It doesn’t seem to matter where they put Saguaro High School. Nothing has kept the Sabercats from winning a state football championship the last four years.
In 2013 and 2014 they played in Division III. Then last year they moved up to D-III. This year they were mixed into the schools placed in the newly-formed 4A conference, the third-highest classification.
Same result each year. It’s getting increasingly hard to keep the title out of their hands. This year, the Scottsdale school rolled through the regular season undefeated and then made short work of playoff opponents on the way to its ninth football state title in the last 11 years.
A 42-14 victory over Catalina Foothills High School in the championship game put a cap on what was expected to be inevitable after the Sabercats had already blanked their Tucson opponent, 35-0, in the third game of the regular season.
But Saguaro, which was ranked No. 25 nationally by MaxPreps entering the season, had already warmed up by beating a California team in its opener, and then traveling to Colorado to post a 49-28 win over Valor Christian High School, an elite program that had won six of the last seven big-school state titles.
By the time the Sabercats returned to Arizona to get on with the rest of their in-state schedule, they had moved up to No. 15.
From there they blew up the rest of the schedule, outscoring their remaining nine challengers 434-48. That didn’t change once they got into the playoffs as they won their three games by an average margin of 28 points.
Their final two games came against Tucson schools, with Saguaro rolling to a 24-3 win in the semifinals against Salpointe Catholic, marking the Sabercats’ 24th consecutive victory and the 15th straight in the playoffs. After that win, they were looking at a finals contest against a team that had just scored 62 points to punch its ticket to the title game. No. 6-seeded Catalina Foothills pulled off a huge upset of No. 2 Higley High, 62-37, to show it was ready for mighty Saguaro.
Not ready enough, it turned out. The Sabercats erased any thoughts of another upset by scoring 35 unanswered points in the first half and added another score right after halftime to trigger the necessity of a running clock the rest of the way to the 42-14 final to put the finishing touches on a 14-0 season.
Senior running back Stone Matthews accounted for three of the Saguaro touchdowns and finished the game with 113 yards. Jacob Christofferson also hit the century mark – just on punt returns, returning one kick for 58 yards and another for 50 yards, which he turned into a TD.
QB Max Massingale added another 99 yards rushing, while also throwing for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Catalina’s points were provided by senior quarterback Rhett Rodriguez who ran for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Massingale is a junior, so he’ll be back to try for another title run. But head coach Jason Mohns, who has directed all four of the latest championships and has become just the third football coach in state history to win four straight, will lose some Division I talent with graduation. During the summer offensive lineman Corey Stephens, tight end Jared Poplawski, and linebacker Kyle Soelle all committed to play for Arizona State next year.
But whether that slows down the Saguaro express remains to be seen.
However, it may be time again to re-assess in which division Saguaro should be playing. Its enrollment dictates 4A, but its level of play says something entirely different.