Saguaro High School is still the odds-on favorite to win this year’s 4A football state title, but there is a long line of challengers forming to take on the task of trying to keep the Scottsdale power from pocketing its sixth straight championship.
There are eight teams in that conference that are still undefeated as we move into Week 6 of the 2018 schedule. That’s more than any other conference. The only other conference among the top three that comes close to that is 6A, where there are just half as many teams yet to experience that first loss.
Tonight, one of those eight ‘contenders’ awaiting a shot at Saguaro will get its chance when Arcadia High travels to Saguaro to try for an upset of huge proportions. The Titans are playing under their third head coach in three years and coming off a couple of seasons that combined for a 2-18 record under the previous two coaches.
Kerry Taylor has Arcadia at 5-0, averaging just shy of 43 points a game. But the Titans haven’t seen the likes of Saguaro, a team loaded with D-I commits and some of the top talent in the state.
You can bet, however, that Taylor and his staff have been watching film of Saguaro’s last game, a slim victory against a good Chaparral High team that competes in 6A. What they saw may have been encouraging: Chaparral led throughout the first half and were up 31-28 at halftime. It took a 52-yard field goal from Parker Lewis in the final seconds of the game to spread the margin of victory to eight points. Final score: 45-37.
But it’s going to be tough for the Arcadia coaches to scout for tonight’s game since Saguaro’s line-up will undergo major changes when five transfer players, all in key positions, take the field for the first time after sitting out the first five games to meet the transfer requirements imposed by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Actually, Saguaro itself is not among the unbeaten. The Sabercats lost to Liberty High School, a Nevada program, in the second game on the schedule. But Saguaro hasn’t lost against an in-state opponent in the last 38 games, going back to 2015 when Pinnacle High School, a 6A team in far north Phoenix, beat them in the season’s third game.
And Arcadia likely isn’t the game that Saguaro has circled on the schedule. Salpointe Catholic is generally the team expected each season to provide the most competition for the Sabercats and the best chance of derailing the runaway Scottsdale freight train.
The Tucson school is among the unbeatens so far, at 4-0, and have shown it should command that respect. In three of the Lancers’ games, the average margin of victory has been 30 points. The only team that has hung with them was Goodyear’s Desert Edge High School, which Salpointe beat by just a single score, 28-21.
The team among those still undefeated with the really gaudy stats is Douglas High School, which has been averaging 54 points a game and holding its opponents to 12 points per outing. But the Bulldogs play in the 4A Gila Region, which does not provide the kind of competition that will prepare them for a team like Saguaro.
With that said, it’s also important to note that Douglas, too, is rebounding from a win-less 2017 season, the debut of new head coach James Fitzgerald. He has apparently figured it out this year.
The other five teams in the group of still-undefeated teams are Peoria HS, Bradshaw Mountain HS (Prescott), Coconino HS (Flagstaff), Glendale HS, and Seton Catholic (Chandler). Bradshaw is 5-0, the others are 4-0.
Besides Arcadia, Seton will be the only other school in the group to play Saguaro in the regular season, a game scheduled for Oct. 19 at Seton.
And the others are probably perfectly happy to wait until the playoffs for a possible shot at the big dog.