Zone Read: 2023 AZHS Football Storylines – Part I

Arizona Sports News online

The long wait is over.

Football is back!

With 1A-3A AZHS games kicking off Friday, August 18th, and 4A-6A starting the 25th, “Zone Read” reached out to a number of familiar names, and faces, to get a pulse of the storylines they’ll be following closely this fall.

This is the first of two “Zone Reads” focused on the 2023 season.

Let’s tee it up and blow the whistle.

I’ll kick things off.

The Basha Belief

Eric Sorenson – Sports360AZ – For years Basha served as the perfect mid-season region snack for Chandler, Hamilton, Perry, and Brophy.

Slowly head coach Chris McDonald changed the narrative for the program which ascended from a good team with an electric young quarterback in Demond Williams, Jr. to an Open Division Champion steeped with high-level Division I talent.

This fall the Bears must flip the script, moving from the hunters, to the hunted.

Basha doesn’t appear too concerned about wearing the bulls eye.

“We’re going to be an attack-first mentality,” McDonald said. “We’re not going to sit back. We’re going to be proactive about it. You guys saw the blueprint of what gets you there. We’re going to continue with our process.”

The schedule is loaded but Basha is built for the grind. 

New Slingin’ Shamrock

Chris Eaton – Gridiron Arizona/ – Gonna take this one outside of the Valley for a Storyline to watch in 2023.  It’s way out West at Yuma Catholic High.

Over the last six years, Yuma Catholic has lit up the scoreboard with big passing numbers from Gage Reese (3-year starter from 2017-2019) and Richard Stallworth (3-year starter from 2020-2022).  Reese and Stallworth combined to average 3,860 passing yards and 50 TDs per season.  Stallworth wrapped up his Shamrock career as the Arizona all-time leader with 12,590 yards.  During that time, YC went 58-17.
Next up to try and continue that run under head coach Rhett Stallworth is Nash Ott.  Ott is a 5-11, 175-pound sophomore.  In his first year behind center, he will go up against the most daunting schedule Yuma Catholic has ever seen.  Realignment moved YC from 3A into 4A before the ’22 season and this year’s latest one puts the ‘Rocks in a revamped and juiced up 4A West Valley Region.  How good is this region?  All six teams (St. Mary’s, Thunderbird, Buckeye, Lake Havasu, Northwest Christian, and YC) combined to go 49-21 last season with ALL SIX making the playoffs.  It doesn’t get any softer with the lead-up to region play as Yuma Catholic will play Marcos de Niza (in Tempe), Catalina Foothills (in Tucson), and Palma (in Salinas, CA).  Then, there are home games against Thatcher and Arizona College Prep.  In all, the Yuma Catholic 10-game 2023 schedule’s opponents combined to go 81-34 in 2022 with ni teams making the playoffs (and the other one finished 6-4).
If Ott is the next one to join the realm of Reese and Stallworth, he certainly will have earned it against this group of teams during his sophomore campaign.

Desert Vista Do Over

Claudia Collins – Sports360AZ – This fall I’m really looking forward to seeing Desert Vista Football rebuild under new head Scooter Molander.

This was the perfect hire for a program that desperately needed an accomplished coach and some consistency. Coming off a 3A State Championship at Eastmark. Molander means business. This team is motivated to rebuild and I think the Thunder is in good hands. 

The Time is Now

Zach Alvira – East Valley Tribune, Sports360AZ -I think the storyline that has my attention the most comes out of north Scottsdale.

Can Desert Mountain break through to the Open and perhaps pull off an upset? 

The Wolves are talented across the board. They return the entire offensive line, quarterback Brady McDonough, wide receivers Dylan Tapley and Jack Freeburg, tight end Dillon Hipp, and are stout on defense with multiple Division I players, including Santana Wilson at defensive back. They all know the expectations people have for them, but it comes down to depth. Against better teams how will they fare when the stars get tired? Personally, I think they’ll do just fine.