High School football is off and running as a handful of teams took the field for the first time for the 2014 season. The following are various notes on players, angles and or story lines I find interesting from the week pertaining to high school football in Arizona.
Liberty: The Lions got off to a great start to the 2014 season with a 24-20 win over the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks. The Lions look just as good as advertised and have incredible numbers on their roster. They have 70+ players and because of it, Coach Danny Filleman decided that no players will play on both sides of the ball. Liberty’s usual suspects, QB Tyler Wyatt, DL Aaron Blackwell and DB Kory Wilson, did their thing, but there were some new faces that made a big impact off the bat.
Wyatt’s number one receiver from the looks of things for this season will be junior Alex Jackson. The 5’9 receiver is lightning quick and explosive and made some big plays in the game. Another threat at the running back position is their new running back Jake Schuiteboer. He is a strong, powerful runner who rushed for over 200 yards in the first game.
Another player to keep an eye out for is one that you most likely won’t see for a few weeks on the field for the Lions. The day of the first game of the year, a new player enrolled at the school by the name of Kyle Hinton. Hinton arrives at Liberty coming from Germany as his father was based there as a member of the military. Hinton is enormous and looks to make a big impact on the defensive line. He has to participate in 10 practices before he is eligible to play.
Ironwood Ridge: The Nighthawks got hit in the mouth early on friday night by Liberty but responded great and had a shot to win down the stretch. As been the case for the last several years, you will get a heavy dose of the run game when you face this team. Many different players get carries throughout the game but their feature back who looks to get the bulk of the carries is Cole McLafferty. He is quick, slippery, has great vision and is only a sophomore. If he carries the ball all season like he did in on friday night, he will be among the state’s leaders in yards. He got off to a good start with that as he went for over 100 yards against Liberty. Also keep an eye out for a feature this week on Ironwood Ridge’s Matt Solverson.
Salpointe: The Lancers picked right up where they left of in 2013 with a convincing 48-10 win over Buena. Salpointe lost a tremendous amount of talent from last season but still have great players returning. We have seen linebacker Taylor Powell lead the Lancers in tackles as a sophomore as well as when he was a junior. That will most likely be the case again this year as a senior. But this season we are seeing a new role with Powell and that is on the offensive side of the ball playing running back. He had two rushing touchdowns in the game against Buena.
Salpointe also has a new playmaker to keep an eye out for on offense this season. A transfer to the team from Sahuaro who was ruled eligible just this week by the name of DJ Hinton. The 5’9 receiver is just a sophomore and looks to make some big plays with his speed in the slot position similar to the way Kaelin Deboskie did so last year. I took a trip down to Tucson earlier in the week and I had a couple people tell me that he is the breakout guy to keep an eye out for on their team this season.
Boulder Creek: There are some big expectations for the Jaguars this season as they return a lot of great talent and have a very good senior class for the 2014 season. The most talented position they look to run out on the field is at the safety spot as they could very well have one of the best safety duo’s in the state. We have gotten to know senior Ryan Parentau well over the last couple years as a big, hard hitting safety for Boulder Creek. Jaguar coaches are telling me that we haven’t even seen close to his best yet as he has put on great size this offseason and has become much more fundamentally sound. His partner in crime is one that looks to have a breakout year in 2014 in the safety spot along side Parentau. That is 5’9, 170 pound junior Blake Labno. As a sophomore last season, Labno played at the varsity level but I am told he has taken the next step in his development going into his junior year. Many offenses will fear these two in the defensive back field this season. They kick-off their schedule next week at Mesa Mountain View.
Queen Creek: Quarterback Bryce Dobbs and wide receiver Skyler Bollman connected on three pass plays over 30 yards, including a touchdown pass and reception, in Friday’s win versus Poston Butte. Bollman, who learned he’d be playing wide receiver after a strong performance in the Surprise passing-league tournament over the summer, played almost exclusively on defense last season. He led the Bulldogs with 9 sacks last year. Dobbs has continued to improve since spring practice started, according to Bulldogs’ head coach Travis Schureman, and it showed on the field versus the Broncos. Dobbs threw for 193 yards and a touchdown. If Dobbs and Bollman keep this up and Weston Barlow does what he does, teams will have to pick their poison when they play the Bulldogs.
Poston Butte: There was a lot of buzz heading into game one of the Moro-era at Poston Butte, especially with rival Queen Creek being the first game on their schedule. Well game one did’t go exactly as planned. The shutout was only the second of Paul Moro’s coaching career. improving at the line of scrimmage will be the name of the game. Their lines lacked physical toughness against Queen Creek and prevented their biggest offensive threat, Brandon Hatfield, to do what he does best. He was held under 100 yards rushing. Quarterback Russ Corriveau rarely had time to get a pass off and was under pressure much of the night. The Broncos defense didn’t allow Queen Creek running back Weston Barlow to break any long runs, although he did rush for 149 yards, but it gave up too many long pass plays. And, they couldn’t get off the field, allowing the Bulldogs to convert two 4th-down attempts. Queen Creek scored on all five possessions of the first half.