Zone Read: Football Is Coming

The calendar has turned once again and now it’s only a handful of days before Week Zero games get started around the state with a few heavyweight battles to kick off the season.

With the “evolution” of seven-on-seven tournaments and coaches having the ability to now practice year-round, I’m excited for the REAL thing which is just around the corner.

Let’s hit the ‘Zone Read.’

One Final Tuneup

Expect Higley High School to be quite live next Wednesday night when the Knights host a four-team, round robin super scrimmage with Saguaro, Hamilton and Travis Schureman’s always tough Queen Creek Bulldogs.

For the Sabercats, it’s a chance to test themselves against three bigger schools after last seeing Higley in a 4A playoff overtime thriller last fall.

Now the Knights make the jump to 5A.

“I’m excited to get this year started,” head coach Eddy Zubey told the ‘Zone Read.’ “We have a great group of players and coaches…we are excited to play 5A football and are ready for the challenge.”

Higley opens the regular season with an out 0f state matchup hosting Paraclete High School (Lancaster, CA) on August 17th.

Bigger Is Better

Well, I’ve got some bad news for upcoming opponents on Tucson Salpointe’s schedule this fall. Apparently junior running back Bijan Robinson wasn’t satisfied with his 2,000+ yard, 29-touchdown season in 2017.

“He practices very hard working on his patience as a runner and understanding what’s happening up front,” head coach Dennis Bene told the ‘Zone Read.’ “He’s an elite athlete but to continue on the path of an elite running back, he needs to understand what’s happening in front of him.”

A summer growth spurt never hurts, either. Robinson is now six-feet tall and close to 200 pounds.

The scary part is the four-star prospect, is already littered with offers from heavyweights like Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU and Michigan. You can expect that list to swell over the next two years in Tucson. Heck, that Bama offer actually occurred at one of my Tucson favorites

My hunch tells me he eventually stays in Pac-12 country. ASU, Arizona, USC, Utah and Washington are already in the mix for the best player in southern Arizona.

Don’t Sleep On The Saints?

Notre Dame Prep’s incredible 2017 run came up one game short as they were out-muscled by Centennial in the 5A State Championship Game late last year in Tucson.

Gone are incredibly efficient backfield mates Kylan Weisser and Cole Fisher, as well as red zone target wide receiver Blake Storey and defensive staples and leading tacklers Vincent Elrod, Ricky Manning and Joey Jaquint.

However, with a new season, comes new opportunity for second-year head coach George Prelock who returns only three starters, zero on defense.

“We are excited about the upcoming season,” Prelock explained to the ‘Zone Read.’ “We are looking forward to our young talent continuing to get better.”

It never hurts to have Jake Smith coming back, either.  

Twin Killings

One of the more befuddling off-season developments this summer was the saga of twin Division One prospects Eloi and Cosmas Kwete, who now will be continuing their prep careers at Central High School after both were reportedly transferring. 

I was told one landing spot could have been Glendale Mountain Ridge but the Kwete’s decided to stay at Central for fear of having to sit out their entire senior season due to prior contact with a coach.

The potential road block?

There’s speculation the Kwete’s played rugby with a Mountain Ridge football player whose dad happened to be on the Mountain Lions’ coaching staff.  

Regardless, good for CHS head coach Jon Clanton, who not only has an extremely talented son on the roster, but does so much for all his student-athletes in an often less-than-ideal situation.

Outside of their Week Zero game at west Valley power Sunrise Mountain and a couple other tricky road games, the schedule is certainly manageable for the Bobcats.

Marqui Performance

Speaking of Saguaro, one player who continually drew praise from the coaching staff for his work at the Sabercats’ Cal Lutheran Camp was Marqui Johnson. The Chaparral transfer lined up at running back, slot and outside receiver, as well as looked fluid returning both punts and kickoffs.

The senior was a flat out dude running scout team during the five-day, eight-practice camp in Thousand Oaks. It is yet to be determined how many games Johnson will be forced to sit out this fall.

One younger #SagU player to keep an eye on is sophomore running back/middle linebacker Alani Ma’afu who at 6-feet-1 and 234 pounds gives head coach Jason Mohns another weapon to use on both sides of the ball.

As you see above he isn’t too bad with his feet, either.

Programming Reminder

As always, please use the hashtag #FridayNight360AZ on all your social platforms under the Friday night lights this fall.