Rise And Grind: Saguaro Starts #ZeroDarkThursday

Long before most of the teachers and nearly every student arrived on campus, the buzz coming from the Saguaro High School football locker room early Thursday morning was evident. As the rising sun still hid behind the east Valley mountains the five-time defending state champions exited the locker room and spilled out to the stadium field, arms filled with weights, water bottles and trash cans (we’ll get to the last one later).

The Sabercats had their first of six ‘Zero Dark Thursday’ workouts leading up to spring practices. The 90-minute, once-a-week station sessions are built to not only sharpen the players’ physical skills but their mental ones, as well.

Saguaro ZDT Still 2“I wanted to see which kids were serious,” head coach Jason Mohns said about the initial 2013-14 ‘Zero Dark Thursday’ concept to Sports360AZ.com. “Coming off a state championship [Mohns’ first] and getting back to work and not just resting on our laurels. That’s where it all started. We had shirts made. They have to be here and participate in all six [workouts]. If they do that, they get a t-shirt.”

The early buzz from the players quickly wore off as they were shuttled from one drill to the next as the Saguaro staff was quick to point out any flaw or, more importantly, lack of effort.

Some fared better than others, likely because they knew what to expect.

Saguaro ZDT Still 3“Last night I went to bed around 8:30 knowing I had to get up early,” junior linebacker/running back Connor Soelle explained to Sports360AZ.com with a grin. “I had to get that sleep…gotta get that sixth state championship. It starts in the dark when nobody is watching. That’s what I was instantly thinking when I woke up.”

The name, according to Mohns, was crafted from the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” which was popular right around the time Saguaro started this now annual tradition. 

“I got the idea of doing a Marine-style, basic boot camp training,” he explained. “Doing it early on Thursday mornings when it was still dark and cold outside.”

Although the players didn’t have to deal with the cold in week one, they did have to adjust to the grueling interval sessions. Many fared well but some used the strategically placed trash cans on the east sideline as their…well…breakfast removal. 

“You have to be mentally ready for it, you know you’re going to be gassed in the morning,” junior wide receiver/free safety Josiah Jacobs said to Sports360AZ.com. “You have to go in with a sharp mind and not fold. You obviously need to be in shape before you do these workouts.”

Welcome to spring football, #SagU style.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.