Zone Read: A Time Of Mourning

Remarkably, we are entering the final week of the regular season with a number of big games, rivalries on tap for Friday but this week my main focus isn’t on the field.

Remembering A Rocket

Last weekend the high school football community lost one of their own when 16-year-old Moon Valley junior linebacker Carlos Sanchez died after collapsing on the field Friday night against Cactus.

Carlos SanchezAfter hitting his head on the ground during “a football play,” he was taken to John C. Lincoln North Mountain High School where he was listed in critical condition before passing away Saturday night.

Understandably, the Moon Valley High School community is doing their best to move forward following this unthinkable tragedy. Counseling is available on campus to assist students.

— MVHS Rocket Boosters (@MVRocketBooster) October 24, 2017

I spoke with head coach Seth Millican who said the message he’s tried to convey to his team this week leading up their game against Peoria is the love within the program will pull them through this difficult time, while never forgetting their fallen teammate.

“They are stronger than I ever hoped or imagined,” Millican explained of his 5-4 Rockets. “I lean on them as much as they lean on me.” 

Our own talented photographer Andy Silvas is helping support the Sanchez family with this incredible gesture of kindness and selflessness.

You can also help by donating to this GoFundMe page to “assist the family of any immediate financial burden.”

Please keep the Sanchez family and the entire Moon Valley football program in your thoughts this week.

Lionheart

One of the better match-ups in Week 10 takes place in the west Valley where Liberty is preparing for their showdown with Richard Taylor’s Centennial Coyotes down the road in Peoria.

While the ‘Yotes have garnered the most attention in the area, and rightfully so following a perfect season to this point including a win over national power St. Thomas Aquinas (FL), the Lions have coasted to eight wins in nine games. Their only loss being a back-and-forth setback to neighboring 8-1 Sunrise Mountain.

I highlighted one key to the Lions’ success this fall in receiver/running back-turned full-time quarterback Ryan Bendle. The senior has been brilliant completing over 65 percent of his attempts and accounting for 24 total touchdowns. More importantly, he’s taken care of the ball, throwing just three interceptions in 85 attempts.

While Bendle has been a stabilizing force offensively, another Ryan, junior Ryan Puskas has quarterbacked one of the top defenses in the state. Liberty has allowed more than 14 points just once this season.

The safety/linebacker has been everywhere this fall with three interceptions, five pass deflections, two blocked punts, two blocked field goals and a fumble recovery.

Liberty and Centennial could easily be seeing one another again in late November or early December in Tucson.

Jelks Jelling

Maybe lost in shuffle a bit on the laundry list of Arizona high school players who are now excelling in college football is former Desert Vista two-way star Jalen Jelks who is making the most of his opportunity at the University of Oregon under first-year head coach Willie Taggert. 

Jelks has quietly become of the most productive and, at times, dominant defensive linemen in not only the Pac-12 but the entire country.

His coming out party for the Ducks was punctuated earlier this month just minutes from where he played prep football. Jelks was a one-man wrecking crew up front against ASU recording nine tackles (seven solo), five tackles-for-loss and three sacks. 

The 6-foot-6 junior’s success doesn’t come as any surprise to the coach who helped mold him into the player he is today.

“I knew he was going to have a great career after high school,” DV head coach Dan Hines said to Sports360AZ.com. “His size, strength and athletic abilities at Desert Vista made him a great one. He played both ways [for us], could have gone Division I as an offensive tackle.”

Hines said Jelks, whose game greatly improved between his junior and senior season with the Thunder, is “absolutely” an NFL prospect. 

Bucked Broncos 

It’s hard to believe Brophy’s season is over before Halloween.

It’s even harder to believe Scooter Molander’s team managed only one win, a narrow one-point escape at Westview. BCP finished 1-9, a seven-game drop from their 8-4 2016 campaign. 

Brophy had won 41 games the past five seasons under Molander.

One big issue for the Broncos in 2017 was simply finding the end zone. Brophy scored just 21 offensive touchdowns in 10 games. They were outscored 343-145 in their nine defeats and didn’t have their usual collection of college football-bound seniors on both sides of the ball.

It doesn’t help they play in the toughest football sections (6A Premier) in Arizona.