The first picture Scottsdale Saguaro coach Jason Mohns has of himself in a football setting was when he was about 3 years old and he was standing on the Kansas City Chiefs logo at Arrowhead Stadium.
His dad, Greg, was hired by the Chiefs in 1983 as a scout and three years later became the NFL franchise’s coordinator of pro scouting. Jason’s dad was raised in Kansas City. He has family in Kansas City. His sister lives in Overland Park.
So Sunday, he’ll be rooting for the chiefs when they try to repeat as Super Bowl championship against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 55th Super Bowl.
“A lot of Chiefs fans, Chiefs blood, but I don’t get too invested,” Mohns said. “Really for me, I root for a good game. I want it to come down to the end.
“I’m pulling for the Chiefs if it comes down to the wire, but I really want to see a good, explosive well-played football game.”
Mohns and Jeremy Hathcock, who led Mesa Desert Ridge’s football program the last 15 seasons and will head to Lakeside Blue Ridge this spring to become head coach and athletic director, broke down Super Bowl LV with The Arizona Republic in a Zoom interview this week.
Hathcock called the Bucs the “Patriots.” That’s excusable.
The Bucs are led by ageless quarterback Tom Brady, who is playing in his 10th Super Bowl and his first away from the New England Patriots.
“I was talking to some of my players today, and they said, ‘Coach, he just gets lucky,’ ” Hathcock said. “I don’t think that’s the case.
“You got him. He’s going to be calm and steady. He’s been there before. He’s going to be able to guide his team. And then of course you’ve got Patrick Mahomes and all the stuff he’s been able to do with Eric Bieniemy being that coach (offensive coordinator), being the most dynamic offense the league has seen in years, maybe ever, with him executing it. Just the ability to throw and run and have Tyreek Hill, all the weapons that he has.
“It’s going to be a totally different style. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
The main story line is old guard (Brady) versus new guard (Mahomes). Mahomes led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title last year. He could end up racking up championships the way Brady has done. Brady is looking for his seventh Super Bowl ring.
Now Brady is trying to bring former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians his first Super Bowl ring as head coach of the Buccaneers.
“I have a ton of respect for Brady and what he’s done,” Mohns said. “There were a lot of eyes on what he was going to do coming to Tampa Bay. Was it the quarterback or was it the coach?
“Clearly, Coach Hathcock knows, we can think we’re the greatest coach in the world. But it starts with the players. And Tom Brady clearly is one of the greatest of all time. I think this year solidified that, going into a new franchise with a new coach, a new system, new players and get better. And they did. They got better as the year went on. They’re playing their best football right now. He’s the ultimate leader. He’s a winner The guys around him, he makes them better.”
But Mohns said Mahones’ style reflects a new age of quarterbacks.
“And when you flip it, you look at Patrick Mahomes, and the way the game of football is played right now, he is the prototypical quarterback. Athletic, smart. He’s not a dual-threat quarterback. But he makes plays with his legs, with his feet. He makes plays in the pocket. He’s phenomenal. It’s kind of like the passing of the torch.
“But I’ve watched some interviews this week with Brady. You can tell he’s not quite ready to hand that over. I think he’d like to go get one more and go out on his own terms. He doesn’t want to go out with a loss.”
The Arians “no risk it, no biscuit” mindset, Mohns said, makes the Bucs exciting.
“You have two offensive systems and play callers, they’re not going to play conservative, they’re not going to play to lose,” Mohns said. “They’re going to take shots. You saw it with the Chiefs going for it on fourth down to ice that game (AFL conference championship game).
“I think it’s going to be one of the better Super Bowls we’ve seen in a long time.”
Hathcock believes if the Buccaneers build a lead, “You can never count out Mahomes.”
“If KC gets up early, never count Tom Brady out,” Hathcock said. “But if the Buccaneers get up early, that’s when Patrick Mahomes is his best.”
Making it through the pandemic
Both Mohns and Hathcock had to go through a crazy COVID-19 season in 2020, both of their teams derailed by it. Desert Ridge had to cancel a couple of games during the season. Saguaro’s season ended just before the Open Division playoffs began because of positive cases.
Both coaches were glad to see the NFL make it to the Super Bowl.
“It’s remarkable,” Hathcock said. “You saw Saguaro go down. It was like a giant killer. That’s what COVID does. It sneaks up on you. To see these two teams go unscathed is a tribute to the bubble.
“We all have plenty of kids from our teams who go to college. We saw what the bubble can do. My son (Koby) goes to Iowa State. They didn’t miss one game all year, because they do testing three times a week. They can’t go out. There’s a tremendous amount of sacrifice put in by the players.
“For them to be disciplined and selfless, it’s great to see they wanted a season so bad they put a lot of their personal things for the team thing.”
“I think the difference between us at the high school level and the professional level, they are professionals,” Mohns said. “They can’t put stipulations in place as far as what their players can and can’t do. Even at the college level, with the constant testing, where are they going, all that. I think that was the hardest thing at the high school level. We could have our kids in online school. We were on online learning all year long. But you can’t control what they’re doing on the weekends and what they’re doing. Who’s coming around them? Who is dad working with and what he’s bringing home? That’s what we were kind of up in the air with the contact that the kids had.
“That’s what the NFL has done a really good job with. They’ve had some protocols put in place from the very beginning, going back to training camp.”
Mohns said he thinks people needed the NFL this season.
“I think the one thing we found in America, sports is important to us, it’s an escape from our day-to-day life,” Mohns said. “Much respect for the NFL players, coaches and staff to make it happen. It was really needed as ever to have this season and have this Super Bowl game this Sunday.”
Hathcock said he always thought that if there ever was a world-wide pandemic, sports would be the first thing to go.
“We were all wrong in that,” Hathcock said. “It gives you some sort of normalcy that we’re all dying for. We kind of got focused on other things other than the daily (metrics reports).”
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Breakdown: Here’s how two Arizona high school football coaches see Super Bowl 55 matchup