Zak Hill Saguaro Media Day

New Saguaro coach Zak Hill was introduced to media Wednesday shortly after he met with coaches and players for the first time. He said there was excitement within both groups, and now plans to continue building relationships in the coming days.

It took time for Zak Hill to determine whether the Saguaro head football coaching job would be the right fit for him and his family.

He knew the pressure that would come with it, following in the footsteps of John Sanders and Jason Mohns, who both won numerous state titles during their time leading the Sabercats. But through conversations with his family and at times with Mohns, he decided he was all in.

After a month-long search, Saguaro Athletic Director Matt Harris was all in on Hill, too.

Hill was officially announced as the next head coach of the Saguaro football program on Tuesday, Jan. 17. The next day, Hill met with members of the coaching staff for the first time and with players. While conversations mostly focused on light introductions, Hill could sense there was some excitement.

“It’s extremely exciting and it’s an honor to be in this role,” Hill said. “There’s a ton of tradition here, that’s another big reason why I’m here. This isn’t a place where you’re trying to rebuild. This is a place that knows how to win.”

Hill spent the last year as an assistant coach at American Leadership Academy – Gilbert North, where he helped lead the Eagles to the 4A state championship.

Before ALA, Hill spent two years as the offensive coordinator under Herm Edwards, joining the Sun Devils in December 2019 from Boise State, where he held the same position.

Hill began coaching shortly after his playing career at Central Washington ended. He joined the Eastern Washington staff for a season before spending three years at Hillsboro High School in Oregon. He returned to Eastern Washington in 2009 and remained until 2015, when he joined Boise State’s staff.

His experience could have helped him land a college job elsewhere. But speaking to media Wednesday, Hill said he finds joy in coaching at the high school level. His father made a career of it, and few programs in Arizona have had as much success Saguaro has had over the course of the last decade.

“I’m excited to be able to use the experiences I’ve had at the college level and help elevate those players and create an environment here where they not only feel safe, but they’re excited about transitioning hopefully to the next level,” Hill said.

“I want to make that transition a whole lot easier for them.”

Hill’s experience was part of what gravitated Harris and the rest of the hiring committee to picking him to become the next head coach.

The committee agreed they wanted someone that would uphold the same values previous coaches, Mohns included, established within the program. The success would come as long as the culture remained widely the same. That centers around providing opportunities for kids to find their niche on the football field and earn an opportunity to play at the next level.

Mohns became a master at understanding what it takes to market players to colleges. That, along with his success as a coach, played a part in new Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham hiring him away from Saguaro to join his staff. Hill has the same understanding and with that, Harris knew he was the right coach for the job.

“I feel like he is going to develop our players and really get them to understand what it takes for them to be successful,” Harris said. “There’s no doubt that development continues to the other guys in the room, too. We have some great young coaches I think are going to get a new opportunity to grow from a guy that’s done it at the next level.”

Hill plans to finish out his time with ALA in the next week then transition to being on campus at Saguaro full time. The next steps for him include building relationships with players and the coaches who wish to remain on staff.

Hill hopes to retain all of Saguaro’s current coaches. He watched from afar what they were able to accomplish under Mohns, and he knows they can be the bridge to building the relationships he desires with his players.

“Right now, it’s getting to know them and earning their trust,” said Hill, who will call plays next season. “That’s the biggest hurdle right off the bat. My initial goal is to connect with those guys and make them feel good about what is happening and make sure they understand what the vision is.”

Hill aims to continue to elevate the Saguaro football program. He knows how much it means to Mohns, that was a topic of conversation between the two shortly after he was hired and throughout the process.

He also wants Saguaro to remain a nationally recognized power. Part of that could come early in the season next year when the Sabercats travel to play California power Sierra Canyon.

Maintaining a winning culture is something that he knows is important to the community. And he plans to do what it takes to do that. That includes facing the best of the best competition.

“We want those big games. We want to go anywhere as a national football team,” Hill said. “We want to be nationally known, and the cool part is, Saguaro is nationally known.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira

 

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