Scottsdale Saguaro has seen some impressive football teams come through its program over the years. Just in recent seasons, players like Tim and Teddy Ruben, D.J. Foster and Luke Rubenzer have established Saguaro as a perennial championship contender.
So to hear people talk about this year’s squad as perhaps the deepest and most talented team the Sabercats have ever had, it’s a little scary.
And coach Jason Mohns doesn’t deny the assertion.
“The talent is there to maybe have that discussion,” Mohns said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever been deeper, just as far as quality kids. We feel that we’re two deep at almost every position, and we could not say that in the past.
“From a talent standpoint, these guys have the potential to get in that discussion. It’s just not fair to say that (right now), because they haven’t done anything yet.”
No, but the potential is enough for azcentral sports to peg Saguaro as its No. 1 team in Division III, giving it the inside edge to claim its seventh state championship in the last nine years.
Any talk of Saguaro’s individual talent has to start with senior Christian Kirk, arguably the most explosive athlete in the state.
Kirk accounted for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and 33 touchdowns last season, and was offered a scholarship by more than 40 colleges around the country.
This year, Saguaro will once again move him all over the field to fully utilize his athletic gifts.
“He has just gotten better and produced more every year, in multiple roles,” Mohns said of Kirk. “He wants to be the best. He wants to be great. He’s got a work ethic that most kids that are 17, 18 years old haven’t learned yet. And I think that’s what really sets him apart.”
Saguaro will have to make do without Rubenzer, the All-Arizona quarterback now at Cal, but junior Kare’ Lyles looks to be a more-than-adequate replacement, and he’ll have plenty of weapons around him to help him get up to speed.
The team also features its largest senior class since Mohns arrived as an assistant eight years ago, with 27 fourth-year players to help steer the ship.
The expectation, as it always is, is a championship. And Saguaro isn’t about to back down.
“I think that’s why kids want to play football at Saguaro, because of those expectations,” Mohns said.
“We’re excited for the challenge at hand. We know we’re going to have a bullseye on our back, but we’re ready for it.”
Preseason Arizona high school football rankings: Divisions I-VI
azcentral sports’ Richard Obert ranks the Top 10 teams in each division before the start of the 2014 season. He begins with Division I and works his way through Division VI. Is defending champion Mountain Pointe the team to beat in Division I?
Division III rankings
No. 1 Scottsdale Saguaro: This is as good a team as any team Saguaro ever has had, and you can go back to the Mike Brown years in the ’90s.
No. 2 Queen Creek: RB Weston Barlow was unstoppable at times last season. He’s even bigger and faster and stronger now.
No. 3 Gilbert Williams Field: This could be one of the most improved defenses in the state with John Sanders coaching defensive backs. And with Josh Page running behind a strong line, this has the makings of a championship team.
No. 4 Oro Valley Canyon del Oro: Coach Dusty Peace is getting closer to the team he had that beat Saguaro in the state title game when Ka’Deem Carey was a junior. It’s fast, athletic, punishing and experienced.
No. 5 Goodyear Desert Edge: They may not have the same playmakers as last year’s semifinal team, but they are big up front and they have enough electrifying skill players to keep them a contender.
No. 6 Gilbert Higley: They averaged close to 300 passing yards last season and that won’t let up with QB Tyler Bloom back with main target, Trent Gilbert.
No. 7 Peoria Sunrise Mountain: Sophomore QB Chase Cord started seven game on varsity as a freshman and put up good numbers. He has the size and poise to lead this team deep in the playoffs.
No. 8 Tucson Sabino: Some big pieces to replace, but QB Emilio Araiza returns, making everybody around him look better.
No. 9 Peoria: Coach Will Babb continues to push the Panthers to prominence since he took over the program a few years ago from Doug Clapp.
No. 10 Glendale Cactus: Coach Larry Fetkenhier will get his 300th win with his usual high-scoring offense and a defense that will make plays.
— Richard Obert
Preseason All-Arizona selections: