The County Line
Welcome back to The County Line, my blog on news and notes surrounding the athletic
programs we cover at CountyLinePreps.com.
It’s been a long absence, but as the “traditional” part of spring football practice begins in earnest this week and next, I thought now is as good as any to get back at it.
So, let’s get after it…
Movin’ On Up – In my first-ever blog last fall, I wrote about Queen Creek’s then-upcoming matchup with Hamilton and the Bulldogs’ anticipated move to 6A. Throughout last season, I queried head coach Travis Schureman several times for his thoughts about moving up from 5A. At the time, he declined to talk about “next year,” feeling that discussing it would and should be viewed as a disservice to last year’s team, which was competing for its own championship. Now that “next year” is here, he finally agreed to share some thoughts, including the following:
1. Queen Creek, as school and a district, knew the move to 6A was inevitable and only a
matter of time. As a result, he’s glad the anticipation is over and the time to compete at
the highest level is here.
“I believe if you are a competitor you welcome the challenge of doing it at the highest
level, and in Arizona high school football that’s 6A,” Schureman told The County Line.
2. The Bulldogs’ players appear ready as well, something Schureman is proud to see. His
players have been engaged and committed throughout the offseason, which could be
attributed to the opportunity to gauge where they’re at in a Week One tilt versus 6A
defending champion Chandler.
“I’m excited for our kids because they are looking forward to facing the challenge of a
6A schedule head on,” Schureman said. “I sense our guys feel they want to prove
something – a little chip on their shoulder – and I like it.”
3. Schureman will continue to do things The Queen Creek Way, a credo in which the
Bulldogs’ players are expected to follow and have faith in. It includes competing for and
“That’s never going to change as long as I’m the head coach here,” Schureman said.
“We’ve always respected our opponents and that will continue, but we don’t care what
division or conference we’re in when it comes to competing for and winning
championships, and our players understand that.”
First Look – I made it out to Apache Junction High School last week where the
Prospectors were hosting a six-team, nine-unit 7 v 7 and Lineman Challenge event. I was there to primarily watch Combs and Poston Butte. A few of my takeaways include:
1. Both Combs and Poston Butte had several underclassmen getting reps, including some that will be JV players. Head coaches Travis Miller and Dain Thompson spoke with me afterwards about the new AIA rules, sooner 7 v 7 competition, and year-round
accessibility to players.
???: Asked @football_combs HC T Miller & @PBHS_FB HC @coachDain about new AIA rules that allow year-round practice, including sooner 7v7 events like the one @ProspectorFB earlier today. ??️? pic.twitter.com/sNb06w7ej6
— County Line Preps (@CountyLinePreps) April 22, 2018
2. Of the four teams I saw the most, the player who stood out in my eyes was Apache
Junction junior quarterback Gibson Limongello. The 6-foot, 170-pound, left-handed
throwing gunslinger zips a very sharp spiral with accuracy. I saw him make several
throws in tight windows, and his receivers displayed some quality skills as well.
Yes folks. He’s only a sophomore. Gibson Limongello. Apache Junction QB. pic.twitter.com/grBmDZcCKw
— Vance Miller (@AJFOOTBALLHC) April 25, 2018
3. Full disclosure and a bit of a tease…One of my objectives in making out to Davis Field
was to look at a player that has 2018 Bucket List potential. My eyes did not deceive me. I
witnessed the two-way player, who was a mid-year transfer a year ago from an SEC-
country high school, in action and can confirm he’ll be worth a look in the fall.
4. It’s hard to form many hard and fast takeaways, I’m just saying. A few players were
making their first appearance at anything related to football following the conclusion of
track & field state qualifying the day before.
One and done? – In my opinion, it’s been a less-then desirable offseason for the 2017 2A Metro East Region Champion San Tan Foothills’ football team, which won’t get the chance to defend its title. Region Coach of the Year George De La Torre led the Sabercats to an 8 – 3 record in his first year at the school, including an undefeated (6–0) region record. The Cats’ season ended with a 36–14 first-round playoff loss at St. Johns.
1. The Cats saw their starting quarterback transfer.
2. Find their best player perhaps in limbo after he also transferred but has since left the school and is now back at STFHS.
3. Lost one of their top assistants, Eric Hjalmarson, who was recently named the head coach at Safford.
4. They were moved up a level to 3A after appealing to remain in 2A for anther block.
Making the transition even tougher was their placement in the 3A Central Region, arguably the most competitive region in the conference that includes 2016 State Champion American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek, 2018 state-title contender Benjamin Franklin, which handed the Cats’ their worst defeat (34–0) last season, and Florence. All three were playoff teams a year ago and should be again this season.
— Joshua Maignan?? (@joshua_maignan) April 23, 2018
— Powell Skiba (@powellskiba65) February 7, 2018
Each of those players will be missed, no doubt, but it’s the returning players that fuel my belief that this is the Chargers’ year. Jefferies and Miles accounted for 85 percent of the team’s rushing yards and 42 of its 54 rushing touchdowns. Miles is also the leading returning receiver, hauling in five of the Chargers’ 10 receiving touchdowns a year ago. I should mention Miles also had a pick-six and two kickoff returns for touchdowns as well.
McCalister McLoving (the best name in Arizona high school football) and Jordan Kemp – if he doesn’t return to his natural tight end position – return along the offensive line.
On defense, junior-to-be middle linebacker Cade Mcafee led the Chargers’ defense with 107 tackles. Kemp, Miles, Bowen, and Grant Reeves, in addition to Mcafee, return to the defensive unit and account for five of the top seven tacklers from a year ago.
The trio had three picks apiece a year ago – nine of the team’s 16.
“(I’m) interested to see who emerges as our team leaders,” Jefferies said. “We need to instill in our team that just because things went well last year doesn’t mean they will automatically go well again.
“We have created a much tougher schedule for the next two-year block as we belong to what I feel is the toughest region in 3A.”
Seven of the 10 teams on the Chargers’ schedule reached the playoffs a year ago. Another –ALA – Gilbert North won the 2017 D-III CAA State Championship. The Chargers face a
gauntlet of a schedule, no doubt. All of it means the Chargers will be battle tested by the time the playoffs roll around. Sword optional.