Zone Read: Week Two

Arizona Sports News online

We are off and we running right into this 2021 AZHS football season.

Despite being out of town for the holiday weekend, “Zone Read” got all the feels following the games, stories, and reactions right here on Sports360AZ.com. 

With big school Week One in the books, let’s look ahead to a few matchups that caught my eye for this week.

What to Watch For 

Chaparral @ Desert Mountain – I didn’t find Queen Creek’s win over Chap as surprising as many simply because, despite having two of the best players in the state in seniors Anthony Lucas and Brayten Silbor, the defending 6A State Champi0ns lost a ton of experienced starters at key positions, most notably on the offensive line and at wide receiver. QC played keep away through their run game, tallying 312 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Payton Barlow had over half of those (19 carries, 185 yards, 9.7 per attempt.)

The impressive, slow build at Desert Mountain under defensive wizard Conrad Hamilton continues in north Scottsdale. The Wolves whacked Gilbert 34-7 in Week One and look every bit the part after going 3-1 in the shortened region play last season. Senior running back Zack Kilburg will get plenty of touches as the Wolves look to make a statement against their Scottsdale neighbors to the west.

Sunrise Mountain @ Horizon – Speaking of state champions, Steve Decker’s Mustangs proved unwelcoming hosts blowing out a rebuilding Tucson Cienega 49-6 last week. Per usual, Sunrise has skill talent for senior quarterback Hunter Kronengold – a Saguaro transfer who got game action last year in Decker’s spread attack. Rex Underhill, Micah Johnson, and Braden Harvey can all stretch defenses with their burst. The tempo-setter defensively is senior Darnell Stephens who had two tackles for loss against Cienega.

First-year Horizon head coach Andy Litten seems to have brought the winning formula from one Huskies’ program to another. The former Hamilton High offensive coordinator under Mike Zdebski ushered in a new era defeating Pinnacle for the first time in school history, a 17-16 thriller over the Pioneers. Credit former coach Ty Wisdom for leaving far more for Litten and his staff to work with than when he arrived in 2016. It will be interesting to watch if Horizon can neutralize another high-powered offense on Friday.

ALA Queen Creek @ Saguaro – The BYU coaching combination of head coach Ty Detmer and offensive coordinator Max Hall lifted the lid on the season dropping 52 on Poston Butte but this week presents a whole different animal – specifically, a Sabercat. ALA QC quarterback Logan Hubler looks the part again after going a cool 25-30 for 331 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in Week One. His favorite target against Poston was junior Ryan Meza (five catches, 137 yards, three touchdowns).

Saguaro’s hashtag this season is #BTB (Burn the Boats). #SagU bullied around McClintock 63-0 last week and features, per usual, speed and talent on both sides of the ball. The one-two punch in the backfield with thunder (Jaedon Matthews) and lightning (Javen Jacobs) is something Jason Mohns’ squad hasn’t had in quite some time.

Your New PV QB

In a state littered with elite quarterback play for the past decade plus, Paradise Valley High ranks fairly high on the list with a trio of signal-callers who played Power 5 football.
 
It’s far too early to compare junior Jaiden McDaniel to Trojan legends like Ryan and Ben Finley, as well as Daniel Bridge-Gadd who led PV to the 4A State Championship game his senior year, but let’s just say McDaniel is uh…off and running in 2021.
 

 
“The accomplishment of 285 yards rushing and a school record of six touchdowns for Jaiden is awesome in so many ways.” PV head coach Greg Davis said to the “Zone Read.” Obviously, for him to take the team on his back and carry the ball to victory is amazing. His leadership skills and his football IQ have improved significantly and I think he has so much more to learn, which is a great thing.”
 
The Trojans, who have struggled with sheer numbers despite playing at the 5A level, seemed to have found an offensive identity early in the season.
 
“The other thing is that our o-line was on that journey with him,” Davis noted. “To watch Nieves, Rayas, Toney, Breland, Johns and Acothley work with him to accomplish that, it just proves how our squad is We.Us.Ours.”

 

Worth the Wait

The visual was one “Zone Read” won’t soon forget.
 
On an otherwise picturesque early October night in far north Scottsdale, then junior Brophy starting quarterback EJ Warner sat inconsolable on the BCP training table as the Broncos’ offense fell apart in a season-opening loss to Notre Dame Prep.
 
The offensive ineptitude would be a precursor to Brophy’s winless season as Warner lost his entire junior season with a broken fibula suffered against the Saints.
 
Last week against long-time rival St. Mary’s, Warner stamped his return to the Friday night lights to the tune of 301 passing yards and six total touchdowns in just six series.
 
“It was awesome,” Warner said to the “Zone Read.” “I definitely missed the game, being out their with my teammates and just having an impact on the field. After all this time, just to go back out there and get that all behind me. It’s just a sigh of relief to get back out on the field and forget that injury as much as I can. Just to go and play the sport I love. It was great just to get a big win.”
 
“You’re kind of nervous before the game,” Warner continued. “But once it starts, the nerves go away. I need to give a shutout to my o-line. They gave me as much time as I needed.”

Warner’s windy road to return had its share of ups and downs. Before taking the field last week against the Knights, he took time to reflect on the journey.
 
“The night before, just sitting there,” he explained. “Thinking [about] all the things I’ve been through throughout the whole off-season trying to get back from my injury. Just training and working. It was a big impact on my year and my recruiting. I just took some time to reflect and be grateful for what I do have.”

 

 

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.