Zone Read: East Valley Rumblings

Arizona Sports News online

Bearing Expectations

There’s a new kid on the block (again) in the southeast Valley.

An undefeated regular season and trip to the 2021 Open Division playoffs marked the official “return” of the Basha Bears to high school prominence under head coach Chris McDonald, who has seen his win total increase over the past three seasons from four (2019), to six (2020), to 10 last fall. 

The ride for McDonald and his staff hasn’t always been a smooth one but they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor pay off with a veteran, loaded roster ready to compete in the remodeled, but still ridiculously talented, Premiere Region.

So how will Basha go about their business this spring fully prepared to be the hunted, instead of the hunter?

“The approach stays the same as any season,” McDonald explained to the “Zone Read.” “Our focus is on getting better every day which includes building team chemistry and working on ourselves physically and mentally. Our motto this year is “Good to Great” and so the focus is on how do we become a great team this upcoming season.”

Well, from a talent standpoint, there will be greatness all over the field in the form of quarterback Desmond Williams, Jr., Deshaun Bucannon, Jeremiah Vessel, Miles Lockhart and, of course, recent Oregon commit, Cole Martin among several others.

Outside of all the star power there are key pieces, especially in the front half of Basha’s defensive, who may not garner all the accolades, but are quality players who not only understand, but thrive in their roles.

The treacherous schedule this fall starts with a road game in southern California against national power Los Alamitos who went 9-2 last season and features one of the most potent offenses on the west coast, led by five-star quarterback, and USC commit, Malachi Nelson.  

For now, McDonald is focused on the present, and he’s liking what his team has been showing him early in 2022.

“Our kids are competing in the weight room and in other sports,” he explained. “The kids are really working hard so far and I’m proud of them. We have a lot of familiar faces coming back and I think our senior leadership will be great. Should be a fun spring with a lot of attention from colleges.”

A Fresh Start

One player Basha will be seeing quite a bit of over the coming years, is 2025 tight end Bear Tenney who transferred from Casteel to Hamilton at semester break.

The Huskies have had success turning transfer tight ends into Power 5 players as was the case with former Tucson Sabino standout Michael Masunas who played two seasons at Hamilton before signing with Michigan State last summer.

Tenney is ready to mirror Masunas’ success, while establishing his own legacy at HHS.

“I knew if I wanted to reach my goals, I needed [to transfer] sooner than later,” he explained to the “Zone Read.” I felt that Hamilton would be a better fit for me. Hamilton has built a nationally ranked program and I wanted to be a part of it. I knew that if I wanted to reach my full potential, I would need to be on a team that would push me on and off the field. All the coaches and players have been really nice. It’s been a really cool experience to see what it takes to build a program like Hamilton.”

Some believe Tenney, already 6’5, 220 pounds could be an even better college prospect when it’s all said and done simply because “the measurables” are already in place. The offers have been filtering in after catching three touchdowns last season as a freshman with the Colts.

“I have dreamed about playing college football since I was seven years old,” he said. “So to have college coaches show interest in me has been a dream come true. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the coaches and getting to know them. It’s been really humbling to have famous college coaches take the time to get to know me. I’m trying to soak it all in and enjoy the ride. I know I still have to work hard and stay focused.”

Tenney’s self-improvement this off-season is centered around three specific areas which he knows will pay big dividends playing for head coach Mike Zdebski’s offensive system.

“I’ve been working hard to put on muscle, get faster, and improve my route running.”

Arizona has produced a number of excellent high school tight ends.

Expect Tenney to join the group over the next few years. 

One Fell Swoop

Even in mid-February, the AZHS coaching carousel is still spinning and the wild ride continues for a number of programs in the Tempe Unified School District.

Despite compiling a 28-20 record and leading Mesa Mountain View to three playoff appearances in five seasons, Mike Fell was let go last spring in favor of Joe Germaine.

Now it appears Fell will take over McClintock after Corbin Smith stepped down just under a month ago buresurfaceded to a new challenge in the far southeast Valley.

It’s the latest in a busy TUSD football off-season which will have new head coaches at four of its six schools (Corona del Sol, Desert Vista, McClintock, and Tempe).

More coaching news to come – stay tuned.