Zone Read: The Late September Sting

Arizona Sports News online

As we transition, at least according to the calendar, into fall coaches and players are looking to re-boot both their bodies and minds as they head towards the back half of the regular season and inch closer to the playoffs coming up in November.

Plenty of movers and shakers, as well as some sub-plots and a really cool idea to track this week so let’s take the snap and get into my latest ‘Zone Read.’

Livin’ On the Edge

They say football can be a game of inches and one or two plays can decide the outcome of a game.

Well, no one needs to remind the 4-2 Desert Edge Scorpions who this season have experienced the thrill of victory, as well as the agony of defeat.

After close losses to usual 4A power Salpointe Catholic and in-town rival Millennium, Edge flipped the script last week against Peoria thanks to some last-second heroics from the freshman with the golden arm and a little luck along the way.

The intitial thing which stood out to me when I first watched this incredible video by Jose Garcia was Layra’s presence of mind to scramble around, let the play develop and allow his receivers an opportunity to get near the goal line. Secondly, his ability to not only throw the ball close to 60 yards in the air, but also make it quite “catchable” is nearly uncoachable. 

“We’re fortunate enough to have been in this situation before,” Edge head coach Jose Lucero told the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show Wednesday morning. “The play that we run for the hail mary, we call it the ‘Big Ben.’ We actually ran it at the end of the Millennium game. We completed the pass but we didn’t have a chance to score. We got tackled. Being in that situation at least our kids got to know what to expect.”

The road gets no easier this week with a trip to Scottsdale and a matchup with #SagU.  

West Valley Warriors

Well, at least one Cardinal football team who plays in Glendale is winning (zing!). Yes, the Glendale Cardinals are off to a 5-0 start for just the fifth time in the last 54 years.

“It’s great to make history,” star junior running back Kevin Daniels told‘s Ralph Amsden after last week’s win over Walden Grove. “I’ve been wanting to do this for my senior guys. They’re my family. I just want to come out here and be great for them.”

It’s that type of selflessness, as well as hard work in the off-season and in the weight room which has enabled the Cardinals to their unbeaten start. They’ve also benefited from the return of their coaching staff which has helped in developing and mastering schemes on both sides of the ball. 

Glendale football has also been putting in the work away from the field.

“The guys are doing a good job in the classroom,” head coach Rob York said to the ‘Zone Read.”

It’s quite possible GHS could run the table the rest of the regular season.

Not a bad encore coming off an 8-2 season in 2017.

Late Bloomer

One of the better players in the Valley you’ve probably never heard of is Arizona College Prep senior James Ryskamp. His journey to the sport of football is a unique one.

When head coach Myron Blueford started the program two years ago at ACP he convinced the basketball-playing Ryskamp to give football a try. Although still a work in progress, the blueprint, under Blueford, is certainly in place for his best lineman.

“One of his major strengths is his footwork,” Blueford said to the “Zone Read” of Ryskamp. “For a kid his size, he should not be able to move that well. He needs to get stronger but when he gets to college he will gain that quickly and be a tremendous tackle at the next level.”

Ryskamp, who also long snaps, certainly has the frame (6-foot-5) and size (275 pounds) college coaches look for in high school linemen. He also plays with an edge and will frequently finish seal blocks on the edge for the Knights. 

He also ready has offers from Arizona Christian, Ottawa and Whittier College, as well as interest from a handful of other schools.

Games For the Greater Good

Head coach Dennis Bene has won a slew of games at Salpointe Catholic but maybe more importantly, he’s found a way, through Salpointe athletics, to give back to the greater Tucson community.

Friday night’s game against Sahuaro will be the latest “Games For the Greater Good” as the Lancers will not only retire former Salpointe great Kris O’Dowd’s number but also honor O’Dowd’s special relationship with USC’s blind snapper Jake Olson, who will be in Tucson with the rest of the Trojans for their game Saturday night against Arizona.

They’ll also be selling these with proceeds benefitting Arizona State Schools For the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB).

“Kris embodied all that is good in a student-athlete and personifies all that is good in the human spirit,” Bene told the “Zone Read” about his former player. “He is a tremendous young man and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to get to coach him and know him.”  

Size Doesn’t Matter

Covering last week’s South Mountain-Camelback game I couldn’t help but notice Spartan junior free safety/running back/special teams standout Adan Solan who is third on the team in tackles despite standing just 5-foot-1 and weighing less than 150 pounds. 

Solan certainly flew around in CHS’s loss to the Jags and stood out for his play on the field, not his stature. He is just one of the great tales in high school football and why the sport is so incredible sport to cover on a consistent basis. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity I do to share these types of stories with my ‘Zone Read” audience.

Keep ballin’, Adan.