Zone Read: His Legacy Lives On

Arizona Sports News online

Luberda’s Legacy

In the far southeast Valley, and up and down the Pima County line, Andrew Luberda’s spirit will live on under the Friday night lights which he loved so much.

Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman had been formulating a plan to honor Luberda, who provided unparalleled prep coverage of the area for several years before passing away due to COVID-19 complications on December 29, 2020, but opted to focus on creating the annual event this fall due to continued COVID concerns last summer and into the start of the 2021 season.

“Andy started [] to help the kids in this area get recognized for all their hard work,” Schureman said to the “Zone Read.” “The least we can do is carry on his name for all he did.”

With every 6A school now being required to play one 5A school, Schureman quickly realized their home matchup against neighboring ALA-Queen Creek (the two campuses are less than four miles from one another), was the perfect fit for the first ever Andy Luberda Classic. It will most likely also serve as the Bulldogs’ homecoming game.

“I had the privilege of meeting Andy and his wife (Kelli) and really appreciate the passion he had for the young men playing football here in the east Valley, especially the Queeen Creek area,” ALA-QC head coach Ty Detmer said to the “Zone Read.” “We are honored to play Queen Creek High School and honor his legacy.”

Schureman’s vision is for different county line schools to host/play in the event each year. He stressed to the “Zone Read” it isn’t exclusive to QCHS and the purpose will be to highlight all the different football programs over the coming years which Luberda covered as a popular local journalist and reporter. 

“Andy was a personal friend,” the long-time QC coach said. “When I first met him, we hit it off. He cared so much about the kids and the people he covered. We miss Andy and all he stood for.”

Before the start of last season, I wrote about my good friend and the impact he made on so many within the Arizona high school football community.

Thank you, Coach Shureman, for your vision in starting this hopefully long-running new tradition.

Save the Date

Fans won’t have to wait until the holiday season for a Saguaro-Chandler re-match like we saw in the Open Division Championship thriller back on December 11th at Sun Devil Stadium.

The night of September 23rd, the state of Arizona, as well as many nationally, will have their eyes on Austin Field off Arizona Avenue in Chandler.

“It’s time to put on our big boy pants,” Wolves’ head coach Rick Garretson quipped to the “Zone Read” about facing the defending champs, who snapped Chandler’s string of five consecutive state championships.

The every week grind of the regular season is nothing new for Premiere Region mainstay Chandler, but it’s, in some ways, unchartered waters for the Sabercats, who have climbed from 4A competition in 2019, to 5A in 2020 and 2021, and will be playing in the 6A Northeast Valley Region this fall.

Each team will face national heavyweights to open their respective seasons as Chandler plays Cathedral Catholic in the Honor Bowl in San Diego and #SagU tangles with Bergen Catholic (NJ) in Scottsdale.

Obviously, the quarterbacks will be the center of attention with senior Devon Dampier looking to run it back to another Open Division gold ball, and Chandler newcomer Dylan Raiola, a decorated 2024 prospect with several Power 5 offers (Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Michigan, Notre Dame, among others) ready to debut for the Wolves this season after transferring in from Texas.

The Sabercats have their most talented skill group since Jason Mohns took the reigns. Chandler’s defense will have to replace quite a bit of production but returns massive defensive lineman A’maury Washington, as well as steady senior linebacker, Dominic Hanger.

It’s also an opportunity for both coaching staffs to get sneak peeks at schemes and formations they may see later in the playoffs. For coaches, no film beats film of a team they already faced in the same season. The eyeball test can certainly go a long way, as well.

If the late summer sequel even somewhat mirrors what we saw in Tempe, expect the hype to build even more if these two are scheduled for another post-season collision course. 

Spread the Word

It’s showcase season in Arizona, specifically spring showcase season.

The concept, which was introduced to State 48 by Red Mountain, Williams Field, Queen Creek, and a few others, is now up to 60 participating schools  after the AIA approved the circuit of events as a way to help players get exposure to college coaches.

“The goal is to lessen the travel for college coaches, making it easier for them to see more kids in less time,” Brophy head coach Jason Jewell said to the “Zone Read.” “I think this 60-team event may be the biggest showcase in the nation and will draw over 100 coaches.”

The events have continued to gain traction and have made a positive impact on programs at all levels throughout Arizona.

“Prescott, Thatcher, and Yuma Catholic will all make the drive because they see the value in attending,” Jewell continued. “This is a win for everyone involved.”

Make sure to follow @AzFBCoaches on Twitter for more information.