Tucked inside an upper middle class neighborhood about an hour north of Los Angeles sits California Lutheran University. Each summer the tree-lined, picturesque Thousand Oaks campus is home to a handful of Valley high school football teams who escape the heat and ramp up towards the start of the regular season.
One of those schools is the five-time defending 4A state champion Saguaro Sabercats. I was fortunate enough to tag along and experience camp life from the inside out, both on and off the field in southern California.
It was evident from the moment head coach Jason Mohns addressed the team in the wee hours before the busses departed from Scottsdale that this was a bonding, business trip sprinkled with fun, not the opposite.
And we’re off! 107 players (9th -12th) plus 22 coaches/staff headed to Cal Lutheran University for 5 days of football and team building 🌵🏈 pic.twitter.com/M7qxZKJf3c
— Jason Mohns (@CoachMohns) July 19, 2018
“I want to see them grow into a team,” he said to Sports360AZ.com. “We’ve been working hard. They’ve been pushing each other. For them to come here, they get a chance to be adults. We give them a lot of responsibilities. [Cal Lutheran] is a tradition. It’s something the kids look forward to.”
Iron Sharpens Iron
The entire veteran SHS staff is like-minded in their attention to detail both on and off the field. There is no wasted movement and little-to-no wasted time during the five day, eight-practice camp. If a player doesn’t execute a drill properly, it is done over. The end goal for the at times “tough love” approach is quite simple: strive for perfection, settle for excellence.
“Every single practice, it gets us prepared for the season,” senior guard/defensive tackle Jelani Newman explained to Sports360AZ.com. “We’re out here getting after it and jelling as a team.”
Competition Breeds Success
Whether on the practice field or even at the beach, it’s common for the SHS staff to pit the classes against one another in non-football events with “points” tallied at the end of camp and bragging rights on the line for the next year.
Whether it be penalty kicks with soccer balls, “header ball” (a Coach Mohns favorite), “chubby bunny” (where linemen attempt to catch punts from the jugs football machine) or a fierce game of tug-of-war the ‘Cats always get after it.
The Saguaro staff understands the “little things” go a long ways.
“There’s a saying I’ve adhered to for years,” Assistant Head Coach Frank Ruben said to Sports360AZ.com. “It’s champions are made when nobody’s watching. You’ve got to put the work in because that’s what makes you better.”
Fresh Faces Spin The Laces
Steady quarterback Max Massingale and his two state championships are at the Air Force Academy. This season Mohns will turn the keys to #SagU’s offense to junior Tyler Beverett who at 6-foot-3 and close to 200 pounds certainly looks the part.
Behind Beverett is an even bigger unknown as sophomores Frank Schafroth and Horizon transfer Alexander “Zander” Werner are in the mix heading into fall camp.
“The offensive side is so in-depth and complex that you can take to the next level,” Werner explained to Sports360AZ.com. “It’s not just [read] one, two. It’s [read] one, two, three, four five.”
Storm The Dorm
Part of the camp experience is sharing common space with as many as five of your teammates. The simplistic, yet serviceable dorms offer the players an opportunity to create new memories and bond closer together.
Special thanks for senior linebacker/running back Connor Soelle for the full guided tour of suite 211 inside Pederson Hall.
Nobody knows if the Sabercats’ hard work at CLU will lead to an unprecedented six-straight gold ball but Mohns feels good about what was accomplished on the trip, specifically with what he saw from his team leaders.
“As far as the seniors, they definitely answered the bell,” Mohns said after the final practice. “They really elevated from a leadership standpoint. They showed up every day with a great passion and great energy.”
2018 Saguaro Football Seniors pic.twitter.com/6mlfQYgqkK
— Saguaro Football (@saguarofootball) July 23, 2018
The ‘Cats open their season at Poston Butte on August 17th.