While Scottsdale Saguaro had a decent group of players last season, something was missing from a team that went 5-5 in the regular season and bowed out in the first round of the 4A Division I playoffs.
Coach Mike Reardon figured out what it was last spring when he received a visit from a group of then-junior players.
“Last April, they came to me and said they had some goals,” Reardon said. “That has never happened before. We’ve never had senior leadership like that. That was missing last year.”
Running back Alex Ruben was one of the players who called on Reardon.
“We got together and decided this is what we want to do; this is how we want to do it,” Ruben said.
Leadership doesn’t fully explain why Saguaro went only .500 last season after going 11-2 the year before.
“You have to have established players,” Reardon said. “We were really young. You have to be real. Our two best linemen were sophomores.
“We’re growing up, maturing. We’re building on that.”
The Sabercats also experienced technical problems. The coaching staff installed a new spread offense, which can be complicated to execute. It took a while for the players to feel comfortable in the new system, which the Sabercats will utilize again this season.
“Last year, we tried to install a new offense,” Reardon said. “(This year) we don’t have to worry about installing a new offense. We have the spread. We run option football basically. It’s an option to run or pass on every play.”
Some predictions have the Sabercats challenging Chaparral for the Desert Sky Region title and others for the state championship. Reardon doesn’t want to go out on that limb but expects better days ahead.
“I think we’re going to be better than we were last year,” Reardon said. “There’s no doubt about it, just by the maturity level.”
Ruben isn’t looking for a repeat of last season.
“I found it unacceptable,” Ruben said. “We had a good team last year. We could have done more with it. There were just elements missing.
“We want to win our opening game, come out with a bang. Make it to the state championship, that is a huge goal right there.”