Week Eight High School Football Notes & Nuggets

It isn’t very often I start this column with something which doesn’t bring a smile to my face. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case this week.

Bigger Than Football…Former Verrado football player Andrew Ochoa (Class of 2016) was suffering from a bad headache late last week when he went to the emergency room. Ultimately, the news was far worse than anyone would have expected. The well-liked young man with a great smile suffered a brain hemorrhage.

“Andrew is still in a coma but fighting,” head coach Derek Wahlstrom told Sports360AZ.com. “He is so beloved by his family and friends and so many people have commented on how he their ‘best friend’ which speaks to who he is. He has a tough road ahead…we just continue to pray for healing while thanking God for how He blessed our lives for allowing Andrew to be a part of our Viper Football Family.”

 A gofundme account has been set up with a goal of raising $10,000 to help with Ochoa’s medical expenses.

On the same night in Glendale an eery silence hovered over Cactus High School when quarterback Mahal Lee lay motionless on the field after suffering a helmet-to-helmet collision just seconds before halftime against Higley.

Thankfully, Lee was released from the hospital and is expected to be back behind center when the Cobras host Moon Valley Friday.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same…Apologize if you’ve heard this narrative before but Norris Vaughan’s plug-and-play philosophy was on display again last week as unbeaten Mountain Pointe sucked the life out of east Valley power Desert Ridge without their starting quarterback and top tailback. Sure, the Pola-Mao brothers are game-changers on both sides of the ball but Mountain Pointe always comes ready to play, a trademark of Vaughan and his staff in Ahwatukee.

Tough Break…Oregon State not only lost a game last weekend against Utah, they also lost their starting quarterback when Darell Garretson suffered an ankle injury which will cost the former Chandler High standout the rest of his redshirt junior season. Garretson transferred to Corvallis after two years at Utah State.

Beavers’ head coach Gary Andersen announced earlier this week true freshman Mason Moran, another for Chandler standout, will get practice reps this week behind now sophomore starter Marcus McMaryion who is scheduled to start at fifth-ranked Washington on Saturday.

Chap Town Frown…2016 has certainly been the exception, not the norm at Chaparral, where the Firebirds are 3-5 and just 1-4 away from their north Scottsdale nest. Hearing the team has responded well to first-year coach Thomas Lewis after some coaching staff philosophy differences at the start of the season. Interesting to see Lewis coaching from the box, not the sidelines. Key personnel losses from last year’s 9-3 team on defense and at wide receiver has hurt significantly, including Gianni Tomasi’s decision to focus on baseball. The schedule features two winnable games to end the regular season (North Canyon, Arcadia). Keep an eye out for this guy the next couple years.

Scholar Baller…Former Joy Christian School quarterback Matt Mitchell was recently honored by the National Football Foundation as one of five 2016 National High School Scholar Athletes. The 2015 Division V Player of the Year helped guide the Eagles to an undefeated state title run while earning a 4.46 GPA at Joy Christian. Mitchell earned a scholarship from Phoenix College where he’s been part of the Bears’ resurgence behind a group of coaches familiar to the Valley.