Zone Read: The Countdown Is On

Arizona Sports News online

The REAL football-free summer finish line is in site. 

Teams from around Arizona are putting in their final install packages and some are scrimmaging other schools hoping to get the kinks out before we turn on the Friday night lights next weekend.

Plenty to get to from around the state so let’s jump right into this week’s ‘Zone Read.’

Pioneer Trail

Could this be the year Pinnacle takes “the next step?”

It very well could be.

The Pioneers are big up front, return a senior quarterback you’ve likely heard about and have a bevvy of talent on both sides of the ball.

One player to watch is junior running back Matt Goodlow who at 6-foot-1 and close to 200 pounds provides a unique challenge for opposing defensive coordinators. 

As a sophomore he tallied 256 yards on just 16 carries (16 yards per attempt) and found the end zone twice.

“I did speed work and really hit the weight room,” Goodlow told the ‘Zone Read’ about his busy summer. “I worked on my legs to get bigger.”

A black belt in karate, Goodlow is now squatting 200 pounds more than he did before his sophomore year as he’s expected to get the bulk of the carries in the Neers’ up-tempo offense. He also runs track at Pinnacle so no doubt there is speed to burn.

Those skills will be on full display in Week Zero when Pinnacle hosts fellow 6A power Perry.

What Will Do For An Encore?

One of the more under-the-radar accomplishments from the 2017 season was in northwest Arizona where Kingman Academy won their region and made the 2A playoffs for the first time in school history.

The challenge this year will be greater moving up to 3A without 15 departed seniors who were vital to the Tigers’ breakthrough season last fall. 

However, new head coach John Morgando still has some key pieces in place.

“We should be able to spread the ball around to a lot of different players this year,” he said to the ‘Zone Read.’ “With smaller numbers our team has to focus on conditioning this year and we feel this is our best conditioned team coming into the start of the season.” 

Two seniors to watch are Stevie Wusstig, a versatile two-way player who rushed for more than 900 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior, and defensive standout Tyler Wheeler who tallied a jaw-dropped 135 tackles from his middle linebacker spot. Expect Wheeler to get more touches on offense out of the backfield, as well.  

“If we continue to execute and put in the work we think [making] the playoffs in 3A [is] not out of the question.”

Casting A Shadow (Mountain)

Keep an eye on the Matadors up front this season. Inside, Shadow Mountain returns seniors Logan Konya who tallied 58 tackles last year, including 17 for loss, as well as massive 6-foot-4, 360-pound Tamyrjhai Clay who not only takes up space, but puts up numbers averaging close to four tackles per game. He had six TFL’s as a junior. 

Add Will Bigby, 6-foot-5, 260-pounder Sage Dutcher and leading tackler Jalen Williams (who has several Power 5 offers) to the mix and expect SMHS to improve drastically on their 2-8 record from a year ago. 

Shadow opens their season hosting North Canyon next week.

The CDO Slinger

Gone is dependable running back Elijah Carey and his 3000+ yards and 25 touchdowns. Now Tucson Canyon del Oro head coach Dustin Peace will remodel the offense around senior dual threat quarterback Zach Eidenschink who is back for his third starting season behind center.

“Last year we didn’t need to have him carry the ball as much as our quarterbacks normally do because Eli was our horse,” Peace said to the ‘Zone Read.’ “But Zach is more than capable of being productive with his legs.”

Another benefit for Peace and CDO’s offense is the return of a handful of skill players, including versatile seniors Jose Cruz and Ichiro Ramos who combined for over 800 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions.

Peace believes big things are ahead for Eidenschink who has mastered the offense and will be looked upon to lead CDO this fall.

“Zach has the opportunity to have one the best years of any quarterback we have had in the last several years.” 

Back To Football

My good friend Ralph Amsden with brought to my attention a familiar face who surfaced on the Arizona State football roster this summer. Alijah Gammage is back in pads working at cornerback after walking on for the Sun Devils.

After playing his junior season at Desert Vista, where he had seven interceptions in six games, the former Valley Christian High two-sport star decided to focus on basketball his senior year. 

Now he’s looking to carve a niche in Tempe, much like older brother Fred Gammage who walked on as a wide receiver and is now a part of Herm Edwards‘ staff serving as a Player Personnel Assistant.