Zone Read: The Schedule Is Set

Arizona Sports News online

Decision Reached

I think the AIA got this one right.

The game of hot potato has ended…for now.

The Arizona high school football season will begin competition between September 30-October 3rd. This revised, shortened season allows teams behind in preparation an opportunity to get back on the field in-person (assuming in-class learning continues as planned) and coaches the ability to set a blueprint to work with.

For now, paint “Zone Read” as the guarded optimist. 

Is this attainable? Yes.

Are we certain COVID will cooperate and run the right route? No chance.

Global Game

You just never know who’s watching.

For Desert Edge four-star senior cornerback and University of Minnesota commit Steven Ortiz, Jr. apparently his fan base stretches about 7,600 miles or so.

Ortiz was contacted through his Instagram account from a young admirer in Egypt who’s hoping to play Division I football someday.

“I love to inspire other kids around the world,” Ortiz explained to the “Zone Read.” I told him to stay motivated and it’s never too late to chase your dreams but it comes with a lot of sacrifice. You have to work really hard.”

“I get a lot of messages like that,” he continued. “It means a lot that people look up to me. It makes me want to grind 10 times harder.”

Ortiz said he believes his Egyptian admirer is around 16 years old.

THESE are the types of stories “Zone Read” loves to share.

Chase your dreams. Sometimes you only get one shot. 

Cobra Strike

Make no mistake – Cactus will have their hands full trying to replace dual threat quarterback Connor Cordts (nearly 3,000 total yards and 42 touchdowns in 2019), as well as leading rusher Anthony Flores (1,083 rushing yards, 16 total TD’s) but few, if any, 4A schools have the luxury of riches in the back half of their defense to match the Cobras.

Of their 18 interceptions last season, 13 were from returning players on head coach Joseph Ortiz’s 2020 defense.

“Athletic ability and speed,” Ortiz told the “Zone Read” of his ball-hawking back half. “This is also a super close group on and off the field so their communication is great, as well.”

Ortiz credits defensive coordinator Brian Belles, as well as as defensive back coaches Eric Wright and Robert Allen for much of the unit’s success.

One dude to watch this fall is senior two-way standout Antonio Pratt who led Cactus in catches (34), yards (564) and touchdown receptions (six), while registering a pair of interceptions and three pass deflections on defense.

“All over the place on both offense and defense,” Ortiz noted. “Track fast low 11’s in the 100-meter dash. Big-play ability every time he touches the ball.”

Add nine plug and play, impact-level transfers to the mix and it’s easy to see why Ortiz is thrilled with the balance of a young, yet experienced roster for a team which finished 10-3 last fall. The Cobras lost a 28-27 heartbreaker to eventual 4A State Champion Mesquite in the semi-finals. 

Next Big Thing

Saguaro is rich on football talent and tradition across the board but the Sabercats have been producing college-ready offensive linemen at an alarming rate over the last handful of years.

The latest Power 5-level road grader is junior Parker Brailsford who is expected to be an impact player not only at guard but along the defensive line as well for #SagU after cracking the starting lineup last fall on offense and displaying incredible physicality in the trenches for an underclassman.

“My technique was pretty good last year but I want to perfect it,” Brailsford said to the “Zone Read.”

He’s also learned about how to handle his business on and off the field from senior Bram Walden and 2020 Saguaro alum Jaylan Jeffers – who will be reunited as Oregon Ducks next season.

“Bram is sort of like a mentor to me, him and Jaylan,” the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder said. “They really helped me with my technique, helped me push through things. Going [all out] all the time…especially in the classroom. Be respectful to your teachers. Work hard in class.”

All the hard work is paying off. 

Brailsford has four offers, including his biggest a few weeks back.

“Coach [Jason] Mohns told me I was going to have some really good news coming later [that day],” he said smiling. “I had no clue. I think [USC] followed me on twitter but that was about it.”

Even with two years of high school ball left, Brailford’s long-term ceiling, like his 6-foot, 7-inch plus wingspan, is massive.

“I had a college coach tell me he thinks he could play center in the NFL,” Mohns said to the “Zone Read.” “That’s high praise.”

Indeed it is.

“Kids gravitate towards him because he’s a dude,” Mohns noted. “He’s easy to get along with. He’s got a good personality. He does the right thing. He works his tail off in the weight room. He takes care of business in the classroom.”