Big shoes to fill: New Saguaro football coach Zak Hill up for the challenge

Zak Hill is taking over as the head coach at Saguaro High School after serving as offensive coordinator at Arizona State. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE – Jason Mohn’s 11-year run as coach of Saguaro High School football was nothing short of spectacular.

Mohns won seven state titles at the program’s helm, including the coveted Open Championship in 2021. Mohns, who left Saguaro nearly a month ago to become the new tight ends coach at ASU, received a phone call shortly after his departure from an erstwhile ASU offensive coordinator, Zak Hill.

After a brief discussion, Mohns gave Hill the phone number of Saguaro Athletic Director Matt Harris, who was eagerly looking for a worthy replacement for the esteemed job.

Five weeks later, Hill became the head coach for the Saguaro football program.

“I asked Matt to let me know what their vision was,” Hill said. “Once I knew that, it sparked a little bit more interest. I jumped in, applied and started going through the process.”

During Wednesday’s introductory press conference, Hill expressed his love for the program, gratitude for the coaching opportunity and excitement to meet his players and coaching staff.

Under former coach Jason Mohns, Saguaro won seven state titles, including the coveted Open Championship. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

Under former coach Jason Mohns, Saguaro won seven state titles, including the coveted Open Championship. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

Hill revealed that returning to the high school level after a few seasons coaching in the college ranks was good for him because it allowed him more time to be with his players and the ability to build closer relationships with not only his team but his staff and the community.

His last coaching stint came as an offensive assistant with American Leadership Academy – Gilbert North, a charter school with championship pedigree. The team captured the 4A state title in his lone year with the Eagles.

In 2020, Hill coached the ASU offense under former coach Herm Edwards after working as the offensive coordinator at Boise State for four years. Hill resigned a season later while the program dealt with the NCAA’s investigation into recruiting violations.

His unique blend of experiences caught the attention of Harris.

“What set Zak apart from the other candidates was just the elite level that I think he can help move our kids to,” Harris said. “He has a great understanding of what kids need to do to succeed at the next level and prepare for the next level. He checked every box for us.”

Although Hill spent only one season with the Sun Devils, he left an impression, especially on current ASU starting quarterback Trenton Bourguet.

Bourguet arrived five minutes before the press conference on a pair of crutches as he recovers from foot surgery. From the back of the room, he sat and watched his former coach give his inaugural speech.

One day, he wants to emulate Hill as a football coach and replicate the ideas that Hill taught him on the gridiron. But for now, he’s still taking notes.

ASU quarterback Trent Bourguet attended the press conference to support Hill, whom he called one of his favorite coaches. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

ASU quarterback Trent Bourguet attended the press conference to support Hill, whom he called one of his favorite coaches. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

“I made sure to text him last night when I heard the news,” Bourguet said. “I’m super excited for him and his family because he was one of my favorite coaches, and as good as he was as a coach, he was a good person as well.”

Hill’s resume could have landed him another coaching job at many colleges across the country, but one key factor played a role in his decision to return to the high school level: family.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with my wife and my parents – they’re all part of this decision. When we came down here we definitely fell in love with Arizona,” Hill said. “(My kids) are seven to 10 years old. So now they know what’s happening with moving, and I’ve had an opportunity to do some things, which has given me some experience, and I can then transfer into this job. But I think we’re at a good time in life with the stability and the environment we’re around.”

Now Hill faces the daunting task to fill the proverbial shoes that Mohns has left behind. However, Hill says he’s more than ready to take on the challenge.

“Jason did an amazing job here and set the bar high,” Hill said. “I want to continue and try to push the envelope a little bit and raise those standards, and elevate these kids in a lot of different ways in life.”

(Video by Lindsay Zienty/Cronkite News)
Vincent Deangelis VIN-sint dee-ANN-jeh-lis
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Vincent Deangelis expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Deangelis reports for The State Press.

Lindsay Zienty lind-zee zin-tee
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Lindsay Zienty expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in digital audiences.

Reece Andrews REES AN-drooz (he/him)
Sports Digital Producer, Phoenix

Reece Andrews expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Andrews previously worked in the Cronkite News Los Angeles bureau. He works as multimedia managing editor at The State Press and occasionally does photography work for WCSN.

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