There's no truth to the rumor that the Scottsdale Saguaro football program is sponsored by Target. That bull's-eye on the back of the Sabercats' uniforms is only imaginary, except for those who wear the gold and black.
"Everyone is trying to knock us off," Saguaro coach John Sanders said. "I don't think anyone would give us an advantage other than the fact that we have a winning tradition of winning football and we know how to win."
For 37 straight games Saguaro has done just that, win, but Friday that streak will face its toughest test of 2009 when the Sabercats (4-0) drive south on Interstate 10 to take on undefeated Tucson Canyon Del Oro.
"I'm really excited," Saguaro junior defensive end Jordan McDonald said. "We really haven't gone on the road for a big game."
The Sabercats' streak includes three 4A-I state championships and they are just three shy of tying the state's big-school (4A and 5A) record of 40 consecutive victories held by Mesa Mountain View (1996-98). The all-time record in Arizona is 63 by 3A power Lakeside Blue Ridge from 1994-98.
Saguaro's run of success brings with it added pressure for the current team.
"All my former kids call and they want to put the heat on them to keep winning," Sanders said. "Our goal is to win every week, and that's how we've gotten to where we're at."
Saguaro is coming off a pair of close, physical wins over Peoria (13-0) and Glendale Cactus (38-21). Those games have left Saguaro with some banged up players like linebacker/running back Danny Clark, who expects to play after re-injuring his right knee, the same knee that he suffered a torn MCL in during the preseason.
Meanwhile, the 4A-I top-ranked Dorados have been cruising to a 5-0 record behind the running of junior Ka'Deem Carey, who needed just six carries to get 115 yards last week in a 56-13 win over Nogales.
Saguaro struggled to slow down Cactus running back Allan Woods, who ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns last week.
"We got past Woods and we know we did not have a good game tackling," Sanders said. "That's the first time we've let up like that since I've been here, and we've faced some really, really good backs.
"If we don't do a better job, it's going to be a long bus ride back from Tucson."
Saguaro, meanwhile, poses a different problem for teams. The Sabercats have five or six offensive weapons, led by quarterback Teddy Ruben, who has not thrown an interception yet this season.
The running game is led by the bruising Bobby McGinty and Clark with sophomore D.J. Foster providing the big-play potential. Foster is also the Sabercats' top pass catcher, turning short passes into big gains. Saguaro can also stretch the field with slot receiver Brock Haman serving as Ruben's best down-the-field target.
"We're just going to bring it all down to Tucson and we'll see how it goes," Sanders said. "I just know that the kids are up for the challenge."