Scottsdale Saguaro High’s Max Tabach is doing what he can to heed Adrian Wilson’s advice.
Long an admirer of the Arizona Cardinals star safety, Tabach got the opportunity to meet Wilson after the Cardinals chose him as their prep player of the week for games played on Oct. 20 (Tabach had four catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns on offense and two interceptions on defense against Phoenix Greenway that week).
During their chat, Wilson gave Tabach some Cardinals tickets and, upon learning they both wear the same number, told him to “go ahead and rep number two-four.”
If Wilson looked now, he’d see Tabach didn’t disappoint.
Reserved by nature, Tabach has done most of his talking on the field. This year, the senior defensive back/wide receiver has accumulated 15 interceptions, passing the former 4A mark set by three players, most recently Aaron Smith of Tucson Sabino in 1996.
Tabach credits a wide variety of strategies for his success. He reads the quarterbacks’ eyes, he jumps routes, he baits the quarterback into throwing his way.
But in the end, it’s all about one thing.
“It’s a feel,” Tabach said. “You’ve just got to go get it.”
Surprisingly, Tabach doesn’t point to the Greenway game as his best, but rather the game at Vail Cienega. Saguaro was 3-0 at the time, but coming off a lackluster win over Phoenix Moon Valley in which it was ahead only 6-0 in the fourth quarter.
Against Cienega, Tabach had three interceptions in a 43-27 win, which helped earn him the reputation as one of the state’s best defensive backs.
But it hasn’t been his work alone that has produced the results. Saguaro coach Mike Reardon points out the constant pressure put on by Saguaro’s defensive line which puts Tabach in enviable positions.
“He’s got a defensive line up in front of him that’s forcing that ball to be thrown,” Reardon said. “And Max knows that. He’s thanking those kids every day.”
A scary thought is Tabach’s missed opportunities. Reardon recalls at least five would-be picks that Tabach just couldn’t corral, including two last week in the Sabercats’ 56-20 win over Avondale Agua Fria.
“Realistically, coulda, shoulda, wouldas, he could have more than 15,” Reardon said.
Tabach is also involved on the offensive side of the ball, ranking second among Saguaro wide receivers with 24 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns this season. He’s returned a punt for a touchdown, too. But make no mistake where his heart lies.
“I like defense, because on defense you’re not expected to make the play,” Tabach said. “You don’t know the play-call, so you’ve got to make a good read or an athletic play to pick it, knock it down or make a big hit. I just like the tenacity you play with, too. You’ve got to come every down reckless.”
On Saturday, Tabach will play in his final high school game, at University of Phoenix Stadium, a place where that other 'two-four’ usually roams the secondary.
“I’m more excited than anything else, I want to play it,” Tabach said. “Not many nerves or anything else. We just want to go out there and do our thing.”
4A Division I Championship
Who: Saguaro (12-1) vs. Sabino (12-1)
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale
When: 1 p.m. Saturday