Zone Read: Leveling The Playing Field

Arizona Sports News online

Happy March Madness to everyone and thank you for taking a couple of minutes to check out my latest edition of the ‘Zone Read.’ Plenty of interesting things to hit on around the state of Arizona so let’s go…

Chart(ering) A New Path 

In-state charter schools all want their place at the table when it comes to competing with classified schools, so much so the group of 25 institutions sent a fairly pointed and direct letter to the AIA asking to be allowed to compete against member schools.

Part of the letter documented the board dismissing the changes proposed for 1A, 2A and 3A classification for the next two years. It goes on to say, “We feel strongly that charter and district public schools should not be classified differently.”

It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say the balance of athletic power is shifting towards the academic-focused charter schools but programs like American Leadership Academy and Leading Edge Academy in the East Valley are making breakthroughs in football and basketball.

The letter continued, “We are deeply concerned that there appears to be such a fundamental misunderstanding about the public nature of public charter schools and that this sentiment is driving these inequitable proposed changes.”

It doesn’t seem out of line to me for these charter schools to want to compete on a balanced playing field so-to-speak moving forward. Now the ball is the court of the AIA (no pun intended).

Spring Has Sprung

The wait is nearly over as spring football ramps back up in the new few weeks for many teams around Arizona. The top priorities during this window varies from coach to coach and program to program. For some it’s more “back to basics” honing in on technique, footwork and special teams, while others use the practices for scheme install on both sides of the ball.

Cornering the Market?

It’s nice to see Hamilton star junior running back Jawhar Jordan getting some recruiting love. The fastest player at The Opening in Los Angeles has offers from Iowa State, Fresno State and now one in-state school.

Hearing Arizona State is interested in Jordan, but as a cornerback. Will be interesting to see how this plays out with the Sun Devils focusing in and having high success in convincing many of these top Valley prospects to #StayTrue.

A two-year varsity performer for Steve Belles, Jordan broke out for over 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Huskies last fall.

Let’s Get Physical

Rich Wellbrock’s overhaul has officially begun at Basha as one of the west Valley’s most successful coaches takes his blueprint across town in hopes of jump-starting the Bears, who limped to an underwhelming 3-8 finish last season.

One point of emphasis which won’t ever change under Wellbrock is up front where he helped develop a slew of road graders at Desert Edge. 

So far he likes what he sees at his new school.

“We’ve got a lot of pretty darn good bigs,” Wellbrock said to “The size is there. We’re really excited about them. They’ve been putting in the extra time in the weight room.”

The Bears will miss 6-foot-5, 265-pound anchor Jonathan Nathaniel who is on his way to Washington State but Wellbrock believes the young pieces are in place, especially with Justin Baker and Jonathan Durand returning to the interior of the offensive line next fall.

Not-So-Nifty Top 250

A quick scan of the Rivals 2018 Top 250 list, as of now, is absent of any Arizona players. The in-state Class of 2018 garnered three names: North Canyon’s Austin Jackson (#77 overall), Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao (#99) and Tyler Johnson from Gilbert Highland. Jackson and Pola-Mao are headed to USC, Johnson signed with ASU.


“There’s simply less top-tier talent in Arizona this year,” Arizona Varsity publisher and Rivals Recruiting Analyst Ralph Amsden said to “Second, the depth of last year’s seniors was vast enough to suppress a lot of up-and-coming players from breaking out and getting noticed.”

Amsden also referred to the fact no longer has a regional analyst who travels to Arizona to scout in-person, as they have in previous years.

Like most things, high school football talent here and in other states, can come with peaks and valleys when it comes to college prospects. With the greater Phoenix area continuing to grow, expect to see more names on that list in the coming years.

Window (Rock) of Opportunity

The capital of the Navajo Nation on the Arizona-New Mexico border happens to be home to one of the most productive players in northern Arizona in tight end Shamon Salway who reeled in 40 passes for just under 900 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016 for the Fighting Scouts.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior, who has also played quarterback and linebacker, is versatile enough to line up as an h-back and be a lead blocker on run plays, or in the slot as a receiver.

What stands out to me is his ability to catch the ball in traffic over the middle and extend big plays after the catch shedding arm tackles.