Zone Read: All About the West Side

Arizona Sports News online

The Tolleson Two-Step

Raise your hand if you knew Tolleson Union High School has a three-star senior quarterback.

Yeah, didn’t think so.

In this transfer-crazy era we live in, few have a tale to share like Isaac Madrigal who has the 4-3 Wolverines riding a four-game win streak. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder was put through the ringer of COVID uncertainly in 2020. After earning second-team all-conference honors as a sophomore at West Valley High School in Yakima, Washington, Madrigal decided to follow one of his teammates to Arizona when there was no certainty Washington would be playing any football last season with the spike in numbers.

Madrigal transferred to Cesar Chavez in Laveen but played in only three games as a junior before the Phoenix Union School District shut down their football season. 

‘Playing in only three games, that was kind of a heartbreaker,” Madrigal said to the “Zone Read.” “Then, come to find out back home they actually played seven. It was sort of like, ‘of course.'”

After the season, Madrigal opted to go back to Yakima to play at his step dad’s alma mater, Davis High School. After attending classes in the spring, he felt Arizona calling again. He’d make his way back to the west Valley, just as new Tolleson head coach Rich Wellbrock was getting acclimated to the program and his returning players. 

Madrigal, who carries a 3.4 GPA ands hopes to study business or Kinesiology in college, began researching the academic side at Tolleson – specifically their dual enrollment program – which gives students college credits for certain upper-level core classes.

He arrived with not only a sense of peace, but a new-found sense of purpose and leadership on the field as the most talented player on a young, but skilled team.

After becoming eligible in Week 2, he had to slow the pace, initially playing with teammates who didn’t play a single down of organized football in 2020.

“My coach always told me, ‘KYP,’ know your personnel,” Madrigal explained. “So, my focus was breaking it down for them so I know that they could learn [the system]. They started to pick up everything. Honestly, they’re really fast learners which I love. I’m a big people person. I like to connect with them emotionally. It’s been awesome.”

Another thing which has been awesome, is the Wolverines’ current win streak and a chance to reverse history at home against rival Westview Friday night.

“We haven’t beaten them in 15 years,” Madrigal noted without hesitation. “Knowing this community and being a part of it in the short time I’ve been here…it’s a big deal. I feel like we have a great chance to beat them and make the playoffs if we win out.”

Madrigal’s production has been a key factor in Tolleson’s month-long string of success. He’s not only thrown for eight touchdowns (against just two interceptions in 130 attempts), the senior has added seven more on the ground, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. Wellbrock compares Madrigal’s natural arm strength to Nick Wallerstedt who he coached at Mountain Pointe.

While his crazy high school journey from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona and back (twice) may have hindered his recruitment, Madrigal is focused on enjoying his senior season and letting the future script his next academic and football chapter.

“I know when I think about all that stuff, it just gets in my head,” he said. “It doesn’t put me in the best of places. I just try to keep my mind off that. I’m just trusting the process.”

More Than Okay in 4A

The more the Cactus Cobras continue to win, the more they cement their solid footing in the Open Division rankings.

This seems all well and good but for Joseph Ortiz’s team it may turn into a ‘thanks but no thanks’ invitation if the unbeaten (and mainly untouched) Cobras continue to roll through the remainder of their schedule.

“We want a ring,” the head coach said to the “Zone Read” earlier this week. “And 4A is the best route for that. These kids deserve a ring.”

When pressed, he further confirmed his conviction.

“If we have the option, I will opt [to opt out].”

To this point, no opponent has scored more than 14 points and CHS’s “closest” win was a 42-14 thumping over fellow west Valley power Desert Edge. Cactus has been on the brink of hoisting not one, but two gold balls, but Ty Thompson and the two-time defending 4A champion Mesquite Wildcats had other ideas.

Ortiz is well aware of how things are setting up and knows he, ultimately, may not have a choice in the matter.

“Wherever the AIA puts us, we will play,”  he continued. “But we have 41 varsity players. Less than double of the top teams. If we would have won state last year, than yes. But this group deserves a ring.”

While I applaud the AIA for creating the Open Division two years ago, it’s starting to show its warts as the novelty wears off, particularly for seeds six, seven, and eight. 2019 brought balance at the bottom of the bracket as seventh-seeded Hamilton upset two-seed Centennial and then pushed third-seeded Saguaro to the finish line, eventually falling 20-16.

Sure, 2020 was just a weird season all around, but bottom seeds Desert Edge and Corona del Sol put up little fight in the opening round. 6th-seeded Tucson Salpointe got a a first-round bye of sorts with Saguaro’s forfeit due to COVID, only to be routed by second-seed Hamilton 58-14.

If the blue bloods continue to dominate as we’ve seen since the Open’s inception, it would make sense to shrink the field from eight to six, maybe even four. Sure, occasionally there would be debates and teams could get slighted but I’m fairly sure none of the schools on the receiving end of an Open Eight first-round thumping would be complaining about being able to compete for a state championship within their conference, much like Cactus is hoping for this fall.

Official Visit or Just Visiting?

Sometimes in life, you simply become a victim of circumstance.

Adryan Lara can certainly relate.

Just days after setting a 5A state passing record the Desert Edge senior quarterback, and Washington State commit, was made aware of this.

Adding further irony to this story is the fact Lara, who has started for the Scorpions since his freshman year, is currently on his official visit to Pullman.

Recruiting mirages, broken promises, and pulled offers are quite come in the high-stakes game of Power 5 football, but for Lara, who has been committed to Wazzu for 13 months, this has quickly taken a turn no one could have seen coming, up until possibly the past few weeks. For now, it appears WSU will honor their scholarship. 

Only time will tell if Lara and Washington State are meant for one another but, undoubtedly, there will be plenty of suitors for the 6-foot-2, 215-pound three-star prospect who will end his prep career as one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Arizona high school history.

The Cougars face their namesake, the BYU Cougars, Saturday afternoon in Pullman.