The final state championship week is upon us. Six teams will make the trip down to Tucson (well, five teams and short drive for Salpointe Catholic) and three will walk away state champs.
There’s no question there are plenty of playmakers on each and every team remaining, and I wanted to identify a few guys who could make huge impacts on Saturday.
Without further ado, I present the latest edition of GIF-Wrapped Takeaways.
Saguaro – #44 Clayton Randall – Linebacker
The Saguaro linebacker is a heat-seeking missile for the Sabercat defense, and a guy who is not talked about nearly enough. The junior leads the team in tackles, and tallied a gentleman’s 18 tackles in the state semi-finals against Higley. Going against a heavy-run Salpointe offense, both Randall and fellow linebacker Connor Soelle look to be involved early and often on Saturday.
Salpointe Catholic – #36 Brian Corrales – Linebacker
Salpointe Catholic has such a stingy defense. It is so hard to score on the Lancers. Only twice have teams scored over 20 points this year. Canyon del Oro put up 21 in the final week of the regular season, and the Lancers limited Sunrise Mountain – one of the most explosive offenses in 4A – to 27 points. The Lancers are led by a strong linebacker group with Chris Aguirre, Christian Vazquez and Brian Corrales. Corrales has a nose for the backfield, notching eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Centennial – #3 Jaydin Young – Defensive Back
You know Dom Hampton in the Centennial secondary, and deversedly so. The Washington commit is a big-bodied defensive back who can fly. Hampton is not the only Coyote ball-hawk (<- that sounds like a member of the X-Men), though. Jaydin Young is the team’s leader in tackles as a sophomore and is second on the team with four interceptions (Hampton leads the team with six). It’s not just on defense though, Young is a talented returner as well and complements the Coyotes’ Swiss Army Knife Alex Escobar. In fact, Young had one of the better returns I saw this year against Liberty, but it was called back on a penalty. Typically in big games, Centennial is able to pull off a big play on special teams. Whether it’s a long field goal, a big return or a blocked kick, the Coyotes special teams usually helps alter a game.
Notre Dame – #11 Kylan Weisser – Quarterback
Notre Dame has so many playmakers on offense. Jake Smith and Cole Fisher are so versatile, Utah lacrosse commit Blake Storey and Harrison Copoloff are two big-bodied receivers who create matchup problems. The offensive line is also one of the best in the state. For all of this to work, though, you have to have a guy who can get the ball to these playmakers. Enter quarterback Kylan Weisser. The NDP quarterback has thrown 28 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 2017 and can also be an effective rusher when opposing defenses have their hands full with the aforementioned playmakers above. In the Saints’ overtime win over Queen Creek in the quarterfinals, Weisser was able to pick up chunks of yards at a time when he was able to tuck-and-run.
Chandler – #44 Zach Bowers – Linebacker
You’ve probably heard me talk about Chandler’s injuries earlier this season if you watch AZ Audibles or the Rockin’ Refuel Recruiting Roundup. The Wolves were without some of their key playmakers earlier in the year but they were still able to compete at the top division in Arizona. It’s just a testament to how deep this Chandler is and how many athletes they have. One of these guys who missed some times but has been making plays now that he is back is junior linebacker Zach Bowers. He’s averaging close to six tackles a game this year. Like Kylan Weisser, Perry quarterback Brock Purdy is so effective as a rusher when needed and having a guy like Bowers in the middle will mean these two will go head-to-head quite a bit on Saturday.
Perry – #33 Travis Calloway – Safety
Perry will have their hands full with a tough Chandler offense, but wherever the ball is, expect #33 to be near it. I was at the Perry-Hamilton point-a-pa-looza and the difference in the game was Perry was able to improve their defense as the game went on. The junior came away with the game-sealing interception and just seemed to be in on every big play for the Pumas. Same goes for when I saw them in the state semis against Mountain Pointe. Kellen Simmons was able to punch the ball out after a big play by the Pride. Who was right there to pick it up? Travis Calloway. He is the team’s leader in tackles and has two interceptions on the year.
These three games kick off tomorrow at Arizona Stadium in Tucson with 4A starting things off at 12:07 p.m..