Saguaro Sabercats playing for more than a state championship

Saguaro Head Coach Jason Mohns introduces his players including receiver Zach Wilson (2) and running back Josiah Bradley (34) during the AIA’s annual championship media day at Famous Day’s BBQ in Mesa. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

For Saguaro High School, winning a state championship would mean a whole lot more than victory itself.

The Sabercats will be playing for an Arizona-record fifth consecutive state championship in football, their 11th overall. This would also be their 10th in 12 seasons if they were to win.

Saguaro will look to accomplish those feats Saturday, Dec. 2 against Salpointe Catholic High School at Arizona Stadium in Tucson in the 4A state championship game.

With history within the grasp of the Sabercats, Head Coach Jason Mohns said winning five in a row would not only reflect on this year’s seniors.

“It’s for the four senior classes that came before them, because they would all be a part of that too,” he said in a Nov. 21 interview. “We know we’re playing for a lot more than ourselves.”

Saguaro quarterback Max Massingale (4) throws the ball downfield during the Sabercats’ 37-31 overtime victory over Higley in the 4A semifinals. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Furthermore, Coach Mohns said a state championship game that has stakes like these attached to it doesn’t result in pressure, but rather an expectation.

This doesn’t mean the Sabercats just show up and expect to win state, Coach Mohns said. Rather, because of how many times the team has won the state crown, the standard is much higher.

“It makes it less pressure — and it makes it more this is just what we have to do,” he said. “We have to do it, we expect to do it, we’re going to do it and whatever it takes to get there, that’s what we’re going to do.”

An example of this mindset is the team doesn’t celebrate region championships Coach Mohns said because that’s not the end goal. He said from when the team gets together in January, the talk is always on winning state.

This culture Saguaro has developed has permeated over the past 12 years to a point where it is more rare for a senior football player to graduate without winning a state championship.

Tight end Giovanni Miranda said even though he’s won a state championship all his years playing varsity at Saguaro, past seniors have told him the senior one is the most important.

“You just want to end high school on a good note,” Miranda said in a Nov. 21 interview. “What better way to end high school than with a state championship?”

To get there, those seniors will have to rely on some underclassmen, particularly on defense, to help them reach that state championship win.

Offensive lineman Ruben Pimbert said there is a cycle where younger players at Saguaro try to help the team’s seniors leave the program with a ring.

Saguaro quarterback Max Massingale stiff arms a Peoria defender during the Sabercats’ 56–7 win over the Panthers in the quarterfinals of the 4A playoffs. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

“We stepped up for our seniors last year and made sure they went out with a ring so we’re expecting the same thing from the young guys,” he said in a Nov. 21 interview. “To step up, give us a ring and send us out the right way.”

Because of the amount of success the Sabercats have experienced, Coach Mohns said the Saguaro community is a strong one, particularly in the alumni ranks.

This was noticeable Friday, Nov. 17 during Saguaro’s semifinal overtime win over Higley High School. Former players were strewn across the sidelines and many were vocal in their support.

Coach Mohns said many of those alumni play at Pac-12 schools but still make time to support the program.

“There’s a lot of pride,” he said. “The people that come through that school, especially the players that come through our program, it’s a family.”

While looking at this group of seniors, Coach Mohns said they will leave the program with a plethora of experiences that will last them a lifetime. He also said if they lose, they won’t be failures.

That, however, is not where the team’s focus lies.

Rather, Coach Mohns said that focus is on winning the game because “it’s just what (they) have to do.”

“It’s our whole season,” he said. “Everything we’ve done up to this point is for this game.”

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

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