Zone Read: Spring Showcase Season

Arizona Sports News online

By Eric Sorenson

Greetings Zone Readers.

Schools are almost out but Arizona high school spring showcases are just getting started, with several taking place across the Valley.

There’s plenty to get to so let’s dive right in, starting with a new feature we’ll be doing throughout the rest of this month and into early June.

Each week my good friend and colleague Cody Cameron from will break out a handful of players who have caught his eye from each of the present high school classes.

Let’s start with with next years’ sophomore class, listed alphabetically.

Four for ’24

Jaedon Matthews – Running Back (Saguaro) “Saguaro’s 2024 class is loaded and running back Jaedon Matthews might be the best in the group. Matthews saw time on both JV and varsity last season, and after the season, the young freshman back picked up his first offer from Arizona State. A good combination of power and speed, Matthews has the ability to become the next great north-to-south runner for head coach Jason Mohns’ Saguaro offense.”

Elijah Rushing – Defensive End (Salpointe Catholic) Already with a large frame of 6’5, 215 pounds, Salpointe’s Elijah Rushing definitely has the size to fit the Power 5 mold. I watched this young man get after it at the Under Armour All-America camp a few months ago, I was really impressed with his length. His long arms and active hands are going to make him a nightmare to block for opposing tackles the next three seasons. Early offers from ASU and UA, the number will climb to the double-digits in the next few seasons.”

Dylan Tapley – Wide Receiver (Desert Mountain) I watched Tapley’s freshmen tape a few months ago and was very impressed with what I saw. Tapley’s 6’4 frame wasn’t the only thing that stood out on tape. His athleticism and body control jumped out, as well. Tapley did a great job of creating separation with quick feet off the snap, consistently blowing passed defensive backs on 9-routes [fly or go routes]. Really excited to watch this young man grow over the next three seasons at Desert Mountain.”

Demond Williams – Quarterback (Basha) “I truly think Demond Williams, Jr. will be the highlight of the Arizona high school football 2024 class, and he has the potential to be the next great Grand Canyon State QB prospect. The freshman phenom started every game for Coach [Chris] McDonald’s Basha Bears squad last season, accumulating over 2,000 total yards and 19 touchdowns. Even at a young age, Williams possesses nice touch and accuracy on his deep passes, as well as solid footwork in the pocket. Williams is a great overall athlete as well, as he ran an 11.57 100 M Dash during track season this spring. Williams has multiple Division I offers already, I fully expect him to be a 20-plus offer prospect when it’s all said and done.”

PV’s Place

Last week “Zone Read” talked about some “do-overs” from 2020 when we went in-depth on Williams Field.

Paradise Valley can’t wait to start fresh after offensive woes led to a winless 0-6 2019.

Now long-time head coach Greg Davis can see some hope for a squad that took their share of lumps in the 5A North Region.

The strength of every successful team usually starts up front and Davis and his staff have a pair of anchors to help production and stability on both sides of the ball in seniors-to-be Armando Nieves and Chris Rayas.

Nieves has college-level size at 6’5, 305 and has made huge strides in the program, according to Davis. His off-the-field leadership has shown in his spring workouts and conditioning.

Rayas is smaller (5’11, 265) but has also been a warrior in the weight room, recently squatting 425 pounds. His athleticism on both sides of the ball will help the Trojans control things much better up front than a year ago.

The final name to watch at PV is Ryan Deonise, who transitions to linebacker in 2021, after playing quarterback last fall. Class of 2023’s Jaiden McDaniel will be the full-time starter behind center after appearing in three games in 2020.

“Overall, definitely excited about the players that we have,” Davis said to the “Zone Read.” “We still are short on numbers, with about 38 total out (sophomores-seniors) but it only takes 11! These guys have been putting in the work to have success on the field and I can’t wait to see what they have.”

Lucky Sevens

We use the term “urban sprawl” when talking about the Valley’s population boom, especially in the southeast Valley.

But other parts of Arizona are seeing a spike, as well.

One is the Prescott area where, land permitting, new homes are sprouting up like weeds as the California relocations continue to swell in State 48.

Bradshaw Mountain High School in Prescott Valley, according to head coach Bob Young, has seen a bounce back in numbers and one player who is expected to provide big-time offensive production is 2023 wide receiver Makhy Phetinta, who reeled in seven touchdowns in 2020…on just 12 catches.

“I just mostly read the coverage and got behind it,” Phetinta said during a break in the eight-team Arizona Spring Football Showcase held earlier this week at Pinnacle High School. “One of the main ingredients in football is football I.Q. so I was just reading everything and adjusting.”

At nearly 6’2 and 175 pounds, Phetinta has the size and speed to grow into one of the top receivers in northern Arizona this season after averaging over 26 yards per catch as a sophomore. 

He’s clicked with classmate and starting quarterback Grady Rose, who also has great size at 6’2, 185 and started the last two games last season. 

The priority for Phetinta this summer is clear.

“Way more weights,” he said with a chuckle.

He also patterns his game after one of the best young receivers in the NFL.

“I love Cee Dee Lamb,” he said. “He’s always been an inspiration just in the way he works. His work ethic is second to none.”

One of Phetinta’s teammates who you will be hearing quite a bit in the coming years is massive, 6’3, 240-pound sophomore-to-be James Giggey, who started at offensive tackle and defensive end as a freshman but will be moving to tight end this season after averaging over three tackles a game in 2020.

“He’s a man child,” head coach Bob Young said.

Beware: they’re AZ ballers everywhere.