Zone Read: Off And Running Into 2018

Arizona Sports News online

It was great to be back under the Friday night lights this past week so let’s look back at what caught my eye in Week Zero, as well as a few storylines to follow around the state heading into Week One.

Without further delay, my latest “Zone Read.”

Pick(ing) Sides

Trivia question (and no cheating): What’s the longest running high school football rivalry in Arizona?

My guess is very few of you knew Douglas and Bisbee will play for the 148th time Friday in southeast Arizona–which ranks as the fourth-longest rivalry game in the nation

The victor, last year it was Bisbee in a 22-21 nail-biter, will take home the Copper Pick Trophy (photo courtesy According to the Arizona Daily Star the teams played twice every season from 1906-51 and the series was stopped in 1991-94 before resuming. 

It’s a game that, in many ways, has been passed down from one generation to the next.

“My grandfather was the quarterback at BHS in 1958 and 1959,” Bisbee head coach Brian Vertees said to the “Zone Read.” “My dad played in the rivalry in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I won the pick as both a player and a head coach.”

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to carry the torch so-to-speak.” 

Regardless of what part of the country you live, very few things beat small-town football rivalries and we’re fortunate enough to have one of the best (and longest) not only Cochise County but the western region, as well. 

“The Copper Pick rivalry is the biggest sporting event for our City of Douglas annually,” Bulldogs head coach James Fitzgerald told the “Zone Read.” “The team that plays the hardest on Friday will be the one holding the trophy up at the end of the night.” 

For all you historians, Bisbee won the first matchup 7-6 back in 1906.

Not Beating The Heat

While Casteel proved to be no match for the defending 5A State Champion Centennial Coyotes in Week Zero, the same can’t be said for mother nature in Queen Creek or any part of the Valley for that matter. Night temperatures hovered in the low 90’s and featured high humidity and little breeze. 

Several ‘Yotes made a consistent parade to the sideline or simply fell to the turf due to cramping during their 42-19 Week Zero win. Two-way star Tawee Walker, a senior transfer from Las Vegas, scored a second half touchdown moments before crumbling to the ground as if he’d been shot. The training staff had players eat mustard during the game in hopes of helping alleviate the problem.     

Needless to say the Centennial coaching staff were none too pleased after the game, “reminding” the team to not only hydrate properly but get plenty of rest during the week leading up to Friday nights. 

Hawks In Flight

One program which has consistently flown under the radar is the Buckeye Hawks (no pun intended). Head coach Kelley Moore has compiled a 32-13 record since taking over back in 2014.

Two years ago I introduced you to spark plug quarterback Joseph “J.C.” Perez who tallied 94 total touchdowns and over 6500 yards of total offense in 31 career games behind center. 

Perez is now at Mount St. Joseph University (OH) and the torch has been passed to junior Angel Macedo who shredded Tucson Amphi last week, completing 16 of 20 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 41 rushing yards and a score in the 51-7 win.

“As the season progresses we will see how he fares,” Moore told the “Zone Read” when asked to compare the two quarterbacks who share both similar size and skill sets. “Angel is his own man.”

After hosting Kingman Lee Williams this week, the competition ramps up with road games at talented Peoria, Odessa (TX) and home tilt against another Texas opponent, Mesquite.

No Steer-ing Clear

When Jake Smith sent out this tweet back in early June his life, in some ways, changed forever. 

The Notre Dame Prep “athlete” had Power 5 offers from around the country but decided Austin, Texas made the most sense for him both and off the field.

The Longhorn social media buzz over the four-star prospect, who will play slot receiver for the Horns, has been well,…extreme.

“It’s crazy, that’s the only way to describe it,” Smith said to the “Zone Read” shaking his head. “The fan love is out of this world…sometimes it hard to even go through all [the social media mentions], I can’t even see them all. It’s definitely nuts.”

When much is given, much is expected.

Make no mistake, Smith has a bright future ahead in the Big 12 but first, his only goal is getting back to the 5A state championship and hoisting that gold ball.

Future Unknown

Behind the scenes people are still fighting to save junior college football here in Arizona. Nobody is certain what 2019 will bring but there are a host of talented locals who are either bounce back Division 1 players or guys simply looking to extend their careers and get noticed this season.

One of the Maricopa Community Colleges who made a big push to sign said players was Scottsdale. Head coach Doug Madoski inked former north Valley standouts Tristen D’Angelo (Boulder Creek), Ben Fox (Pinnacle), Cole Fisher (Notre Dame Prep) and Kare’ Lyles (Saguaro/University of Wisconsin). Many of the players refer to themselves as #ScottyBoyz18. 

Arizona JUCO football is an incredible outlet which opens up so many opportunities for student-athletes to chase their dreams. 

Let’s hope they figure something out, sooner than later.