When there’s a big game on the line, it’s good to have a bag of tricks to dig into when the opportunity presents itself.
The football coaching staff at Saguaro High School was ready when that time came Friday night. Fortunately, they had spent a little time at practice last week installing a new trick play in case they needed it against visiting California power, Sierra Canyon HS.
It was fourth down on the Sierra Canyon 18-yard line when Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns dialed up the TD play that would give the Sabercats a 17-7 lead in the third quarter and give his team the momentum it needed to roll to a convincing 24-7 victory on their home field in Scottsdale.
Saguaro quarterback Ridge Docekal threw a backfield pass to his senior running back, Javen Jacobs, who then completed a perfect pass to Junius Marsh in the end zone for the 10-point lead that would balloon to the 17-point winning margin when JoJo Clark opened the fourth quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run.
That trick play proved to be pivotal to the Saguaro win. Sierra Canyon coach, Jon Ellinghouse, called it “the turning point of the game.”
The Sabercats, who set a state record in 2018 by winning their sixth straight state championship while playing in the state’s 5A conference, is an elite program that had some additional pressure playing against Sierra Canyon.
A couple of other Arizona football powers, Chandler HS and Hamilton HS, beat out-of-state programs earlier in the schedule. Saguaro was expected to make it a clean sweep by knocking off one of California’s top teams.
And it looked like the match-up with Sierra Canyon came at just the right time. The Sabercats had been eagerly awaiting the time when a group of talented out-of-state transfers would be able to take the field after sitting out the first five games, per Arizona Interscholastic Association transfer rules. Sierra Canyon was the first game they became eligible.
As it turned out, the Cats didn’t need the help. A good thing because they lost a couple of the transfers early when junior wideout Deric English and junior running back Zaccheus Cooper both went down with knee injuries in the first quarter. The extent of the injuries, and whether they will be able to play again this season, will be determined this week.
One transfer who did get plenty of playing time was junior Devon Dampier, who stepped in to share the quarterbacking duties. Dampier, a transfer from Pinnacle High School, was added to the lineup to rotate with Docekal, the regular starter.
The challenge for Mohns going forward is to find a way to blend the group of five transfers into the system to get them all contributing to the Sabercats’ march to a third consecutive appearance in the Open Division playoffs.
If he can do that, Saguaro could pose a serious challenge to the 6A powers, Chandler and Hamilton, who have already been picked as favorites to play for this year’s Open Division championship.