We are a month into the 2013 high school football season and there has been a common theme that continues to stand out week after week to me.
We have seen a lot of unfortunate injuries occur this season sidelining some of the state’s top talent. But to turn that into a positive, it has been relatively under the radar players that have stepped in on absence of those players and succeeded beyond expectations.
Case one: the Queen Creek Bulldogs.
The defending state champions are off to another great start picking up where they left off last season. And they are doing it for the most part without their starting running back and the state’s reigning leading rusher, Matt Guida. The Air Force commit has been sidelined the last couple of weeks dealing with a hamstring injury. With Guida out, many wondered if the Bulldogs will be able to keep up the offensive prowess. In steps in back-up Weston Barlow who has 553 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in just two games! The Bulldogs haven’t skipped a beat.
Case two: the Hamilton Huskies.
Another defending state champion, the Huskies have dealt with many many injuries but have still managed to stay undefeated. They aren’t blowing teams out like many of us are used too but wins are still wins and they are getting them without their start left tackle, Casey Tucker, for the last game in a half. So moving to left tackle is Trent Moore. Moore is a guy that has been on people’s radars but not as a blindside tackle. The Oregon State commit has shown off his versatility in one season moving from tight end to right guard to left tackle after Tucker’s injury and has done so without many hick-ups from what I have seen or heard. You don’t see players in the trenches at this level that can make these moves very often. Oregon State is getting a heck of a player.
Case three: the Mountain Pointe Pride.
The Pride have looked unstoppable this season. Last week they faced some adversity and when it occurred, many wondered how the team might respond. Running back/linebacker and leader of the Pride, Wesley Payne, left last week’s game against Chandler with a dislocated elbow. On the offensive side of the ball, Mountain Pointe still had Paul Lucas and he still got his normal amount of carries but who would take over for Payne’s work load? In steps Brandyn Leonard, who missed most of the 2012 season because of a concussion. He takes over for Payne and runs for 175 yards and three touchdowns taking away any hope of a Chandler Wolves comeback. The Wolves had no answer for him defensively and he stepped in a huge way.
Finally case four: the Centennial Coyotes.
In the first half of the first game of the season, the Coyotes lost their starting quarterback, Jordan Suydam, for what looks like the season with a shoulder injury. It was a deflating way to start the year on top of the fact that they were no match for the Chandler Wolves on week one. In the last three games since, junior Daniel Smith has stepped in and lead his team under center to three consecutive wins over Basha, Brophy and Kellis. All very impressive victories. While Smith’s stats may not jump off the page and Centennial primarily beats you with their great run game led by Dedrick Young, there still needs to be a reliable man under center to manage the offense and Smith has been just that. Very impressive for a young man who had not taken any varsity snaps going into the season and was expecting this season to be a back-up. I give that young man a lot of credit.
I am sure there are many more cases that follow this pattern that I am missing. This is just a few examples. But bottom line, I have been most impressed in this first month of the season with kids under the radar who are putting themselves on the map and maintaining their own team’s success in the process.