Zone Read: Coaching From 100 Miles Away

Arizona Sports News online

What’s good Zone Readers?

I hope you’re hanging in their during the ongoing pandemic. While the “new normal” isn’t something any of us wanted or even envisioned, please continue to use good judgement and make sound decisions.

Here’s the latest “Zone Read.”

Working Long Distance

Taking over a new program as an incoming head coach certainly has its challenges but Doug Provenzano is in a class by himself.

Provenzano, who did a masterful job turning around Paradise Honors and Goldwater High School, was hired as the head coach at Cottonwood Mingus Union in mid-March after being an assistant on Liberty’s 6A State Championship team last year.

Currently, due to the pandemic, Provenzano is attempting to jump-start the winless Marauder program…from his home in Surprise.

He hasn’t met one of his new players in person to the point where “he wouldn’t know a single one of them if they passed me in public.”

“We are prohibited from seeing them,” Provenzano told the “Zone Read.” “It’s definitely a challenge. We approach it one day at a time, one play at a time. I want to stress the positive.”

Provenzano’s installing an entirely new system,  with an almost entirely new staff and schemes over Zoom. Outside of touring the school and the facilities before being hired, he’s been working exclusively from the Valley.

Instead of having the opportunity to get to know each of his new players social distancing in-person, he’s meeting them and teaching them through a glass screen 100 miles away.

“My roster is essentially an excel spreadsheet,” he said.

Provenzano said he’s trying to talk to each player on the phone during the week for short conversations if time allows in hopes of developing a better connection this spring.

For those familiar with high school football in this state, Mingus is no stranger to winning on Friday nights. The Marauders finished 9-3 in 2018 but lost 36 seniors from that group.

Provenzano believes youth football in that area is on the upswing and, with some patience, the opportunity for success isn’t far behind. 

Who would have ever guessed it could start from a house in Surprise.  

Purdy Unique Situation

For the first time since 2016 a Purdy will not be taking quarterback snaps for Perry the next time the Pumas step out under the Friday night lights in 2020.

Gone are ultra-competitive Power 5 brothers Brock (Iowa State) and Chubba (Florida State), as well as their 20,455 combined total yards and 239 touchdowns.

Enter senior-to-be Dane White and his 11 career varsity pass attempts.

White’s conversations with head coach Preston Jones about now being “the guy”…after THOSE guys have been, well…normal. 

“Nothing crazy,” the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder with the best flow in that part of town since Tyler Shough’s Hamilton High days said during’s Spring Football Showcase at Valle Luna in Chandler back in early March. “The players are going to look up to me so just always have a good attitude and work ethic.”

Jones then got the final word in on the post-Purdy era at PHS.

“We’re excited to finally have a good-looking quarterback,” he said not holding back a wide smile. “We’ll see how it all plays out on Friday nights.”

The Ultimate Warrior

Speaking of quarterbacks…it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle a bit when you’re talking about the 2022 class here in Arizona.

Honestly, where do you even start? Seasoned veterans like Nicco Marchiol, Adryan Lara, Treyson Bourget, Brayten Silbor and the list goes on and on.

One name who you may not know, at least not yet, is Westwood’s Gavin Letourneau. 

His sophomores stats were solid for the Warriors: 1560 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. What caught the “Zone Read’s” attention was just five interceptions in 212 attempts…on a team that finished 2-8.

“He’s definitely a pro-style guy but can make plays with his feet and can step away from the pocket when needed,” Recruiting Analyst Alec Simpson told the “Zone Read.” “Letourneau throws a tremendous deep ball and does a great job of keeping his eyes downfield. His arm strength is intriguing but would love to see him be a bit more patient in the pocket.”

Already 6-foot-2 and close to 200 pounds, the frame is there to add more bulk and possibly grow another inch or two with two more years of high school ahead.

The experts may be scripting another name to that 2022 list. 

Don’t tell us we didn’t warn you.

Dances With Wolves

There is no shortage of college-ready talent at Chandler High.

In related news, water is wet.

One player for the defending Open Division State Champions who may not be getting the recruiting love (yet) like Brandon Buckner, Eli Sanders, Zion Magalei, Jalen Richmond or Mikey Keene is steady linebacker Kyler Orr.

At 6-2, 225 pounds he presents a problem for opposing offenses with both his size and speed. In 11 games last fall as a junior he tallied 84 tackles (12 for loss), as well as a pair of sacks and an interception.

“Kyler Orr is the type of player who leads by example both on and off the field,” CHS head coach Rick Garretson told the “Zone Read.” “He pays attention to the details required for success. He personifies our concept of 11 hats to the ball and his film shows it.” 

Orr is the quintessential sideline-to-sideline old-school linebacker who plays with a mean streak. 

The Numbers Game

It’s been no secret high school football participation across the board, including here in Arizona, have been on the decline.

Now it appears the big elephant in the room moving forward on the topic is COVID-19.

One head coach who always seems to do more with less when it comes to sheer numbers is Paradise Valley’s Greg Davis.

“I think any time there’s any health concern of any sort, parents are going to be hesitant to allow their kids to participate,” he explained to the “Zone Read.” “I think the economic impact will definitely decrease the number of students who participate in some communities.”

Davis noted some of those student-athletes could be called upon to find part-time jobs if their families are experiencing financial hardships during this downturn in the economy.

Please continue to stay safe and stay home.

The two certainly go hand in hand.