Zone Read: Almost Halfway Home

Can you believe it’s Week Five?

WEEK FIVE!?!?

Arizona high school football off-season goes so slow, the season so fast. Plenty of good things to dive into here in ‘Zone Read’ so let’s get started.

#NewWave19

Pinnacle junior quarterback and University of Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler took an unofficial visit to Norman last weekend to watch the third-ranked Sooners dismantle Tulane 56-14.

It’s safe to say the four-star recruit liked what he saw…again…from the Big 12 power.

“It was great,” Rattler said to Sports360AZ.com. “My mom and sister finally got to meet [head coach] Lincoln [Riley]. It was overall just another amazing time at OU.”

Rattler was joined by fellow 2019 commits Trejan Bridges [Carrolton, TX wide receiver] and Austin Stogner [Plano, TX tight end], as well as OU target Noah Cain [IMG Academy, FL running back].

Despite his solid commitment to the Sooners, the coaching buzzards are still swirling as Rattler was recently hit on by a pair of college football heavyweights, another Big 12 program and one from the Big 10.

(Red) Mountain Man

In a state littered with incredible athletes who do their thing under the Friday night lights, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more versatile one than Red Mountain’s Lance Lawson who achieved quite a feat last week in their 31-8 win over Boulder Creek.

Over his three plus years playing varsity for the Mountain Lions, Lawson already has over 1,000 career yards rushing, passing and receiving. He’s approaching 5,000 yards with still at least six games left this season.

It’s always nice to see things like this happen, especially for selfless players who put their team before themselves.

Puma Power

By now you know all about Perry senior quarterback Brock Purdy (still underrated) and his collection of playmakers in D’Shayne James, Kenny Fultz, Colby Dickie, Connor Boyd and crew.

But one of the greater success stories of the 2017 season to this point is the Pumas’ improved defense which is allowing just 22 points per game heading into their unbeaten showdown against Highland. 

So who is owed praise for the 180 degree makeover?

“Our defensive [coaching] staff,” Perry head coach Preston Jones told the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show Wednesday morning. “This is their second year running this defense. They’ve got it figured out pretty well. We’ve got a lot of returning guys on the defensive side of the ball.”

22 points a game is a marked improvement over PHS’s 2016 version which yielded nearly 32 in 13 games, including the playoffs.

Don’t sleep on Highland, either. The Hawks (5-0) haven’t allowed more than 22 points in a single contest and are forcing a high volume of turnovers under first-year head coach Brock Farrel. HHS has already two more victories than they did all of last year. 

Off the Edge

Ho-hum, the Centennial Coyotes are, to the surprise of nobody who follows Arizona high school football, off to another fast start sitting 4-0 after their last-second win over 6A Pinnacle last Thursday in Peoria.

Head coach Richard Taylor and son Andrew, who runs the defense, are loaded across the board on both sides of the ball (Dominique Hampton, Zidane Thomas, Alex Escobar, Jayden Young, etc.) but one who stood out to me for his all-out hustle against the Pioneers was senior Jacob Franklin.

“Jacob is what is good about high school sports,” Richard Taylor said to Sports360AZ.com. “He is one of the team captains and gives great effort on every play.”

Standing 6-foot-four and weighing 216 pounds, Franklin is a rare combination of size and speed at defensive end. This past spring he ran track for Centennial participating in the 200, 400 and 4 X 100 events.

He had a handful of tackles and, more importantly, “set the edge” helping contain the talented Rattler and his array of weapons.

Clearly, Franklin is putting max effort in the classroom, as well.

Old Pueblo Powers

While some of you die-hard football Phoenicians won’t enjoy hearing this, there’s some pretty good prep football being played in southern Arizona.

It’s no surprise to see usual suspects Salpointe Catholic (4-0), the Rhett Rodriguez-less Catalina Foothills (4-1) Ironwood Ridge (4-0) and Cienega (4-0) at or near the top of their respective regions, but the balance through September also shows Buena (3-1), Marana Mountain View (3-1), Canyon del Oro (3-1), Walden Grove (3-1) and Pueblo (3-1) in early positions for post-season births.