The Saguaro versus Chaparral rivalry is one of the best rivalries in Arizona high school football.
The rivalry began in 1973, and like many others, this one has had more than its fair share of bad blood.
Since the 1990s, with Ron Estabrook as head coach at Chaparral and Stuart Goldstein at Saguaro, the game has been a gold mine for a juicy story sought after by reporters and gossipers alike.
Back in 2008, the rivalry was at its peak. John Sanders was the head coach at Saguaro and current Cal assistant coach Charlie Ragle was head coach at Chaparral.
Tensions were high between the schools during this time with the media stoking the flames, parents getting involved, and the rise of social media trash talking.
It was the same year, 2008, in which the two teams matched up for the 4A Division 1 State Championship game. The Sabercats shut out the Firebirds 38-0 to capture the Title.
That 2008 State Title game is one of Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns’ fondest memories of the Saguaro versus Chaparral rivalry.
“We just played a complete game from start to finish,” Mohns said. “I was a younger assistant on that staff, and that was pretty cool, to play your rival and beat your rival commandingly in a State Championship.”
Mohns’ favorite memory of the rivalry, however, comes from his first year at Saguaro in 2007, as the Sabercats’ freshman coach. It was during the freshman game between the two schools that he realized the magnitude of the matchup.
“We played (Chaparral) the last game of the freshman season,” Mohns said. “Their freshman team was undefeated and we beat them 8-6 in a really, good, tight game. That was a pretty fun way to get indoctrinated into the rivalry.”
#FlashbackFriday @ChristianDavon2 takes the 2nd snap of the game 70 yards to the house against Chap in 2014. Cats went on to win 41-14. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/NlhHotXyt6
— Saguaro Football (@saguarofootball) September 14, 2018
Since Mohns took over in 2012, he has led the program to become one of the best in the state. The Sabercats have won six consecutive State Titles since 2013 and boast a roster full of Division 1 talent year in and year out.
For Chaparral, the Firebirds have had quite a bit of turnover at head coach in the last several years and have not won a State Title since 2011. They’re looking to get back to where they once were, now with Brent Barnes at the helm.
THE RIVALRY TODAY
When the two teams take the field on Friday, the feeling of the rivalry will be there, but the hostility that once accompanied it will not be as prevalent.
“It’s healthier where it is now,” Mohns said of the renewed rivalry. “We’re going to come together on Friday night, and it’s going to be a hotly contested game that a lot of people care about, and then once the games over we’re going to continue on our separate ways and focus on ourselves. It’s gotten back to just being fun to be a part of it.”
Barnes echoed Mohns’ sentiments on how the matchup has evolved.
“It’s okay to have a healthy distaste during the game,” Barnes said. “It’s an opponent, when they put the ball down, we’re enemies for that period of time. I think outside the lines, outside that period of time, it’s important to have a healthy respect for one another and what everybody’s trying to accomplish.”
The two schools renewed the rivalry last season after a four-year hiatus. After an early deficit, the Sabercats were able to battle back to get the win, 45-37.
With last year’s win, the Sabercats lead the series, 22-17.
Sabercats quarterback Tyler Beverett completed 18 of 24 pass attempts and had 358 passing yards with three touchdowns. The Saguaro defense held Chaparral to only seven points in the second half.
Firebirds quarterback and Ohio State commit Jack Miller had 363 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Injuries have been plaguing the Firebirds all season, and on Friday night Chaparral will be without six starters. Barnes said the matchup is going to be a true test to see where exactly they have the most depth.
SAGUARO VS. CHAPARRAL: A GAME STACKED WITH FOOTBALL TALENT
“We’d like to have everybody healthy and ready to go, but that’s football,” Barnes said. “The guys that we put out there, they’ve just got to go out there and do their job.”
Saguaro has a healthy roster of division one talent that will be on display, including the nation’s No. 1 cornerback, Kelee Ringo, ASU commit Will Shaffer, Oregon commit Jaylan Jeffers and many more.
You can catch the action LIVE on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 at 7:00pm PT/10:00pm ET on Cox (Ch. 1004) or at yurview.com/live.