Zone Read: 2023 AZHS Football Storylines – Part II

Arizona Sports News online

Small schools kicked off last week, now it’s time to lift the lid for the big divisions of Arizona high school football.

Let’s take a closer look at a few more storylines to keep a close eye on this fall around the state.

Three-Peat Treat?

Jordan Spurgeon – Sports360AZ – Highland is going to be interesting to follow this season, even though the conversation come November will be the same as it has been the previous two years.

As the back-to-back defending 6A champions, the Hawks have a great chance to three-peat in 6A. But, there will be endless discussion about whether or not they should be in the Open Division. Two losses (Saguaro and Hamilton), plus one out-of-state loss to Lone Peak (Utah) kept Brock Farrel’s team out in 2022.

With Basha, Chandler, and Lone Peak (again) on the schedule, there’s no wiggle room because three losses could theoretically keep the Hawks out of the Open rankings again. A victory against any of those three would certainly change the tide.

Changing of the Guard(s)?

Ralph Amsden – – I’m interested in two things this year.

The first is whether or not we have entered a new era. My first year covering high school football was the last time Hamilton won a championship. In the moment, it was the Huskies seventh title in about 10 seasons, and it felt like that ride was never going to end. Along came Chandler, and they had a six- title decade. Now we have Basha getting a taste, coached by Chris McDonald, who was part of the original Hamilton run.

Is this the beginning of the age of the Bears?

The second thing I am keeping an eye on is which school out in the suburban sprawl is going to have their breakout year? The way the Valley spreads out as the population grows, means that young families are further and further away from Phoenix proper.
Each year we see schools in Queen Creek, or San Tan Valley, or Buckeye, or Goodyear emerge with Division I talent and a special supporting cast. This year, I think that emerging school might just be Canyon View in the far west, Waddell.

Nick Gehrts is a great coach, and he has a talented roster, including wide receiver Santino Varvel.

Arizona, Bear Down

Jordan Hamm – Sports360AZ – The storyline I’m interested in tracking this season is how big of a snowball can the Arizona Wildcats create with in-state recruiting this class? There are seven current in-state recruits from all parts of the state, all over the field, and the Wildcats are getting a level of recruit they never have in the state.

There have been 12 5-star composite recruits from Arizona, meaning 247 Sports takes the rankings of ESPN and Rivals along with their own ratings. Elijah Rushing is the first to commit to Arizona. Demond Williams Jr. is the best Arizona quarterback commit since???

Coaches at all in-state schools have preached they will get the top in-state talent to show it’s cool to be a hometown hero. This is the class that’s actually doing and could be the first of many.

The Year of Tucson

Cody Cameron – – Tucson high school football has some serious talent every year and this season is no different.
Starting off with 3A Sabino, the Sabercats are a legitimate contender to win the 3A State Championship. Head Coach Ryan McBrayer and his staff have done a tremendous job with that program and they have talent at the skills positions that would start on most 6A teams. 

4A Canyon del Oro is another program that has a chance at making a run in 4A. The Dorados return one of the best lineman in the state in senior Sa’Kylee Woodard, as well as senior running back  (The Bulldozer) Kayden Luke.
The 5A Buena Colts return a phenom tailack, Andres Bonilla, who racked up a whopping 1546 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in his sophomore season last year.

Lastly, the Salpointe Catholic Lancers. They have one of the best front 7’s defensively in the entire state and are loaded at key spots. Head Coach Eric Rogers has his squad ready to battle every week. They are my darkhorse to win a 6A title this season. 

Desert Dwellings

Cameron Cox – 12 Sports anchor – One of the most intriguing teams this season is Desert Mountain. Head coach Conrad Hamilton has maybe their most talented team, and I think they can make a run in the Open.

Also, teams like Basha, Liberty and Chandler will be there at the end, but is finally the year Hamilton regains its spot atop Arizona High School football? Watch out. The Huskies have been very close the past four seasons, and this season, they’ll future one of the biggest offensive lines in the state. 

Finally, you want to see the definition of team? Look at Cesar Chavez High School. Those kids have rallied around each other, finding comfort on the football field. They’re playing hard under new coach William “Ducy” Burwell Jr., who has done an amazing job holding that program together. They’re also playing hard for a higher purpose, dedicating their season to teammate Chris Hampton. True champions.