The Scottsdale Saguaro football team’s quest for a repeat state title will be guided by a coach that was on its sidelines for the first one.
After a nationwide search, defensive coordinator John Sanders was named head coach Friday, replacing Mike Reardon, who went to Gilbert Mesquite. He beat out Phoenix College defensive coordinator Alex Kilanowski for the job.
The process was a long one, leading to some anxious moments for Sanders.
“The kids were out of their minds, I was out of my mind,” Sanders said. “I’m just happy it’s over and it ended up the way it did.”
Sanders was interviewed twice by a five-person committee and then a final time by interim principal Cliff McKenzie on Wednesday. He got the official word on Friday morning.
“The kids were coming to me on a daily basis, asking 'Is it you, is it you?’ ” said Sanders, who called it a long and tiring process.
Sanders was voted the Assistant Coach of the Year by the Arizona Football Coaches Association. He coached under Reardon for four years at Saguaro and turned down multiple other job offers to stay on with the Sabercats.
There will be some changes — summer workouts will be moved from the mornings to the evenings, for example — but the basic offensive and defensive philosophies will remain the same.
Sanders is in the process of finding an offensive coordinator. He has three candidates, all of whom have experience with the option offense Saguaro runs.
Starting quarterback Tim Ruben and starting running back Beau Burton both return next season.
Defensively nothing will change, Sanders said. Saguaro’s defense was one of the state’s best last year.
“Continuity is best for the kids,” assistant coach Frank Ruben said.
The Sabercats went 13-1 last year and beat Tucson Sabino for the 4A-I state championship. They lose talented players like Max Tabach, Shane Anderson and John Sobczuk but still have plenty coming back.
Sanders was clear that the goal will be the same.
“We’re looking to get back to the show again,” he said.