Basha football has come full circle.
The past, present and, it appears, future of Bears’ football has evolved from Premiere Region door mat to an elite level program, loaded with high-end talent.
Last year, Chris McDonald’s team reached the pinnacle, claiming not just their first Arizona State Football Championship, but an Open Division one at that.
The Basha Bears are 2022 Open Division State Champions. pic.twitter.com/XFIg6R4u6y
— Basha Gridiron (@bashagridiron) December 11, 2022
While 2023 will certainly bring new challenges and obstacles, Basha is positioned well to make another run at the Open Championship, as well as lay a ground work for success with a host of young talent.
Freshmen of Influence
Stars Cole Martin, James Durand, Wyatt Milkovic, Deshaun Buchanon, Demond Williams, Miles Lockhart, and others helped cement the Bears’ status among the who’s who of Arizona high football program.
Soon, the torch will be passed to a new group of players.
More specifically, a 2027 class which McDonald believes is brimming with talent, as well as numbers.
“A lot of depth,” McDonald said to the “Zone Read.” “They’re solid in all units. It’s not like they’re skill heavy, or line heavy. They’ve got good football players in all units, and not just one-deep, or two-deep.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if our freshmen program went undefeated.”
The Future meets the Now – Basha RB @noahrobertsss, OL @JakeH_2027, and two-way lineman @AnitoniTahi2027 are preparing to make an impact on Varsity this year. This Class of 2027 trio said they’ve been grateful of the early support and leadership from the Basha senior/vet players. pic.twitter.com/597NwMEFqO
— Cody Cameron (@CodyTCameron) August 5, 2023
Now let’s take a closer look at these three 2027 Bears, all who have been in Basha’s camp since February, who may very well find their way into McDonald’s rotation this fall.
Run Roberts, Run
McDonald doesn’t mince words when describing 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back, Noah Roberts.
“Super physically gifted athlete,” he said without hesitation. “He already looks like an upperclassmen in terms of his physical body.”
A multi-sport athlete who also runs track, Roberts not only has the “twitch” elite backs possess, but the willingness to engage at the line of scrimmage, as well.
“My biggest thing with him was I wanted to see how physical he was going to be,” McDonald said. “We just got into shoulder pads…so it’s been a small sample size from that standpoint but, so far, he’s checked all the boxes. Good football I.Q. He’s 14 but I think he’s wise beyond his years…he’s been really impressive.”
— Noah Roberts (@noahrobertsss) June 16, 2023
Roberts, to this point, has been adjusting to Arizona high school football on the fly, while leaning on Basha’s experienced seniors for guidance and advice to help smooth out any bumps during the adjustment.
“They helped me transition because going into high school is different,” Roberts said to Sports360AZ.com contributor, and good friend of the “Zone Read,” Cody Cameron, who spoke to all three players we are spotlighting. “They’ve been helping me with the plays and getting adjusted to high school ball.”
Don’t be surprised to see high school ball adjust to Roberts, and not vice versa, sooner than later.
Roberts, who already holds offers from ASU and NAU, doesn’t hold back on what he hopes his unique group of classmates can accomplish over the next four years.
“When it’s all said and done, I want our 2027 class to be considered one of the best [Basha classes] ever.
Can’t Teach Size
Walk the halls of any high school in Arizona, or most states for that matter, and it’s unlikely you’ll find too many 6-foot-6, 285-pound freshmen offensive linemen who resemble BHS’s large-framed, Jake Hildebrand.
“Physically gifted young man,” McDonald said when asked to describe his prized young o-lineman who is running with Basha’s first team unit at fall camp.
He’s also been working with, and learning under, the Bears’ veteran offensive line coach, Tim Kelly.
“It feels great,” Hildebrand said. “I love Coach Kelly. It’s been a long journey. He’s taught me footwork you wouldn’t see at other schools. I really appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
After having a great talk with @ASUFootball, I am so blessed and grateful for my first Power 5, D1 offer! Thank you for believing in me. @KennyDillingham @CoachMohns @StevenMiller71 @VinceAmey @HogsandDawgs @CoachTKelly1 @coachcmcdonald @CoachNickO1 @VYDLperformance @RonTBAOL pic.twitter.com/ArysGClrXC
— Jake Hildebrand (@JakeH_2027) June 16, 2023
“It’s his job to lose,” explained McDonald. “He just needs to prove he can be a physical force on the field…if he wants to play varsity he understands what he has to do. So far he’s been doing really well.”
Basha is still in the process of finalizing a few starting spots on their offensive line leading up to their season opener at Mesa Westwood on the 25th.
At 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds, stout Anitoni Tahi brings his own unique skill set to the Basha bigs.
“He’s a plugger,” McDonald noted. “He could probably play o-line or d-line. He’s a massive kid who’s really physical, really strong at the point of attack.”
I know one thing @AnitoniTah0314 might crack varsity as an incoming FRESHMAN! He is already a BEAST! I thought he was at least a Soph or Jr. Already has a great combination of Strenght & Speed. @bashagridiron got richer & reloaded with their incoming group. The pendulum has… https://t.co/T6ZlRbVIXO
— Eric “CoachE” Muhammad (@MaxPCoachE) June 23, 2023
Admittedly, Tahi still much to learn and experience when it comes to playing Premiere Region football, but feels the Basha staff has helped ease the transition coming from eighth grade.
“The coaches teach us a lot about family and how to play the game.”
According to McDonald, the sky is the limit for Tahi.
“He’s going to develop into somebody really good.”