Favorite: Betty H. Fairfax. This section looks very different than a year ago with schools like Centennial, Chavez, Apollo and Millennium out of the picture. The Stampede return loads of talent including two-way athlete on the outside, Derron Brown, who is one of the best all-around athletes in the state. They are an undersized team this year but that is nothing new. That was the case last season and they still went 7-4 and they did so with a very young team. Now most of those players are back and have something to prove.
Favorite: Cienega. The Bobcats have been among the best teams in Southern Arizona for quite a few years now and that doesn’t look to change. For them it starts with defense and their fierce leader at line backer, Christian Poe. Tight end, Alec Daniels is also a tough matchup on the offensive side of the ball. Keep an eye out for Buena and Sahuaro in this section as well behind running back Dominique Drake at Buena and running back Cole Sterns for Sahuaro. But I like Cienega to take this section’s crown.
Favorite: Centennial. This might be the most competitive section in division II. The Coyotes are a powerhouse every year and this year will be no different. The next in line with their great tradition at running back after the departure of Jalen Ortiz is Dedrick Young. He will only be a junior and will be running behind maybe the best offensive line in the state. New man behind center for them is Jordan Suyam who looks to have a breakout season. Apollo led by the playmaking ability of Nico Bayless, Liberty behind a strong defense led by line backer Zack Neill and defensive back Kori Wilson and finally Deer Valley led by quarterback Devon Palomino will make Centennial’s push for the section crown difficult. But I still think they do it.
Favorite: Cibola. The Raiders have moved down from division I to division II and will be a force to be reckoned with as a result. The lose running back Jordan Mitchell who had a fantastic career in a Raider uniform but return quarterback Lucky Arvizo and last years’ leading receiver Michael Decorse-Hall. On defense they return their top two tacklers from a season a go in brothers Josh and Jacob Hanson who each had over 100 tackles last season.
Favorite: Salpointe. The Lancers are loaded on both side of the ball. On Andy Cota returning at quarterback, transfer from Texas Kaelin Deboskie and of course U of A commit Cameron Denson who will be one of the best athletes on both sides of the ball in every game he plays. Pair that with Brandt Davidson, Jake Casteel and Taylor Powell on defense and you wonder how this team will be able to be outscored. But they do have the defending state champions in their section in Ironwood Ridge who do lose quarterback Tyler Williams, but they proved last season and especially in the state title game that they are a deep team of good football players who are very well coached. This should be an exciting section to watch.
Favorite: Marcos de Niza. The Padres lost a lot of talent from last season including two players that will be playing Pac-12 football this season. But they are also returning quite a bit of talent as well. It starts with quarterback Josh Eckley who is one of the most talented at his position in the start. Pare that with Logan Palmer leading the way on the other side of the ball which will made them a tough matchup on offense and defense. Mesquite will be a load in this section anchored by their two impressive safeties, Jordan Robinson (who transferred from Brophy) and Juan Giraldo. Campo Verde will be solid as well.
Favorite: Chaparral. The Firebirds were a young team last year who got better and better as the season rolled along. They return now a core of some of the top players in the state. I think ASU commit Tyler Whiley is a dark horse player of the year candidate with what he can do on both sides of the football. You have Trevor Wood there at tight end, wide receiver transfer from Hamilton, Israel Simpson and Sean Paul Brophy getting another shot at the starting quarterback. One of the biggest threats on this offense though will be transfer from Sunrise Mountain, running back Elijah Castro. On defense they will be lead by Joe Nauert, Marshall Forrest and last year’s leading tackler Robbie Kleifield. Notre Dame and Paradise Valley will also be playmakers in division II, but the section crown will go through Chaparral.
Preseason All-Division II team:
QB: Josh Eckley, Marcos de Niza
RB: Elijah Castro, Chaparral
RB: Dedrick Young, Centennial
WR: Tyler Whiley, Chaparral
WR: Kaelin Deboskie, Salpointe
TE: Trevor Wood, Chaparral
OL: Breeon Auzenne, Salpointe,
OL: Kamryn Bennett, Centennial
OL: Layth Friekh, Centennial
OL: Jon Sekona, Apollo
OL: Keenan Walker, Chaparral
DL: Brandt Davidson, Salpointe
DL: Marshall Forrest, Chaparral
DL: Logan Palmer, Marcos de Niza
DL: Brian Calhoun, Deer Valley
LB: Phillip Caniglia, Notre Dame Prep
LB: Corbin Gouby, Marana Mountain View
LB: Taylor Powell, Salpointe
DB: Cameron Denson, Salpointe
DB: Juan Giraldo, Mesquite
DB: Jordan Robinson, Mesquite
DB: Jordan Schlueter, Notre Dame Prep
K/P: Adam Muller, Kellis