As the calendar turns to March, high school spring football is in the air with schools rounding out their winter strength and conditioning tiers and turning their focus back to the field and X’s and O’s.
With graduation of stars comes opportunities for others to step up their game and into the spotlight around the state so lets’ start there.
New Leader of the Pack?
Last fall Chandler cornerback Imani Lee was the unquestioned leader of Shaun Aguano’s secondary. Lee had six interceptions in 2016, including two in their 6A Championship win over Mountain Pointe, whose college future will likely be in track.
With Lee graduating this spring, look for junior Bryce Jackson to step into said playmaking role in 2017.
“[He’s] an incredible athlete [with] intelligence on the football field,” Aguano said to Sports360AZ.com of Jackson. “Will be a very big part of our defense this year.”
GAME FACES ?????? pic.twitter.com/kjvw2MPIV0
— ♧BJ23♧ (@BJax__) December 26, 2016
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder had two picks last year and also had 10 pass deflections. According to Jason Jewell, Jackson is another Division I talent for the Wolves.
Maybe most importantly, Jackson has a 3.6 grade-point-average at CHS.
A BIG Challenge From Down Under
Speaking of Chandler, if you’re catching their game next season against national power IMG Academy, make sure you keep an eye on offensive lineman Daniel Faalele. The Australian is pretty hard to miss.
— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) February 26, 2017
The 17-year-old who wears size 18 shoes and already has a laundry list of big offers was first discovered by a University of Hawaii recruiter two years ago and has one of the more unique backstories when being introduced to the game of football.
On the surface it’s hard to imagine a player who scored 30 touchdowns as a junior and led his team to a 12-1 record and spot in the 5A State Semi-Finals would still be a work in progress but such is the case with Cienega quarterback and University of Arizona commit Jamarye Joiner who enters the spring as one of the top playmakers in Arizona.
A vision without action is purely a dream✊?‼️
— Jaboo™‼️ (@Jamaryejoiner) December 8, 2016
The Salpointe High transfer, who sat out his sophomore season, is now focused on reading defenses and adjusting to different schemes according to Bobcats’ head coach Patrick Nugent.
“I am really looking forward to him improving his passing game by understanding the offense more and how to attack the defenses he is seeing,” Nugent told Sports360AZ.com Tuesday night of his four-star, duel threat signal-caller. “[It] could be a really big year for him.”
Queen Creek has been no stranger to successful running backs. Whether it be Matt Guida or most recently Jace Koester who tallied over 2,000 total yards and 21 touchdowns last season, look for the beat to continue this fall with talented sophomore Dylan Borja who will take over for Koester and work behind fellow sophomore, star quarterback Devin Larsen.
QC head coach Travis Schureman believes Borja, listed at 5-foot-8, has the physicality skill-set to excel over the next two years for the Bulldogs.
Missing the game?will come back better than ever ???? pic.twitter.com/exrtxpJ5zS
— dylåń börją (@steelercity) January 14, 2017
“He started last year on junior varsity but was brought up right away,” Schureman said to Sports360AZ.com. “We believe he has a chance to be a great running back. He works his tail off on and off the field.”
Borja and his teammates will also have something else to look forward to next season.
You may think the start of the high school football season is pretty far up the road but you may not realize…
We are 170 days from the start of the Arizona HS Football Season and today is Peanut Butter Lover’s Day! With start of lent, my PB&J packed.
— Gridiron Arizona (@gridironarizona) March 1, 2017
Until next week…