Favorite: Cactus. The Cobras are tough each and every year and it more often than not has to do with their great rushing attack. This year, Jaylon Jones is back for the Cactus offense at running back coming off of a season where he had over 1,110 all purpose yards and 18 touchdowns. They will be led at quarterback Talal Yousufzai who was their starter last season as well. On defense for the Cobras keep an eye out for David Neel who got significant playing time last year as a sophomore. Peoria looks to be a much improved team from a year ago and will look to utilize their stud wide receiver Darius Aguirre. Sunrise Mountain lost offensive threats Elroy Masters to graduation and Elijah Castro who transferred but they always retool and are tough.
Favorite: Sabino. The Sabercats have a great senior class coming in that looks to make a lot of noise in their final high school season. They have one of the state’s top offensive lineman in Andrew Mike and also one of Arizona’s best at tight end as well with Matt Bushman. They are coming off of a great season but a surprise early exit in what was the biggest upset of the playoffs last year when they lost to Nogales. You know they have been thinking about that all summer and I worry for the teams that stand in their way in 2013.
Favorite: Saguaro. This is the toughest section in division III as there are three teams that could all be in the mix for the state title. The Sabercats are the favorite just because they have the second best quarterback in the state in Luke Rubenzer who committed to Cal in the offseason and also the top junior in the state, Christian Kirk. Not to mention Alex Anderson on the offensive line and transfer from out of state J.T. Nettleton who has a lot of speed and athleticism. Queen Creek is the defending state champs and they return the state’s leading rusher, Matt Guida, Williams Field is consistently one of the toughest teams in the state and even Higley has a lot of talent on their roster. The games in this section should be fun to watch.
Favorite: Prescott. This is a very new section that features some of the best programs the northern part of the state has to offer. I am giving the nod to the Badgers this season because they are always tough to play at their home field and will have a strong defense in 2013. Their D is led by Kaine Bayze and Jared Tiefentahaler on the defensive line who combined for 14 sacks in 2012. Another player to keep an eye on in this section is offensive lineman out of Kingman, Rod Gilleo. Theses section games should create some great rivalries and exciting environments to attend games.
Favorite: Maricopa. Keep an eye out for the Rams! They are coming off of a 7-4 season in which they made a playoff appearance and just came up short against Kani Benoit and Thunderbird. Their starting quarterback and running back from a year ago graduated but they return their leading receiver Tim Byrd who makes plays in the kick return game as well. Canyon del Oro will also be tough with John Jackson playing running back and defensive end. They could be in the mix as well.
Favorite: Tempe. The Buffalos have one of the most prolific offensive attacks in division III led by junior quarterback Emanuel Gant throwing to senior wide receivers Massiah Smith and Sebastian Watkins who combined for 17 receiving touchdowns in 2012. Thunderbird is talented but loses they key piece of their offense for the last four seasons, Kani Benoit. Filling that void looks to be a combination of B.J. Pelt and Darren Dorrsey. Also Phoenix Christian makes the jump up to division III. They have been great at the small school levels. Will be interesting to see how their talent translates after moving up.
Favorite: Desert Edge. The Scorpions did something they have never done before in 2012 and made it to the state title game. They just came up short in what was a fantastic game against Queen Creek. They are back, and despite losing their great quarterback and leader Sawyer Lung, they look as good as ever. They have one of the best talents the state has to offer in wide receiver and line backer Ismael Murphy-Richardson. Next to him on offense is another great receiving threat in Elijah Marks. On defense, Raheem Dowdell is also one to keep an eye out for at the defensive back position. They seem like the clear cut favorites but will have to face off against much improved Agua Fria who feature a great rushing attack, Shadow Ridge and also Buckeye are teams that will not be an easy out.
Preseason All-Section III Team:
QB: Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro
RB: Matt Guida, Queen Creek
RB: Marquice Paige, Agua Fria
WR: Darius Aguirre, Peoria
WR: Christian Kirk, Saguaro
TE: Matt Bushman, Sabino
OL: Alex Anderson, Saguaro
OL: Quinn Bailey, Higley
OL: Ismael Betancourt, Buckeye
OL: Andrew Mike, Sabino
OL: Tevita Matu, Shadow Ridge
DL: Kelepi Fifita, Central
DL: John Jackson, Canyon del Oro
DL: Marvin Otenyo, Flagstaff
DL: Jared Tiefentahaler, Prescott
LB: Nate Adams, Greenway
LB: Logan Johns, Higley
LB: Ismael Murphy-Richardson, Desert Edge
DB: Raheem Dowdell, Desert Edge
DB: Kamron Johnson, Tempe
DB: J.T. Nettleton, Saguaro
DB: Archie Rice, Aqua Fria
K/P: Augie Espinosa, Bradshaw Mountain