MESA — Technically, Saturday’s Class 3A state championship game between Sabino and Queen Creek American Leadership Academy is a rematch of their Sept. 2 game.
Coaches and players know differently. This week’s game at Scottsdale Chaparral High School likely won’t resemble the last one, which Sabino won 16-13.
“It was a defensive struggle,” Sabino coach Jay Campos said at Tuesday’s state title game media day in Mesa. “Offensively we hadn’t found ourselves yet and for them on offense, their quarterback wasn’t in, so the teams are a lot different now.”
American Leadership lost senior quarterback Dallin Edwards to a broken collarbone a week earlier against Pusch Ridge Christian.
“Frankly, I think we played as good a game as we played at ALA,” said American Leadership coach Rich Edwards.
Now Dallin Edwards, the coach’s son, is back.
Sabino (12-1) has matured offensively, too, regularly scoring 40, 50 and 60 points.
The team’s best athlete, UA-bound Drew Dixon, played tailback in that game. He has since moved around the field to quarterback and receiver.
Because of that, “I think it will be a different game,” Dixon said. “It feels good to be able to use my athleticism all over the field, to not just be boxed into one position.”
Dixon is a threat to run, pass and catch. He had four first-half touchdowns in Sabino’s state quarterfinal win Nov. 12.
“Right from the break of the huddle, we’re going to have to find out where he is,” Rich Edwards said.
Saguaro goes for another title
Family, feasting and football are Thanksgiving traditions.
At Scottsdale Saguaro, they don’t simply watch pigskin. They practice it.
Top-seeded Saguaro will face No. 6 Catalina Foothills in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game in Glendale.
Saguaro has won three straight state titles and eight in 10 years. The Sabercats are ranked No. 14 nationally by MaxPreps, have been featured on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and have played on ESPN this year.
“Our kids have bought into that: They want to leave a legacy, we have a strong senior class, and that’s what they want their legacy to be: the first to win four state championships,” said Saguaro coach Jason Mohns.
Saguaro features 18 players who have received scholarship offers. Two of them, safety K.J. Jarrell and guard Jax Wacaser, have been offered by the UA. Saguaro beat Catalina Foothills 35-0 on Sept. 2. Foothills is surging since then and played well in its last two state playoff games.
The team declined to take part in Tuesday’s media day, in part because it meant another trip to the Phoenix area. The Falcons played there Friday night and will return again this Friday. Saturday’s game kicks off at 10 a.m.
Mohns said he’ll look at Foothills’ recent playoff games rather than tape of their first meeting.
“We want to look at what you’ve been doing lately, and lately they’ve been playing great football,” Mohns said. “They beat two really good teams that we have a lot of respect for back-to-back on the road.”
New to the AIA, ALA seeks 1st title
Rich Edwards admits he was surprised by American Leadership’s quick success since joining the AIA in 2014.
ALA made the Division V playoffs in its first year before losing to Thatcher 47-6 in the first round.
The team made it all the way to the Division V state semifinals a year ago before falling to Benson.
The Patriots moved up to the newly formed Class 3A this season, while Sabino moved down. The Sabercats were the preseason choice of many to win the 3A.
Rich Edwards said he heard coaches complain that Sabino should be in 4A.
However, “I don’t care about that; I don’t worry about that,” he said.
“What I worry about is that they showed a lot of class; they were what people thought they were.”