Best in the West 2023: Sept. 15 Spotlight

Arizona Sports News online

Region opponents loom on the horizon as the first half of the schedule nears its completion. This week, Best in the West highlights some of the top games happening on the west side this Friday night 


Game of the Week: Centennial @ Mountain Ridge

The blooms of Centennial’s return to domination from their 5A Conference era continues to reappear as the Coyotes battle-test themselves and stand high among the Open Division Playoff favorites. This week, they travel to Glendale to battle Mountain Ridge, who is 0-3, yet could be the most resilient team in the state. Even though they keep getting knocked down, the Mountain Lions continue to get back up and could be a threat to the 6A Conference crown once it’s all said and done.

Centennial shut out Desert Edge and Mountain Pointe to earn head coach Richard Taylor’s 75th career shutout while also defeating Corona del Sol, 55-21. The schedule only gets tougher though with potential Open Division qualifiers Saguaro, Chandler, Pinnacle, and Liberty on the way. Sophomore QB, Kainan Manna, has operated the offense while senior Tony Greer has dominated the ground game. Through three games, Greer carried the ball 22 times for 215 yards and three trips to the endzone. Senior, Aaden Nguyen has garnered attention with his 29 total tackles alongside three tackles for loss and an interception. The entire front line defensively has been vicious with 12.5 sacks through just three games this year.

The Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions have gone through the most gnarly gauntlet to begin 2023. In potentially the most difficult schedule thus far in Arizona high school football, MRHS adds Centennial to Williams Field, Chandler, and Highland as their first four games of the season. At the time of this notebook’s release, no statistics have been added to MaxPreps for Mountain Ridge this season.

Even though the schools are only about 7 miles apart, this is only the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools which first met in 1996. The two schools split the previous two games with Mountain Ridge winning 38-34 in 2021 and Centennial claiming victory 30-17  last season.


Battle of the Demons

A demonic battle commences as the Dysart Demons and Greenway Demons collide in Glendale. 

Tied for the earliest bye week in the state, Greenway remains undefeated at 2-0. Juniors dominate this offense in all phases, led by quarterback, Tyler McNally. His 431 pass yards in two games have led to six touchdowns and no interceptions. Fellow junior, Christian Shetler, has caught four of McNally’s six TDs and has converted 11 receptions into 197 yards. And Carlos Toscano completes this trio of juniors by rushing in another four touchdowns on 308 rush yards in just two games. Oh yeah, and the team’s leading tackler is also a junior. Andy Botic has racked up 18 total tackles and leads the team with three sacks as a junior. Also, the only player with an interception so far is Dietrich Ockenfels, and you guessed it, he’s another junior on the GHS Demons roster.

In the midst of a three-game road trip, Dysart takes on the lone 4A Conference foe on its schedule. Since joining the 3A Conference in 2020, DHS has hovered around .500, so naturally DHS sits at 2-2 to open 2023. Senior quarterback, Kye Brown has averaged over 200 pass yards per game while also leading the team in rushing. But don’t take your eyes off of junior receiver, Donovan Hinchey, who has converted 10 receptions into 303 yards. Tasked with slowing down Greenway’s junior-dominated offensive will be Dysart’s own junior linebacker, Noah Ramirez, who leads the team with 18 solo tackles and also ripped away a fumble last week against Paradise Honors.

This will be just the third meeting between these two squads. The all-time record sits at 1-1 from their matchups in 2013 and 2014. The winner has scored at least 43 points in both meetings.


More Games of Note:

Higley @ Desert Edge

The defending 5A champions take a trip to Goodyear in a matchup of 5A favorites.

Since opening the season with a 13-0 shutout loss to Centennial, the Desert Edge Scorpions narrowly took down Notre Dame Prep 35-28, and defeated Camelback 54-0. Now they are faced against an undefeated Higley squad who slid by Marana last week, 29-24.

 Junior quarterback, Hezekiah Millender has already thrown for 555 yards in his first three games while also leading the team in carries with another 152 rush yards. A constant for the junior QB has been senior running back, Kezion Dia-Johnson, who has racked up three touchdowns from his 271 receiving yards this year. Also keep an eye on junior running back, Aryon Thomas, who leads the team with 165 rush yards and a pair of TDs.

Tasked with slowing down the Higley offense will be a pair of senior leaders. Linebacker, Jaylen Dawson, leads the team in tackles while DE/OLB, Deshawn Warner, tops the scoresheet with five sacks and tackles for loss. This Scorpion defense has already accumulated nine sacks this season and faces a Higley offense that has thrown four interceptions but has yet to fumble the ball.


Phoenix Christian @ Glendale Prep

The Glendale Prep Griffins have won their last three consecutive games and square off against a 2-1 Phoenix Christian team this Friday night.

Senior running back, Nickolas Cummings, has set a blazing pace with nine touchdowns and 403 rush yards through the first four games. Outside of that though, a squad of sophomores has already started leaving their prints on the program. Sophomore QB, Joshua McHale has thrown for 553 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions while also rushing for another three TDs. Meanwhile, sophomore receivers, Kaden Bridges and Dylan Lincoln both have 7 receptions, over 175 receiving yards each, and have combined for six touchdowns.

Young whippersnappers are also setting the tone of defense with Lincoln and Bobby Glazner leading the team in tackles. Bridges has already snagged three interceptions with Lincoln stealing another pair of INTs.


Be sure to head out and support your local teams this Friday night! Also, keep watch at Sports360AZ for all of our high school football content including Bleacher Talk, Zone Read, AZ Audibles, Recruiting Roundup, and more.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #FridayNight360AZ and follow @Sports360AZ to keep up with the action from across the state on Friday nights!