Happy New Year to each and every one of you. I hope you were able to enjoy your holiday season with family and friends and here’s to making 2020 the best it can be.
This, in a way, is somewhat of a transition time for players and coaches. Both may be finding schools for the upcoming year as new opportunities arise throughout Arizona.
On the backdrop of an incredible season on the field, here are a few things which caught my attention in the new calendar year.
Remember the Titans
One of the more intriguing job openings to follow has been at Arcadia where the Titan administration is looking to turn the page on the Kerry Taylor Era.
No one will dispute Taylor’s efforts, resurrecting the downtrodden program into a winner his two seasons as head coach but his frequent “my way or the highway” attitude wore tired to many on and around campus. His re-hiring this past summer was simply a band-aid and few close to the situation, including Taylor himself, believed it was going to be a long-term marriage.
I feel Arcadia is a good job but not a great one. Their facilities are excellent and the support in and around the community has been resurrected by Taylor and his previous staff.
One high-profile in-state coach was offered the position but declined.
Whomever they bring in to replace Taylor, this is certainly a big hire for the Arcadia administration.
A New Dawg
It was an incredible season for Ty Wisdom and his Horizon Huskies whose offense looked nearly unstoppable until a freak, late-season knee injury to star quarterback Jake Martinelli quickly changed the outlook of a team who qualified for the Open Eight. The run eventually came to an abrupt end against a hot Saguaro team who would push Chandler to the closing minutes in the title game.
Still, the Huskies finished 9-2 (their other loss to Open Eight participant Pinnacle) and haven’t won less than six games under Wisdom since he took over an 0-10 team following the 2015 season.
Martinelli, who is likely to sign with an engineering school to continue his playing career and pursue his future profession, will be extremely difficult to replace as both a player and team leader.
2022 signal-callers Drew Boxwell and Skyler Partridge can both stretch defenses with their arm and legs and will compete to fill the 2500 yards and 32 touchdowns left behind by the captain Martinelli last fall.
One thing which is certain…whoever wins the job, will be working behind one of the biggest offensive lines in recent Horizon history –which can often be any quarterback’s best friend.
Sunny at The ‘Slope
One of the more underrated jobs in the Valley may be Sunnyslope.
While the Vikings’ basketball program has gotten most of the recent spotlight and deservedly so winning back-to-back state titles in 2016-17 and ’17-18, there has been recent success on the gridiron, as well. From 2013-2015 Slope won at least 10 games those three-consecutive seasons.
Now former Vikings’ defensive coordinator Sam Jacobs takes over for Damon Pieri who went 6-5 in 2019 and led ‘Slope to the playoffs before a close loss to Cienega in the first rounded ended their season.
“This is my neighborhood school, I live a mile away,” Jacobs told the “Zone Read.” “My daughter will be at ‘Slope next year. I’m most excited about leading and helping young men grow in my own community.”
One of the challenges of coaching at Sunnyslope is the mostly older and expensive communities around the school in the north central Phoenix area. Those neighborhoods won’t likely be a first-stop destination for families moving to the Valley but Jacobs’ team does have the advantage of playing in the 5A conference, where every other sport on campus competes in 6A.
The most desirable coaching vacancy is at Desert Edge where the Scorpions boast not only a slew of talent returning on both sides of the ball (namely 2022 quarterback Adryan Lara, 2021 cornerback Steven Ortiz, Jr., 2021 wide receiver/athlete Andrew Patterson and leading returning tackler Myles Hobbs from his linebacker position) but also a sparkling new on-campus field house which is less than a year old.
I understand why Jose Lucero would leave to coach his alma mater at St. Mary’s but whoever takes over at Edge will have a sizable head start over any of the other new coaches, including Lucero.
I’m hearing DE interviews will take place next week and there are some familiar names looking to make the jump to the southwest Valley.
Shutting It Down
You won’t see Pinnacle big man Tosh Baker thundering up and down for the Pioneers’ basketball team anytime soon.
The massive Notre Dame offensive tackle signee was injured early in All-American Bowl practices this month in San Antonio. Baker, who is averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds for the two-time defending 6A State Champions, will be out two-to-four weeks with an ankle injury according to sources close to the situation.