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Respect all, fear no one: Saguaro football ready to defend Open Division title

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

The Saguaro Sabercats are no strangers to being the defending state champions under head coach Jason Mohns.

The 20-15 victory over Chandler in the Open Division final last season marked the seventh state championship the school has won since Mohns took over as head coach in 2012.

The Sabercats will look to have the same result this season, and will return a great amount of talent from last season. They are one of two Arizona teams ranked in the top 25 nationally on MaxPreps at No. 14.

Senior quarterback Devon Dampier leads the returning talent and is one of the main reasons for Saguaro’s championship run. He now has a full season to work with after having to sit out the first half of last season due to transfer rules and splitting reps with 2022 three-star QB Ridge Docekal in the regular season.

“I was just kind of playing last year,” Dampier said. “Just talking with Coach Mohns for a whole year and being able to have that time with him is crazy. I’m setting up for a huge improvement going into this season.”

Dampier has full confidence in the offense and the weapons at his disposal to showcase his skills as a passer.

“With the receivers we got this year it’s pretty obvious we’re going to have to pass,” Dampier said. “We’re definitely going to unleash that side of me.”

Along with Dampier, junior three-star running back Jaedon Matthews also returns and is eager to improve off of his sophomore campaign.

“I feel like I got doubted a little bit last year because I was a sophomore,” Matthews said. “I feel like junior year is your best year.”

Four-star wide receiver Deric English and running back Zaccheus Cooper return as well for their senior seasons after suffering season-ending knee injuries in the same game last year.

“Me and him have just been by each other's side for the rest of the season and all offseason,” English said. “Our chemistry is through the roof with the whole offense so it’s going to be a crazy year for us.”

The two will look to establish a connection with Dampier, something they didn’t get to do much of last season. They can’t wait to be back out on the field with their teammates.

“We’ve got guys like that everywhere,” Cooper said. “Our team’s just full of studs.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Saguaro is expected to be led by players such as linebacker John Butler and cornerback Cole Shivers, who is committed to Northwestern.

The Sabercats also have multiple players that can play multiple positions at a high level. Players such as three-star athlete JoJo Clark, three-star Jaci Dickerson, and sophomore Dajon Hinton, who has been touted as the next big thing at Saguaro, all fit in that category.

Hinton, for example, has been compared to Saguaro alums Kelee Ringo, Byron Murphy, and Christian Kirk.

“Honestly it’s a blessing,” Hinton said. “That just makes me go even harder and [want] to get better.”

Even with all the talent that Saguaro possesses, they are still hungry to prove themselves. They are set to have one of the toughest schedules in the country this season, playing the likes of No. 21 Bergen Catholic (NJ) and No. 10 Chandler.

“We love the competition,” Cooper said. “Every week is going to be a hard game.”

“It’s all within ourselves,” Matthews said. “It’s a grind. You have to stay consistent with yourself and stay mentally tapped in.”

Despite beating them in last year’s Open Division title game, Saguaro is currently ranked second in the state, right behind Chandler, by multiple outlets going into this season as well.

“They are great competition all the time,” Dampier said. “This year’s going to be a good game between us. With the schedule we have, every game is circled.”

Saguaro opens their season at home against No. 21 Bergen Catholic tonight.

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