The Saguaro Sabercats always seem to have one.
Dating all the way back to the 90’s with Mike Brown, to D.J. Foster, some Christian Kirk (in doses) and Kam’ron Johnson the ‘Cats have featured some of the best running backs in the state and at times the country.
Stone Matthews likely won’t play at Nebraska, Arizona State or Texas A&M but he does have the opportunity to etch his name amongst the best in program history before the end of his senior season this fall.
The five-foot-nine, 190-pounder has been a workhorse for head coach Jason Mohns after replacing the now NAU Lumberjack Johnson last fall.
All Matthews did in his first full varsity season was gain 2155 yards on 280 carries (7.7 yards per rush) and found the end zone an eye-popping 24 times for the three-time defending state champs. He eclipsed 100 yards 11 times in 2015 and added a pair of touchdown receptions.
Maybe the most staggering note from his breakout junior season was he only fumbled once in 14 games.
He was also at his best when the lights where brightest carrying 39 times for nearly 300 yards and two scores earning game MVP honors as Saguaro defeated Marcos de Niza in the Division II title game last November in Tucson. Not too shabby for a kid who’s squats over 450 pounds and enjoying taking his truck out fishing catfish around the Valley with fellow senior captain Brandt Casey.
“He’s been a great back every stage of the way,” Mohns told Sports360AZ.com after his team shutout Tucson Catalina Foothills 35-0 to improve to 3-0. “2100 yards against the competition we played last year that’s pretty impressive. He’s got great vision. He’s really strong.”
There isn’t much flashy about Matthews’ style: simply get the ball, run the ball. He’s also aided by one of the top offensive line’s in the state but nearly all of his success has been earned since his first appearance on varsity two years ago as a sophomore.
Matthews, a team captain, is in many ways the perfect complement to Saguaro’s huge front. He’s small enough to get lost in the chaos of the pile but strong and elusive enough to break tackles and get from point A to point B in traffic.
“You can’t see me behind the offensive line so the second I pop out you can’t see me,” he said after another big game Friday. “I have the lower leverage to run you over or make you miss so it definitely has its advantages. A lot of scouts overlook it but I actually think it’s a positive.”
Not everyone is overlooking him. He has offers from Arizona Christian and Western State (Colorado), plus interest from Division II Champion Northwest Missouri State.
Matthews isn’t the biggest fish in the pond but he sure plays like it.