New Places, Fresh Faces Under the Friday Night Lights

It’s hard to believe but the Arizona high school football season is about a month away. 

As we inch closer to what is sure to be another exciting season under the Friday night lights here are some storylines to watch as the sport continues to grow in popularity and talent around the state.

New Kids on the Block: Ok, not technically as Mountain Pointe is no stranger to success but the Pride hopefully won’t have to wear name tags anymore in Ahwatukee. Norris Vaughan’s squad returns a grand total of zero offensive starters from 2014. Athletic Indiana transfer Jack Smith will take over behind center. Defensively, playmaking defensive back Ke’Shawn Churchwell returns, as does rising two-way junior star Isaiah Pola-Mao who will play safety and wide receiver according to Vaughan.  They open the season with two road games and one neutral site tilt before hosting Basha and Pinnacle back-to-back. No picnic.

Making the Jump: Annual west Valley power Centennial, despite the loss of key players like Nebraska signee Dedrick Young and Daniel Smith, have plenty of firepower behind quarterback Isaac Steele and tackling machine Bozton Sanders (111 last season). Add in a veteran linebacker Chris Jules (11 sacks as a junior) the Coyotes are talented but now will be facing some big-time, in-state heavyweights as the defending Division II champs make the jump to D-I. Look for Richard Taylor’s blue-collar team to keep the same philosophy which has made them so successful in the past.

“Hello, My Name Is”: This off-season was a busy one in the coaching carousel as a few high-profile programs chose a different leadership direction. Desert Mountain went out-of-state naming Iowa’s Mike Morrissey their new head coach. He’ll team with another guy familiar to the midwest state: Kurt Warner takes over as their new offensive coordinator. Jim Ewan, who helped raise Chandler to one of Arizona’s elite, returns to the Valley as the new boss at Westwood. He spent the past few years in southwest Arizona at Yuma Catholic High. Queen Creek Casteel and Seton Catholic also have new head coaches in Spencer Stowers and long-time Brophy assistant Gary Galante, respectively.

Pass the RC: Coronado has just 11 combined wins the past three seasons but help could be on the way offensively with former ASU and NFL quarterback Rudy Carpenter installed as the Dons new quarterback coach for Mike Olson. Fellow Sun Devil Shaun McDonald is will also be wearing a headset on Friday’s this fall as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater Shadow Mountain.