Zone Read: Speeding Down The Stretch

Arizona Sports News online

The Open 8 storms seemed to have calmed a bit since the last time the “Zone Read” went good-on-good. The buzz surrounding the new-look format continues to grow so let’s not bury the lede.

Back In Balance 

The Open Division playoff format will continue to make for wonderful theater and speculation — as long as any of the teams below lose.

One problem I believe we’re seeing with the college football playoff format is top traditional CFP bluebloods simply don’t play enough “marquee” games to be knocked off. You could make the same point of contention with both 4A schools presently in the Open 8. Salpointe’s toughest game remaning will clearly be presently undefeated Canyon del Oro, while Saguaro has a trio of tricky tests (Marcos de Niza, Seton Catholic, Mesquite) but I can’t foresee either of these two power programs slipping over the next few weeks-especially considering the reward for running the table from here on out.

Heavyweight Slugfest

Last week I incorrectly picked Hamilton to knock off unbeaten Brophy. I’m going to stay away from the predictions in Week Seven but can’t wait to see how Jason Jewell’s defense attempts to slow down the Chandler rushing attack which simply dismantled Perry (again) last week.

Simple logic would say BCP’s best chance is to load the box and force Wolves’ talented junior quarterback Mikey Keene to beat them through the air. Chandler is simply a different animal but the Broncos won’t be intimidated, especially considered a full house is expected at Phoenix College for what is expected to have every feel of an Open Division playoff game.

Finding His Place

Stone Matthews was one of the most productive, yet under-recognized, running backs in Arizona high school football history.

His decorated career at Saguaro (from 2013-17) included 4,310 rushing yards and 60 total touchdowns in 31 games. Undersized but never outworked, Matthews played at Mesa Community College before walking on at Boise State. His experience in Boise didn’t go as he had hoped.

He entered the transfer portal and eventually found a home at Lake Forest College in Illinois playing for the Division III Foresters.

In Lake Forest’s 28-3 win over Knox, the redshirt sophomore Matthews rushed for 125 yards (7.8 per attempt) and two touchdowns.

“I didn’t even visit the school,” Matthews said to the “Zone Read.” “I just trusted my gut and haven’t looked back. This has turned out amazing for me…earning the starting job and playing right away. [I] can call this place my home and just very thankful for “Coach Cat” for still believing in me when it felt like no other school did.”

“Coach Cat” is head coach Jim Catanzaro who has made a habit of coming to Arizona and snatching plenty of talent back to the midwest. Don’t expect that trend to stop anytime soon.

‘Tukee Bowl Asterisk 

Most years Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista is second-to-none when it comes to must-see games. 

This year, unfortunately, isn’t one of those years.

Sure, the matchup is still a big deal for the two long-time Ahwatukee rivals but the storm Mountain Pointe has weathered this season has clearly taken the Pride’s focus off football (and who can blame them) — despite what head coach Rich Wellbrock preached at his press conference last week.

MP has been outscored 104-13 in three lopsided losses to Hamilton, Queen Creek and Highland. 

Meanwhile, Desert Vista is coming off a disappointing loss to Desert Ridge which likely knocked the Thunder out of the Open 8.

Is it still a big game? 

Sure, but without question — lacking the sizzle of years past.