San Tan Foothills Sabercats
Division V, Section II
Coach: Rodger Schenks
Last year’s record: 8-5, lost to Yuma Catholic in the Division V semifinals.
Returning offensive starters: 3, although San Tan Foothills must replace its quarterback, running back and top three receivers.
Returning defensive starters: 5, including defensive end Jake Lee, who had 64 tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles last year.
Aug. 24 at Tombstone; Aug. 31 vs. Canyon State; Sept. 7 vs. Florence; Sept. 14 at Seton Catholic; Sept. 21 at Combs; Sept. 28 vs. Valley Christian; Oct. 5 vs. Santa Cruz Valley Union; Oct. 12 vs. Coolidge; Oct. 19 at Tempe Prep; Oct. 26 at Yuma Catholic.
Sept. 7 vs. Florence: It’s the first tough matchup of the year for San Tan Foothills. Florence has a new coaching staff but elite athlete Nick Brown will be a handful to slow down.
Oct. 12 vs. Coolidge: San Tan Foothills pulled out a wild, 52-50 victory a year ago. Both teams are solid programs and it should help show if the new cast of characters on the Sabercats can duplicate last season’s success.
Oct. 19 at Tempe Prep: The Sabercats blew a 13-point halftime lead in last year’s matchup. Both of these teams have risen quickly and are looking to turn themselves into perennial small-school contenders.
San Tan Foothills is coming off a state semifinal appearance from a season ago, but must replace nearly every key piece that helped it get there.
Quarterback Mychael Bruce (1,659 yards passing, 18 TD, 4 INT), running back Carlos Melendez (2,593 yards rushing, 33 TD) and leading receivers Julian Navarrette and Zach Denault all graduate. The Sabercats also lost Omar Castenda, a linebacker/fullback who was third on the team in receiving and third in tackles last year as a sophomore. He moved back to Rocky Point, Mexico with his family.
Despite all those defections, coach Rodger Schenks is optimistic. He purposely kept a talented group of underclassmen on the junior varsity to gain experience, and believes they will fill in nicely.
Adam Navarrete will take over at quarterback while there is a three-way battle for carries at tailback between Semone Brown, Ricky Wilson and Kevin Blake.
“Our upcoming kids are very athletic,” Schenks said. “We’ve had very good JV seasons and these kids are veteran type player. We knew we had to be patient and build (up the program). We’ve had a plan here and it’s coming to effect.”
The defense’s front seven should be a strength, led by a linebacker corps of Chris Bailey, Jake Lee and Mark Peters.
The Sabercats will have plenty of new faces at key positions, but the school is riding high after last year’s deep playoff run and there is a buzz around the football team.
“There are a lot of people out here wearing blue San Tan shirts all of a sudden,” Schenks said. “There’s a lot more community pride. It raised the expectations and it gives the people out here something to latch onto and watch. People know where San Tan Foothills is now, that’s for sure.”