Given a week or so to digest the 2014 Arizona high school football season it’s easy to see why the sport and skill level continue to grow here in the desert. While the usual suspects continued their normal dominance under the Friday night lights there are plenty of story lines to share from the latest chapter and many to look forward to this spring and heading into next fall.
More of the Same?…as expected Saguaro cruised through the regular season and repeated as Division III state champs behind arguably the state’s most gifted high school skill player ever to wear pads in Christian Kirk. After narrowing his choices to six, Arizona State and the other heavyweights will not-so-patiently wait until next Wednesday for his college choice. The good news for Saguaro is the roster is loaded with important pieces returning at quarterback (Kare Lyles), wide receiver (Byron Murphy, Robert Branch) and up front (Kayden Lyles, Jackson Martin). Throw in KJ Jarrell and Brandt Casey and it equals bad news for everybody else.
The Next Big Thing…speaking of returning talent, next season could be the year Desert Edge pushes Saguaro from atop their perch. The Scorpions also have some serious playmakers. Junior-to-be quarterback Tehran Thomas accounted for 38 total touchdowns this fall. Alias Sturgis is a threat on the outside and 2017 running back Roshaun Johnson could be the state’s top recruit in two years with his attacking run style and versatility/athleticism to line up wide and beat defenders in the passing game.
In the Trenches…you could argue no school is better at making opponents play their game than Richard Taylor’s Centennial Coyotes who knocked off cross-town rival Liberty to take the Division II title at Sun Devil Stadium. Under the tutelage of former ASU star and NFL lineman Scott Peters who trains the group off the field, the Coyotes’ run game thrived with senior running back Dedrick Young and the steady development of junior quarterback Isaac Steele. Of course, it helps when the offensive line is littered with Division I prospects like guards Marshal Nathe and Steven Bailey who each have one year of prep play remaining before heading off to college to continue their careers. Happy for Ryan Poindexter who proves to be a true inspiration to all of of us.
Liking What I see at PV…the Trojans bounced back nicely reaching the Division II semifinals under first-year head coach Greg Davis. Seniors-to-be Daniel Bridge-Gadd and Jacob Brown are lethal in the passing game. Look for both to gain more interest from college coaches next season.Linebacker Grayson Fattaleh and his 105 tackles returns in the fall, as well. In Paradise Valley’s only two losses this season the defense allowed 40 or more points: 49 to Horizon and 42 to Liberty in the playoffs.
Who’s Got Next?…every year a surprise team or two rises from virtual unknowns to contenders like PV. Moon Valley had a great season, as did Tempe High with record-setting quarterback Emanuel Gant. Who will make the jump in 2015? Only time will tell.