Saguaro, the third-ranked team in this year’s Open Division playoffs and last year’s runner-up, has been forced to end its season due to COVID-19 cases within the program.
Scottsdale Unified School District confirmed the end of the Sabercats’ season on Thursday in a press release. Head coach Jason Mohns also posted the news on social media, sharing the team had three positive cases that had been discovered. According to guidelines set forth by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee ahead of the 2020 season, three or more positive cases for teams of Saguaro’s size will result in a mandatory shutdown of activities.
“It is with a heavy heart that I regret to inform you that the 2020 Saguaro football season has come to an end due to a third positive Covid case amongst players and staff over the past 14 days,” Mohns wrote. “In accordance with AIA and SMAC Committee guidelines, out program will have to observe a mandatory 8-day shut-down, effectively ending our season.”
The end of Saguaro’s season comes just one day before the Sabercats were scheduled to face Salpointe Catholic in the Open Division quarterfinals. The game will now result in a forfeit and the Lancers, ranked sixth in the Open Division, will automatically move on to the semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 5 to face the winner of No.7 Corona del Sol and No. 2 Hamilton.
Mohns wrote his team has been unable to practice all week as they awaited test results. He said the third positive case, which shut down the rest of the program, was received Thursday morning.
“I am heartbroken for all of our players, coaches, trainers, staff, and family members who have sacrificed and persevered through one of the most difficult times of all of our lives,” Mohns wrote. “I am especially devastated for our seniors who have given so much to our program but have lost so many of the experiences and opportunities that make our program great.
“Our players have done everything we asked of them to stay safe and protect their season. I tell out boys all the time to focus on controlling what we can control … this outcome was out of our control.”
Saguaro finished the 2020 pandemic-shortened regular season 5-1 overall after it was forced to scramble to find games on several occasions due to its opponents cancelling. In Week 1, the Sabercats were left with a bye week after Chaparral canceled due to two positive cases within the program.
In Week 5, Saguaro scheduled Casteel last-minute after Horizon was forced to cancel due to a large majority of its team in quarantine due to contact tracing. A week later, Campo Verde canceled after out of precaution. The Sabercats were forced to take another bye week and rescheduled its lost contest against Horizon in Week 7 after Notre Dame Prep was forced into quarantine.
Saguaro wrapped up its season against Gilbert on Friday, Nov. 20 with a win.
“As the head coach of the Saguaro Football program, I want to tell you that I am as proud as ever of the players and people involved with our team,” Mohns wrote. “We have overcome every obstacle that has been put in our way since the pandemic started.
“… we responded to every challenge with resiliency. I have no doubt we will continue to do the same.”
Saguaro becomes the latest team scheduled to make a playoff appearance forced to bow out due to the virus.
Washington High School was forced to forfeit its play-in game against Mesquite last week. Apache Junction was forced to do the same against Peoria. Glendale, which would have been in the playoffs, was left out after the Cardinals were forced into quarantine two weeks before the play-in game would have taken place.
Several East Valley schools also dealt with issues in regard to the virus this season.
Arete Prep and Gilbert Christian canceled games early on in the season. Desert Ridge was forced to cancel two games due to several players and coaches testing positive. Perry missed two weeks after positive cases and a slew of injuries left the Pumas extremely short-handed and Desert Vista canceled its matchup against Chandler in Week 7 due to a positive case and contact tracing.
According to the Scottsdale Unified School District’s COVID-19 dashboard, Saguaro has had 20 COVID-19 cases since it began tracking confirmed positives. As of Wednesday, the school reports two active cases. The dashboard is updated every Thursday.
Top-ranked Chandler’s Open Division quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 Desert Edge is still on track to be played. No. 5 Liberty against No. 4 Centennial will also be played along with the aforementioned matchup between Corona del Sol and Hamilton.