Best in the West: Sept. 23, 2022 Spotlight

Arizona Sports News online

Teams across the state have shown their worth and some teams are already halfway through their regular seasons. Let’s take a look at some of the games taking place across the West Valley this weekend.


Game of the Week: Centennial @ Millennium

The Millennium Tigers have taken care of business to start the season as one of just nine teams in the 5A Conference with an undefeated record. Following back-to-back road games, the Tigers welcome a familiar face back to Goodyear as the Centennial Coyotes make their return to the southwest.

After back-to-back Open Division Playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020, the Coyotes struggled in 2021. In their second season in the 6A Conference, CeHS ended the regular season with a 3-7 record, the lowest win total since 1999, and fell in the first round against Red Mountain.

Although they fell short against Hamilton to open the season, Centennial has found a rhythm with a 28-7 victory against Brophy Prep and a 56-14 win on the road at Desert Vista. Senior running back, Kavaughn Clark, is the heartbeat of this offense with his pace of play and explosiveness. Senior, Demari Washington, has been a tremendous defensive asset with a pair of INTs and 17 total tackles through three games. Fellow senior, Dillon Gore, has also impressed with his backfield pressure, racking up two sacks and four TFL.

The Millennium offense has scored 40 or more points in their games against Canyon View, Agua Fria, and Cienega. Junior running back, Zues Pinder, has put up staggering performances and has already rushed for a third of his total rush yards from last year alongside ten touchdowns so far. Senior receiver, Kyan Fields, has also been tremendous with his 275 reception yards and five TDs courtesy of senior quarterback, Derek Berry. Senior linebacker, Daniel Delponte, has been a tackling machine with his 29 total tackles, six tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks to open his season. Cole Marszalek has also disrupted offenses with two fumble causes alongside three TFL.

It has been a tremendous start for Millennium but Centennial hopes to get back into Open Division form. While they were region rivals when Centennial was a 5A team, this is just the seventh all-time meeting between the Tigers and Coyotes. Millennium has never beat Centennial but came oh so close last year in a 13-12 joust.


Halfway for 3A Teams

With only a single blemish on their 2022 schedule so far, the Paradise Honors Panthers host Odyssey Institute in Surprise. Both squads are making their cases as the tournament is quickly approaching for these 3A Conference teams.

With only four games in the books, QB Gage Baker, is already setting the scoring system ablaze. The junior has already racked up 1,406 pass yards and 14 touchdowns. On top of that, Baker has shared the love as well. Four of the Panther’s receivers have already surpassed 200 reception yards. Junior, Josh Morales, has led the receiving room with 322 reception yards and five TDs. While the offense has set a blistering pace, the defense has been putting up strong numbers as well. Senior OLB, Noah Locke, has been a moving brick wall with a team-leading four sacks, 39 total tackles, and 7.5 TFL.

While it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Odyssey Institute Minotaurs, they have been able to solidify the ground game with a 2-3 record. Junior, Toy Landers, leads the team with 351 rushing yards and six TDs with fellow junior, Marcus Knight, not far behind with 238 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Also, keep an eye on junior receiver, Deiontae Tyson, who has racked up 492 receiving yards and seven trips to the endzone. Landers has also led the charge on defense by leading the team with 32 total tackles while also picking up a sack.

This is the second game of 3A Metro Region play for both teams as the state tournament is coming up fast for the 3A schools. 


Bounce Back 

Sandra Day O’Connor faced the ultimate test after a slight surprise to state to open the season. The Eagles had to hit the road and take on the reigning champion of Arizona, Saguaro, and fell 47-3. That siad, their pair of wins to open the season will keep teams on their toes due to their 24-10 win against Brophy Prep and a 28-14 victory against Red Mountain.

Cesar Chavez also opened the season with a pair of wins before a loss last week to Mesa 47-28. Both SDO and Chavez now look to bounce back in this 6A bout. The CCHS Champions have been marching down the field with senior, Micah Boozer, and junior, Deven Highsmith. Boozer led the team in touchdowns through the first two games while Highsmith led the team in offensive yardage.

Senior, Blake Ware, will be tasked with leading the O’Connor Eagles defensively to put a stop to the CC ground game. Seniors, Ben Currence and Izik Durazo, have been the primary offensive weapons for SDO in receiving and rushing. The duo has tallied nearly 500 yards of offense and five total touchdowns.

Even though both teams reside in the 6A Conference, this will be the first meeting between these two programs. Call it an important game for both teams to bounce back and set themselves up for conference play looming over the horizon.


More Notable Games:

Willow Canyon @ Sierra Linda

It has been a tremendous 3-0 start for the 4A Conference Sierra Linda Bulldogs in 2022. After a rout of Alhambra to open the season, the Bulldogs have been in a pair of thrillers against ALA- Ironwood and Empire with 35-33 and 14-12 victories.

Now they host their biggest test of the year against 5A Conference Willow Canyon. WCHS has the earliest bye week of any team in the state with their restful Friday last week. The Wildcats sit at 2-0 after huge wins behind the stellar play of junior quarterback, Calvin Mathews, who is only behind senior running back, Brady Ferris, in rush yards while also throwing for another 231 yards in two games.

Junior defensive end, Lennox Hicks, has set the tempo for the SLHS defense with his accumulation of five sacks, eight TFL, and 14 total tackles. Sophomore DE, Akhir Harris, has also been tremendous with seven tackles for loss, four sacks, and a team-leading 27 tackles.

While the defense has shined, all eyes have also been on freshman quarterback, Camar Lee, who already tallied 660 pass yards with senior, Stephon Daily, receiving 353 of those yards. Lee joins names such as Spencer Rattler, Jack Miller, and Chase Cord, as Arizona high school quarterbacks who threw for five touchdowns in a single game as a freshman. And if that wasn’t lethal enough, junior, Kevin Tortolero, has already racked up 327 rush yards as well.

Thunderbird @ Greenway

The 35th edition of Thunderbird vs. Greenway is set to take place this Friday night. The first meeting between these sister schools date back to 1974 when Thunderbird began a streak of seven straight wins to begin the rivalry series. But now, the script has flipped with Greenway in search of their sixth straight victory against their Glendale Union rivals.

While Greenway is 0-2 and has only found the endzone twice this season, Thunderbird is coming off a pair of blowout victories against Dysart and Amphitheater. Titans quarterback, Carter Squires, has lit up the scoreboard through 638 passing yards and four touchdowns this season, giving THS life on offense. The defense has been led by sophomore, Ryan Kavalami, who leads the team with 19 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks.

Similar to Willow Canyon, Greenway is coming off an early bye week. Demon sophomore QB, Tyler McNally, has been able to sling the ball occasionally with 323 passing yards so far this season but has two touchdowns to six interceptions. McNally’s primary receiver thus far has been junior, Matthew Johanson. 

Even though they aren’t in the same 4A Conference region, it is fantastic to see this rivalry continue into 2022.


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