Zone Read: A Spring Like None Other

Arizona Sports News online

I hope this finds each and every one of you safe with the people in your life you are close to. This is an odd and uncertain time for all of us but my hope is this column gives you a little distraction every week.

So let’s call the play and get into this week’s “Zone Read.”

Cornering the Market

You’re never too old to come home.

Well, former Centennial High two-sport star Zach Hoffpauir isn’t exactly home but he’ll certainly be making frequent stops to State 48.

The former Stanford Cardinal standout, who had his college career cut short due to concussions, is stepping up to the college coaching level after helping out at his alma mater in Peoria.

Keep your eye out for some Bear hunting, Northern Colorado style.

“I am very excited to be recruiting in my home state,” Hoffpauir said to the “Zone Read.” “Arizona has always been slept on when it comes to football and I think people are starting to see the kind of talent we can produce.”

While Hoffpauir said iconic Coyotes’ head coach Richard Taylor, along with his son Andrew – the well-respected defensive coordinator for one of the state’s top units nearly every year, didn’t influence his decision to coach they undoubtedly helped shape his football success.

“They’re a huge reason I’m here today,” he said. “I cannot thank them enough for that.”

Hoffpauir was an all-state player in both football and baseball in 2011-2012 at CHS. He earned All Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors at free safety as a junior and later played in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after being a 22nd-round pick of the organization in 2015.  

Coyote Trail

One player who has seen their recruitment take off recently is Skyline 2021 safety/athlete Zeke Branham.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder currently has double-digit offers from schools like Fresno State, New Mexico, UNLV, Yale, Columbia, NAU and others. 

Not bad for a player whose team went 2-8 in 2019.

“I wouldn’t say it’s satisfying to earn these offers, but more motivating,” Branham said to the “Zone Read.” “I hope me getting these offers wakes up other kids in the Valley who think that they need to be at a championship winning program in order to get Division 1 offers…if you put the work in, you will make it regardless of where you play.”

“Zone Read” hit up Cody Cameron from our friends over at for a quick scout on Branham.

“True sideline-to-sideline player,” Cameron explained. “Tackles with force [and] squares up ball carriers well. Extremely versatile. This is a safety who can cover in stretch vertical routes or line up in the box and force the edge.”

Expect Branham’s offer list to grow exponentially as word gets out on this southeast Valley stud. 

Freestying in Flagstaff

The “Zone Read” has never personally met Flagstaff head coach Todd Hanley but we like what we’re seeing at 7,000 feet.

Last week Hanley, the brains behind “Fear The Beard Productions” dropped this gem which has already accumulated over 1,200 views as self-quarantine has unveiled creativity in the ponderosa pine forest.

“I have a lot of fun with our student body at school, not just the football players,” Hanley said. “I wanted to sort of parody things you can do while quarantined without being insensitive to this very real situation. I just figured if the kids saw me being normal, kind of goofy self they might feel a little more at ease.”

The concept has caught on. 

Hanley said a staff member will do one every week which they’ll share during their “Eagle Hour” Thursday nights as part of their scheduled webinar with their players.

“Zone Read” learned Hanley’s digital debut, with the help of his wife, took around 90 minutes to shoot, edit and produce. 

Good stuff from the cool pines.

Route 21

You could say Horizon slot receiver Avery Lambert has had a good week.

When one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL approves your route running, you’re clearly on the come up.

“When I first saw what Mark Andrews said about my route running, I was surprised,” Lambert said to the “Zone Read.” “I was just happy to hear that someone of his status sees my potential on the field and appreciates the craft I work on everyday to improve.”

The connection was made through Ace Justin, Horizon’s wide receiver coach, who has worked with Andrews in the past dating back to his high school days catching passes from Kyle Allen at Desert Mountain.

Lambert caught 27 balls for 484 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns last fall as a junior as the Huskies made a run into the Open Division playoffs. He also intercepted three passes at strong safety.

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