Is Saguaro really the underdog?
The Saguaro football team has won state championships in five of the past six years. It began 2012 as the preseason No. 1, and though the team is 8-3, two of those losses came to higher-division defending state champions and the other in the season opener without five starters.
Nevertheless, the Sabercats hit the road for the Division III quarterfinals as a No. 9 seed staring down a matchup with top-seeded Desert Edge. The Scorpions don’t have the same tradition as Saguaro, but went 11-0 this season and knocked off a pair of quite capable teams in Thunderbird and Liberty.
So I asked Saguaro coach Jason Mohns how he felt about it.
Are the Sabercats still the favorites that many believe? This is a team many still expect to win it all, and it has two of the best players in the division in quarterback Luke Rubenzer and wide receiver Christian Kirk. Or are they the underdogs? Desert Edge’s tough defense shut out a potent Liberty team and the offense has a capable running back and a pair of star wide receivers.
He believes it’s the latter:
“They way we look at it is: We’re 8-3, the 9 seed, and we’re facing the No. 1 seed,” Mohns said. “If you’re trying to say we have an advantage? I don’t know if you’d be right about that. I don’t think you can sit back and say we’re in the driver’s seat.”
John Sanders was infamous for rallying his troops by playing the underdog card, and Mohns seems to be following suit. There is a case to be made that Desert Edge could have the better team, but no one will be surprised if the Sabercats win this one.
The most concerning thing for Saguaro came in the regular season finale loss to Chaparral, when the Firebirds slowed down the potent Sabercats offensive attack with a ton of quarterback pressure and impressive coverage in the secondary.
It’s a recipe Mohns figures to keep seeing, but he said the team has learned quite a bit from the loss.
“It’s honestly the best thing that could have ever happened to us,” Mohns said. “We hadn’t really been stopped all year, and you could see it in the kids’ eyes that they were frustrated. So I was a little worried. After something like that it can go one of two ways: It can burst your bubble and you can go into the playoffs limping, or you can learn from it. We evolved as a team from Week 10 to Week 11 pretty drastically.”
It’s going to be an interesting result either way. Saguaro’s only loss in the past seven postseasons came in the 2009 semifinals to Sabino, and Desert Edge may have the pieces to send the Sabercats home early again.
But Saguaro, an underdog? Probably not.