Zone Read: Spring Football Notes

Arizona Sports News online

It’s me. Back after a week “off.” Sorry for the delay on my end…been busy which is never a bad thing. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several spring football camps over the past couple weeks so let’s get right to it.

Two-Way Go

It’s safe to say no team in Arizona has a kicker quite like Chaparral freshman Tommy Christakos. I highlighted his unique skill-set a few weeks ago. The big-picture view I had for Firebird head coach Thomas Lewis was, where does he see the 6-foot-4, close to 190-pound freshman athlete eventually playing at the next level?

“Tommy is a very unique athlete, he has tremendous upside,” head coach Thomas Lewis said to “He’s kicking 65-yard field goals as we speak as a freshman, but he’s also a very talented wide receiver on the outside…I see him moving more so into the h-back position.”

Lewis feels Christakos, with still three more years to grow and get stronger, will evolve into a receiver who college coaches can line up inside or outside to create match-up problems against smaller defenders.

“Kind of like New England would use a Rob Gronkowski,” Lewis explained.

It’s also possible Christakos could also end up kicking in college, as well. 

Cruz Control

It seems each week in the ‘Zone Read’ I’m spotlighting another young, promising local quarterback.

Well, add Casteel’s Gunner Cruz to the list.

In the Colts’ first season competing at a varsity level the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder dropped 2600 yards and 30 touchdowns, with just five interceptions as Casteel finished 9-2.

The on-the-field resume is impressive but can’t touch what Cruz is doing in the classroom. His 4.6 grade-point-average, combined with his skill set is garnering interest from Cornell and others.

Cruz is also showing the type of leadership, in “The Steel Mill” as the Colts call it, head coach Spencer Stowers loves. 

Moving Time?

Speaking of Casteel, the Colts could be one of the area schools moving up in classification in a couple years.

Rumor has it Casteel could be making the jump from 3A to 5A, with Higley moving from 4A to 5A and Queen Creek jumping from 5A to 6A for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 sports calendars.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise to people familiar to the growth of the Valley and the urban sprawl which has the southeast Valley booming with new families and football talent.

QC has been a staple of consistent success, while Williams Field and Higley are loaded with talented players, as well.

Changing Places, New Spaces

Lamar Early is the new head coach at Millennium, moving northeast up the I-10 in Goodyear after going 41-35 the last decade or so at Estrella Foothills. He went 2-8 his first two seasons with the Wolves before stringing together a number of winning seasons.

“Lamar has done an excellent job at Estrella Foothills,” Recruiting Expert Jason Jewell said. “He produced multiple Division-I players and has had good character kids. He did all of this at a small school level and now gets his chance to do it at a higher level.”

Early will have some talent to work with in returning quarterback Ernie Pina (1718 yards, 14 touchdowns) and talented wide receiver Aidan Diggs (45 catches, 668 yards, four touchdowns).

Protection Purposes

No offensive/defensive line in the state lost more talent up front than Saguaro. SagU’s Class of 2018 produced produced Corey Stephens (ASU), Jax Wacaser (UCLA), Brandon Boyce (NAU) and tight end Kyle Soelle (ASU).

Despite almost a complete overhaul, head coach Jason Mohns feels the pieces are in place this spring, starting with returning all-region center Ruben Pimbert and long-snapper/left guard Patrick McInerney who is a Division I prospect.

Add 2020 prospect Ty Kassen, who was just offered by ASU, and 6-foot-2, 250-pound bull Jayden Swink and the starters appear set.

“Depth could be an issue as most of our next guys up are young,” Mohns cautioned to “But we feel once this group gets a few games under their belts they have the potential to be very good.”

Something New 

When dual-threat quarterback Austin Duffy decided to quit football to focus on baseball, first-year Red Mountain head coach Mike Peterson and his staff decided to switch things up.

This spring the Mountain Lions moved from the spread to more of a two-tight end set. Think Brophy’s offense under Scooter Molander.

Mr. Everything Lance Lawson, who accumulated around 2500 yards and 28 touchdowns last fall, will play primarily in the slot and at running back. He will be featured in certain ‘Wildcat’ formations and also play safety. 

As a 13-seed, Red Mountain made a surprise run to the 2016 6A semi-finals before a hard-fought 21-14 loss to Mountain Pointe.

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Ever heard of “The Spring League?” 

Luckily, former Hamilton and NAU star running back Zach Bauman did. 

Bauman participated in the instructional league this spring and ended up getting a tryout with the New York Jets.

The league also featured defensive back LeQuan Lewis of ASU and Arizona defensive lineman Dame Ndiaye.