The Arizona Interscholastic Association could have saved a lot of time and money over the last six years by not holding a state championship football game in the 4A division.
Just Fed-Ex the gold ball to 6250 N. 82nd Street in Scottsdale, in care of head coach Jason Mohns, and move on to basketball.
That’s the address for Saguaro High School, which just wrapped up its sixth straight state championship in football by beating Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic, 42-16. Not a single one of those six title games was even close. And it didn’t matter in which division the Sabercats were put.
This year and last, they played in 4A. The year before that, they were moved up to Division II. And the first two years, they rolled through Division III. They played five different schools during their record-setting string of state titles, defeating Salpointe for the final two trophies.
There were no close calls, either, when it came to those championship games. In each, the Sabercats made a statement that glowed brightly on the scoreboard.
Saguaro defeated those six opponents by an average of 23 points per game. The closest any team came was 18 points in 2015 when the Sabercats were moved up to Division II and beat Tempe’s Marcos de Niza High School, 38-20.
Saguaro’s combined scoring advantage for those six title games was 242-103.
Throughout this six-year run, all under Mohns, they have been one of the most dominant teams in the state, in any division. Their combined record for the last six seasons is 78-6. That stretch included two undefeated seasons of 14-0, in 2014 and again in 2016. Two losses were the most in any single season; that happened twice.
And most of the losses over the six-year span were to out-of-state teams that Saguaro would take on early in the season to sharpen their play before getting to the important part of the in-state schedule. The Sabercats haven’t lost against an in-state opponent over the last 47 games, dating back to 2015 when Pinnacle High School, a 6A program, beat them in the third game on the schedule.
By any definition of the word, Saguaro has established itself as a football dynasty in this state. The school has accumulated 12 state championships over the last 23 years, but its current run of six straight puts it in a universe all its own.
The first half of Friday’s game looked like a contest between the top seeds in the tournament, No. 1 Salpointe and No. 2 Saguaro, but the game got away from the Lancers in the second half.
As the game started, Saguaro drew first blood with a 10-yard touchdown run by junior running back Israel Benjamin and Salpointe answered within minutes on a 36-yard scamper into the end zone by its junior running back Bijan Robinson to tie the score at 7-7.
It turned out that neither back would score again the rest of the way, but there was plenty of talent on both sides of the field to pick up the scoring slack. Benjamin finished the night with 128 yards rushing and Robinson, one of the best backs in the state this season, had a big night with 155 yards.
After the score see-sawed to a 21-13 first-half mark, Saguaro began picking up the pace in the second half and outscored the Lancers 21-3 over the final two quarters to wrap up its six-peat.
The play that did the most to swing the momentum came in the opening minutes of the third quarter when Saguaro QB Tyler Beverett hit his junior wide receiver Will Schaffer with a pass that Schaffer carried in for a 75-yard TD. Schaffer added another score and finished the night with four catches for 112 yards.
Salpointe had its chance to redeem its loss to Saguaro in last year’s title game, but it’s frustration continues. Next year, the Lancers will have almost their entire roster back from this 13-1 season and should be a favorite to play again for the title.
However, Beverett is a junior and the rest of Saguaro’s junior class ranks as one of the best in recent memory.
And next year, they will be back as seniors to lead the Sabercats in their quest to add another title, and set a mark that will stand for many years to come — and perhaps never be eclipsed.
In truth, they are probably there now.