There was John Sanders, the master motivator, up to his old tricks.
The last time his team faced Chaparral - in 2008 - Saguaro's football coach convinced a Sabercats team with nine Division I players they were the underdogs. The ploy worked, as Saguaro defeated the Firebirds twice that year, the last one a 38-0 stomping in the 4A Division I championship game.
Fast forward to Friday night, where, an hour before the rivalry was renewed, every one of his key players came roaring onto the Chaparral field turf, hooting, hollering and ready for a battle.
Sanders had debated resting his starters against Chaparral with the playoffs looming next week, but as D.J. Foster, Luke Rubenzer and Co. led the team stretches, it looked as if the wily coach had played rope-a-dope all along, psyching out Chaparral into preparing for the possibility of a ‘B' game.
But this time, there was no hidden agenda, no mind games.
Saguaro sat nearly every significant player on its roster and they all looked on as Chaparral unsurprisingly rolled the Sabercats backups, 65-0, on Friday night at Chaparral.
This was supposed to be a return to glory of arguably the state's fiercest rivalry, but even though Chaparral (10-1) remains the favorite to win the Division II title and Saguaro (8-2) likewise in Division III, the commercials on the regional television broadcast were probably more entertaining than the action itself.
"We were beat up pretty good and what we are looking at is the big prize," Sanders said. "Week 14 (the state championship week) means a whole lot more to us than Week 10. At the end of the day, we made a decision, and I have to live with it."
Foster is the team's star running back, with 138 carries for 1,883 yards and 38 touchdowns this year. Many were excited to see how he would fare against Chaparral and its star, Davonte Neal, who finished with six carries for 116 yards, four catches for 34 yards and three touchdowns.
Instead, Foster's only presence on the field was during the pregame and halftime meeting of captains.
"(Sanders) knew we wanted to play," Foster said. "He knows it's our senior year, it's against Chaparral, our friends over there, our rivals over there. He knew. But it's his decision at the end of the day and we support him 100 percent."
Chaparral quarterback Connor Brewer finished 10-of-13 passing for 161 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a 50-yard score.
Jake Roh had four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
It was Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle's first win in five tries against the Sabercats, but after taking verbal jabs from Sanders for years, he wasn't interested in firing back.
"I'm not going to get into a war of words," Ragle said. "The people saw it. It was on TV. They can be the judge. It was a very, very frustrating and disappointing night."
Chaparral played its starters into the fourth quarter and scored two-point conversions with 34- and 42-point leads. Sanders said it didn't bother him to watch the Firebirds pour it on, and that "it didn't surprise me."
When asked if he was having fun in the fourth quarter, one Chaparral player just shook his head and walked off.
A former Saguaro player voiced his displeasure after the game, and a parent was critical on the Fox Sports Arizona broadcast.
Sanders knows his decision was not a popular one.
"I'm sure more than my alumni is upset," Sanders said. "But it's about the kids in the locker room this year, not the ones that have been there for the past four out of five state championships. They're all upset...No one's happy. I'm going to have more than alums not happy. It's a tough deal."
Foster seemed at ease with the thought of not playing on Wednesday, but admitted to a different feeling when he hit the turf.
"Right when we stepped on the field, the adrenaline started kicking," he said. "Football players want to play football... During the game, the seniors started getting frustrated, saying, ‘Let us go in. Let us go in.' Coach had made his decision and he said he wasn't going back on it. We respected his decision and that's it."
Christian Kirk, a freshman, was one of the few main contributors to play for Saguaro, as he had a pair of long kickoff returns.
Brewer would have rather played against a Sabercats team that was fully stocked.
"I definitely would have liked to have played their best guys," he said. "Now it's a woulda, coulda, shoulda game for them. But for us? We went out and played the game we could and the score showed that."
Saguaro entered with the most prolific offense in the state, but was shut out for the first time since 2009 against Canyon del Oro. The Sabercats had more penalty yards (84) than total yards (61).
"We showed up and we played football like we were supposed to do," Ragle said. "I'll let everybody else judge what they saw here tonight."