There may be no Chandler, no Hamilton or no Mountain Pointe but do not let that lead you to believe there should be any less intrigue to the 2015 division I state title game.
The Desert Ridge Jaguars and the Centennial Coyotes are not strangers to playing this time of year and matching up against one another could be the makings of a truly memorable state championship game.
Desert Ridge returns to the state championship for the first time since 2010 where they fell to Hamilton in the big game. Head Coach Jeremy Hathcock has built a great foundation with this program of having players that play with a special grit and toughness that was more than evident in their upset win over Chandler last weekend.
Centennial has long been one of the elite programs that the state of Arizona has had to offer but now have the opportunity to add a chapter to their story that has not yet been achieved. A state title at the highest level of play in this state. Richard Taylor has been the head coach since the beginning and how he has able to continuously bring in a new batch of lunch pale style players to buy into his system is truly remarkable.
Key matchup: In this game, you can choose to not follow the football and just watch what goes on in the trenches and be thoroughly entertained. Especially when Centennial is on offense. The Coyotes have one of the biggest and most talented offensive lines this state has seen even without big Marshal Nathe in the fold. Steven Bailey and Tanner Hawthorne are also next level players and are as tough as they come. Speaking of tough, D.J. Davidson, Andre Elmore and Jalen Harris on the defensive line are as skilled as they are tough and are grueling to face off against over four quarters. These guys facing off in a game of this magnitude is going to be great entertainment and possibly too violent for young children.
Impact performers: For Desert Ridge, Tavian Patrick truly embodies a Desert Ridge football player. He is fast and skilled but also smart and tough. When the Jags have needed a play on a third and long, on special teams or even on defense, Patrick has been right there to make it for them. All his life he has been told he is too small but you can just tell that his heart and determination trumps all of that.
Centennial in all their years of success has been Running Back High. Players like Terry Longbons, Jalen Ortiz and Dedrick Young have all been special players in this state. This year, the two-headed monster that has been Quentin Gomez and John Rincon has been especially impressive combining for 23 touchdowns and 16oo yards rushing.
Keep and Eye on: Stephan Gomez is the MVP of this Desert Ridge team. Not because of stats or because of what kind of college prospect he may or may not be, but because he does all of the little things. On Offense, defense and special teams, all 5-9 of him plays like he is about 6-9. His heart and effort is infectious and its easy to see that it rubs off on his teammates.
For Centennial, quarterback Isaac Steele is a great story. This is a young man who for most of high school career has been told he isn’t a “typical” quarterback but all he has done under center in two seasons is win games. He has the athleticism of a next level player but has not yet had the recruiting attention. He is also a fantastic defensive back on top of quarterbacking the team on offense. He’s a very positive, well spoken guy who is one of the emotional leaders of this team.
Centennial and Desert Ridge kickoff at 3pm from University of Phoenix Stadium for the division I crown.