playing the best competition that we have ever played,” Polk said. “It’s a mental issue.”
“We really just have to prove ourselves this year,” Covington said.

Editor’s Note: Joel Viss is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Saguaro High School state champion football team were among the grand marshals at the 2018 Parada del Sol Parade. The team captured its fifth straight state title in 2017. (file photo)

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