Zone Read: Back To Football

This week some coaches got a first glimpse at their 2017 teams as spring practices started at select institutions around the state. Next week officially kicks off workouts for most high schools but for one Valley program Monday couldn’t have come soon enough.

A Fresh Start

Under hazy skies at Hamilton High School there were no helicopters circling the campus or investigative reporters pacing the outskirts of the practice fields. All you could see, besides traffic streaming up and down Arizona Avenue, were players fully engaged in drills and coaches teaching technique and preaching fundamentals.

It seemed, well, normal.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the storm is still coming, but Monday the Hamilton Huskies looked and sounded like many other teams, trying to get better before the fall.

There is no excuse and no absolutely zero tolerance for the heinous actions of a few and who they scarred, but for the players who had no involvement, spring workouts is the first official step to turning that football page.

Up Front and Center

Joey Ramos and his handful of college offers gets most of the love among the Deer Valley lineman and deservedly so but he’s certainly not alone. At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds Xavier Robinson-Delgado is a road grader, as is 6-foot-3, 290-pound Brandon Mccrea.

“Mccrea plays with good technique and has some nastiness to him,” Sports360AZ.com recruiting expert Jason Jewel said. “[Mccrea] is a little overshadowed by Ramos but will have a chance to play at the next level. He, Ramos and Robinson-Delgado make up one of the state’s best offensive lines.” 

The trio will anchor one of the biggest and most experienced lines in the state. The Skyhawks went 6-4 last year but won five of their final six after opening 2016 with losses to eventual state champion Williams Field and Glendale rival Mountain Ridge.

Buffalo Soldier

One player to watch this spring and into the fall is Tempe’s Stevie Maddox. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior had over 300 receiving yards and three touchdowns for the Buffalos, while also playing cornerback. He was explosive when he touched the ball averaging over 17 yards per reception.

2017 will bring a new challenge.

“Stevie can truly play multiple positions on the field,” assistant coach Jerome Cooks said to Sports360AZ.com. “This year he will play a hybrid safety/linebacker which will truly showcase his abilities.”

The position change shouldn’t be a problem for Maddox, who excels in the classroom as well according to Cooks.

A productive senior season could lead to a football scholarship for the two-sport athlete who finished second in the 300 Meter Hurdles at the Maricopa Twilight Meet three weeks ago.

(Track and) Field of Dreams

After taking a little business trip to the coast, Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns and his staff open spring workouts on the school’s practice field next week for what could be the final time as Scottsdale voters turned out and passed the bond override which funded the district wide facility improvement plan.

Starting May 15th, you will see the start of a transformation at #SagU with a new track and turf field going into the school’s stadium.

“We desperately needed a new track,” Mohns said to Sports360AZ.com. “We have been unable to host track and field events due to the poor conditions of our current track.

As far as our field is concerned, we have limited space on our practice field which doesn’t allow enough room for a full football field.”

Mohns said the Sabercats were forced to practice about half the time on their game field in order get proper spacing on plays, hash marks, etc. The added wear and tear made it difficult to maintain the natural surface throughout the course of the season.

So, problem solved next fall.

Oh, and you thought Saguaro’s team speed was impressive before… 

Keep An Eye On Canyon

Despite going 3-7 and not winning a section game last fall, the pieces could be in place for Shawn Kemmer’s Copper Canyon Aztecs.

Quarterback Chase Pope had 30 touchdowns last fall as a sophomore and he’ll have the luxury of throwing to classmate Jacob Rosario (501 yards, 11 touchdowns in 2016), as well 2018 receiver Tre Allen who led Canyon in receptions (61) and yards (736) last season.

Leading rusher Jayden Hall (922 yards, 13 touchdowns) is graduating but the Aztecs offensive line is big and experienced behind anchors Julian Parker (6’4, 275) and Juan Ortega (6’1, 320). Look for transfer Robert Miller (6’2, 285) to make an immediate impact up front.

The key will be stopping people. Canyon gave up 48 or more points five times in 2016. 

On Schedule

Our friends over at Gridiron Arizona have done a wonderful job updating 2017 regular season schedules. I highly recommend you check them out here and give @GridironArizona a follow twitter if you’re not already.