Outlook: Three consecutive blowout losses ended San Tan Foothills season in 2012, including a first-round playoff game against Yuma Catholic.
It didn't matter that Yuma Catholic is a Division V juggernaut, or that the Sabercats were comprised predominantly of freshman and sophomores, the need, as coach Rodger Schenks noted, was to "improve our mental toughness."
"We've had a very bad taste in our mouths after how (last year) ended and we're ready to play some football again," he said.
Will one year's "worse" be better for the Sabercats' "wear" in 2013? With seven starters back on each side of the ball, there's a good chance for better fortune this fall.
Four lineman (Ryan Wilson, Caleb McCarn, Dillion Ramsey and Sheldon Snelling are all juniors) and two running backs will return next to sophomore QB Juan Lopez, who saw limited action and threw 19 passes in varsity action as a freshman. Schenks has also liked the play of junior WR Dominic Kelley and a couple tight ends Levi Quendnau and freshman Cody Lewis.
Several of the same cast returns to the defense, in particular Wilson, Verdugo and Dustin Cote on the D-line, and DB Malik Wolf (team-leading 4 INT in 2012).
After being placed in Section VI, the Sabercats are away from stronger Div. V teams such as Tempe Prep, Scottsdale Prep, Scottsdale Christian and Valley Christian. The Sabercats are poised to improve greatly on the 5-5 campaign of 2012, and, depending on matchups, could find themselves among the final few in Div. V.
Division V, Section VI
Coach: Rodger Schenks
Last year's record: 5-5, lost to Yuma Catholic in the first round of Div. V playoffs
Returning starters: 7 on offense/ 7 on defense
Top returners: OL Ryan Wilson; OL Caleb McCarn; OL Dillion Ramsey; OL Sheldon Snelling; RB Ricky Wilson; RB A.J Sameleu; QB Juan Lopez; DT Lorenzo Verdugo; DL Dustin Cote; DB Malik Wolf;
Aug. 30 at Florence; Sept. 6 vs. Tonopah; Sept. 13 vs. Miami; Sept. 20 vs. San Carlos; Sept. 27 at Canyon State; Oct. 4 at Pusch Ridge; Oct. 11 vs. Eloy; Oct. 18 at Baboquivari; Oct. 25 at Imagine Prep Coolidge; Nov. 1 vs. San Manuel
Aug. 30 at Florence: A great first start for San Tan Foothills against a solid Florence squad, especially considering the rest of the schedule is looking fairly soft.
Oct. 4 at Pusch Ridge: Hard to tell what Pusch Ridge will do this season, but there is sleeper potential here, and STF margin of error could be pretty slim in the W-L department.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.