The Sahuarita Mustangs have spent the off-season preparing for their second season with Coach Don Watt. And Watt, living up to his reputation, says he has lots of surprises in store for SHS football fans this season.
The siren, the bell, the touchdown horn and the “Burn the Boats” mantra are in place again.
“Burn the Boats” is the no-surrender attitude Watt put in place last season. He expects his team to give their best and with no excuses. He came up with the mantra by drawing on the legend of Hernando Cortes, who ordered his commanders to burn their boats while they were preparing to go to war with the Aztec nation in Mexico. Cortes told his men they would either win or die, but they would not surrender.
Last season, the Mustangs logged a 6-4 recird, the best since 2014's 10-0 regular season that ended in a 36-33 post-season loss to eventual state champion River Valley High School.
On the defense side, Anthony Coronado is returning as defensive coordinator and Dustin Hills will work with the defensive secondary, but they will be joined by new coaches from Rio Rico High School. Former head coach Zach Davila is coming in as a defensive line coach and Alan Maytorena, a former assistant coach, will be the linebacker coach.
Watt will remain the offensive coordinator and Donnie Weiser will work with wide receivers, Jorden Hitchye and Brian Brown will handle the running backs. Joining offensive line coach Mario Elias is Riki Valdez, a former Douglas head coach and a Pueblo assistant, who will work with the offensive tackles.
The Mustangs lost 12 players to graduation in May, but Watt has faith in those getting ready to step up and fill those spots.
“The kids are champing at the bit and ready to break the summer monotony and get after it. We are running a leadership program here and we use football to teach leadership," he said. "Our hope is to turn good young men into good grown men."
Watt said he is happy with growth and maturity he has seen in the returning Mustangs.
“This is our senior and upperclassmen’s second year with the program and we are so pleased with the way they are stepping up and mentoring the freshmen," Watt said. "We have a brotherhood thing going on here. We give each freshman a big varsity brother, someone to show them the right way to do things. Coaching is so much easier when you have upperclassmen taking leadership roles.”
Returning seniors are RJ Ahumada, Michael Molio'o, Cristian Gonzalez, Bryce Williams and Osten Sherry, all key players last season.
The head coach also said he is happy about the way way the team has embraced program during the off-season.
“Being the second year, the kids are so much more familiar with the culture, the terminology and our style of play. This year our goal is to stay healthy and to press on and to improve on the 6-4 record from last year,” Watt said.
Along with “Burn the Boats,” Watt has a new mantra for the team: "3-4-2."
"Last year, we missed the playoffs by .342 percent. The boys know they have their destiny in their own hands. We want to maintain our ‘blue collar mindset.’ We have a work week just like a real job and Friday night is our payday. Game time is when it all pays off.”
Whatever surprises Watt has up his sleeve will be revealed Sept. 6, the Mustangs’ home opener against Palo Verde.
The "Captain’s Bell" will now be named after the previous season’s defensive Player of the Year. It is now "Tucker’s Bell" – named for Tucker Leinen.
The season will open on the road this year as the Mustangs travel to Eloy on Friday to face the Santa Cruz Valley High School Dust Devils at 7 p.m.
Last season, the Mustangs picked up a 28-20 season opening overtime win at home over the Dust Devils to start their 6-4 season mark. Santa Cruz was 4-6 last year, and will have a junior class-heavy squad this year with 12 juniors, six seniors and seven sophomores.