When the high school football schedules came out for the 2017 season, this game was immediately identified as a must see match-up. The Saguaro Sabercats (1-2) and Higley Knights (2-0) game on Yurview Arizona at 7:00 pm on Friday, could very well be a preview of the 4A state championship game. These two teams met in early September last year with Saguaro coming away with a 49-15 victory, but the Sabercats held just a slim 14-9 lead at the half before pulling away after intermission.
Higley had an 11-2 record last season and made a deep run in the playoffs, before being knocked out in the semifinals by Catalina Foothills. The Knights return the state’s reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in Draycen Hall, who ran for 2,298 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Hall was named to USA Today’s Sports Pre-season All American team. Saguaro is one of the top teams in any classification, and is coming off a 2016 campaign where the Sabercats went an undefeated 14-0 and won their 4th straight state championship.
Saguaro is currently riding a 24 game winning streak against Arizona schools. Their last loss against an in-state school came against Pinnacle on September 4th, 2015. The current streak that the Sabercats are more focused on though, is trying to win their fifth straight state title. No school in Arizona history has accomplished the feat. The only other teams to win four in a row are Flagstaff (1981-’84) and Lakeside Blue Ridge (1994-’97). The season motto for Saguaro last year was “4 Glory”, and this year it’s the “The drive for 5.”
“That’s our goal the drive for five. We got to make it happen. It’s up to us. The pressure is high, but it’s really good pressure to have. Every year when you come out on top with the gold ball it’s like nothing else, so it’s worth it. Every bit of the grind is worth it.” said senior quarterback Max Massingale, who has verbally committed to Air Force. Head coach Jason Mohns adds, “They represent the guys that were part of the four before them and everybody is a part of that. If we get it done this year, it’s not just this year’s team that did it. It’s everybody else these last four teams that came before them that are a part of it too.”
“That’s our goal the drive for five. We got to make it happen. It’s up to us.” – SAGUARO QB Max Massingale
Saguaro has won state titles 9 of the last 11 seasons, including the last 4 years in which they had a 53-3 record. “When I look at a state championship I think of it as a mandatory thing here at Saguaro.” says senior tight end / linebacker Giovanni Miranda. Adds senior running back La’Ray Lucas “What’s driving us the most is everyone is doubting us this season, because we don’t have the size or the recruiting level that other teams have had in the past, but I believe we will get it done.” The Sabercats had 18 players with scholarship offers to four year colleges on last year’s team, and graduated 4 offensive linemen that all earned Pac 12 scholarships. Ruben Pimbert, Saguaro’s center, is the lone returning starter on the offensive line. “We don’t have as many seniors as we did last year, so the seniors are playing big roles, but the young guys have also stepped up. So us as seniors, when we leave, we know the program will be in good hands for the next couple of years.”
The last time @saguarofootball began the season 1-2 was 2015. Sabercats eventually went on to win state. #NValleySports
— Josh Martinez (@jmartinez064) September 2, 2017
Mohns hopes his team can make history and hoist the gold ball once again on December 2nd at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, but it’s the lessons learned on this journey he hopes will have a lasting impact on his players. “We really are asking these kids not only to be great football players, but also be great people and represent our program, and the school in the community the right way. We’ve got really good kids on this team, the big time recruits that get all the attention, but we have 110 kids in our program from freshman through seniors. We’re really proud of the group of kids that we have. They’re learning accountability, work ethic, character, and when you are a part of something, and you are driven, and you’re willing to make sacrifices to work, it brings out the best in you.”
Watch the Saguaro Sabercats (1-2) and Higley Knights (2-0) tape-delayed on Yurview Arizona at approximately 9PM and streamed live at YurView.com at 7:00 pm on Friday September 8th.