5A Championship Preview: Putting the Special in Special Teams

The 5A state championship should be a great one.

Centennial comes in as hot as any team in the state as they have rolled through the playoffs and really the season since their week zero loss to Desert Edge. It is classic Centennial with the way they run the ball, play defense and do all the little things.

Williams Field has done nothing but beat everyone they have faced this season with a great combination of veteran leadership on both sides of the ball along with youth that has come up the ranks and played big roles.

Key Matchup: Centennial running back Zidane Thomas vs Williams Field linebacker Braden Valentine.

Power against power here! Zidane Thomas has been on a mission this season for the Coyotes and especially so in the playoffs. How about over 300 yards rushing and four touchdowns against the number one seeded Cienega last week! The offensive line has always been a force for Centennial and Williams Field’s defensive front will get all they can handle. It will be important for the linebackers also in the box for the Black Hawks to make their presence felt to prevent the great Centennial rushing attack from imposing it’s will. Valentine is without question the leader of this Williams Field defense and they will need a big game from him.

If Williams Field wins, it will be because…Their offense consistently got to the Centennial 35 or 40 yard line. I cannot remember a better special teams threat than what Brandon Ruiz is kicking the ball for the Black Hawks. He has more 50+ yard field goals than you can count and is about as reliable as they come. Obviously getting seven points on a drive is the goal. But if Williams Field can constantly put points on the board by at least getting into field goal range, it will pay huge dividends for this team.

If Centennial wins, it will be because…Field position. Special teams will clearly be critical in this game. I mention that Williams Field does not have to go on long drives to put points on the board because of their kicker Ruiz. If the Coyotes are forced to punt the ball, there are few better options to do so in the state than their punter Jacob Parks who is a senior and is used to this stage. According to MaxPreps, Parks has 14 punts inside the 20 this season and I have seen multiple of those inside the ten when seeing Centennial highlights. If the Coyotes defense can put pressure on the Black Hawks by pinning them back in their own zone, it will make it that much more work to get into Ruiz range.

Kickoff is Saturday at 2:30pm between Centennial and Williams Field from University of Phoenix Stadium.