Zone Read: Let The Games Begin

The wait is over.

Week Zero is here.

Before we dive into this week’s ‘Zone Read’ another friendly programming reminder: please use the hashtag #FridayNight360AZ on Twitter and all your social platforms each and every Friday this fall. Let’s better connect our high school football community.

Here’s what caught my attention this week. 

Men of (Cas)steel

Let’s not sugarcoat this. 

Friday night is the biggest game in the young football history of the Casteel Colts.

Sure, the fast-rising program has bullied around smaller, over-matched opponents most of their three-year existence at the varsity level but the defending 3A State Champions (who went a perfect 14-0 in 2017) now make the jump to 5A. 

Their first opponent is Centennial. You’ve heard of the Coyotes, right?

Week Zero in the far east Valley is also a big stage for talented, senior quarterback and Washington State commit Gunner Cruz who has done quite well against the likes of Payson, Empire, ASU Prep and Globe but facing one of the most consistent programs in Arizona over the last nearly 20 years this weekend is a completely different animal.

โ€” ForgingSteel (@TheSteelMill15) June 26, 2018

“There’s really no better measuring stick bumping up to 5A,” Cruz said to the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show this week. “Going against truly a dynasty in Arizona. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to go in there and see where we stack up with the rest of the conference. I think we’re ready for the challenge.”

We’ll know soon enough.

‘Yotes and Colts quite a way to kick off 2018, huh? 

Alaska Air

No high school team in the country will likely travel more miles for their first game than Cesar Chavez. Tuesday the Champions’ team and staff loaded up and flew over 3,600 miles to Anchorage, Alaska as they prepare for their game against East High who went 8-2 in 2017 and started the season with a 47-0 win last week behind their dominant, run-heavy offense.

Chavez Athletic Director Lenny Doerfler runs the All-Alaska Football Camp and connected with the coaches at East who agreed to host the Champions.

“We have been preparing for East these past couple weeks,” head coach Manny “JR” Alcantar told the ‘Zone Read.’ “We know they are a good team. We know we have to prepare for the cold.”

The weather could be a factor with temperatures expected to hover in the high-50’s and a strong chance of rain. Quite a change from the Phoenix summers.

Regardless of the outcome, the experience will be one Alcantar and all of the Chavez traveling party will never forget.

“We plan to travel to Homer (AK) and visit other places,” Alcantar explained. “Eat seafood and enjoy the scenery. We still plan to practice as [scheduled] and have study hours.”

Bulldog Mentality

Keep an eye on Goldwater this year. 

Two years ago the ‘Dogs won one game. Last year under first-year head coach Doug Provenzano GHS won four and now one of the youngest teams in the state is looking to raise the bar even higher starting Friday when they host Kellis.

“We are a gritty group of sled dogs,” Provenzano said to the ‘Zone Read.’ “We have many players that other team’s coaches warn their kids about game day.”

Not only has Goldwater improved on the field but they’ve also benefited from a new weight room which, according to Provenzano, has aided Goldwater’s strength, discipline and unity.

“We will shock some people if the injury bug stays away from Rose Garden and 27th Avenue,” Provenzano  quipped. 

Earlier this summer I brought you the unique journey of skilled senior quarterback Jordan Gourley who perfectly exemplifies the chip-on-the-shoulder Bulldogs.

Lesson To Be Learned

A name synonymous with great high school football in Arizona decided he no longer had the passion, will or commitment to continue to playing the game he’s excelled at since he was a little kid.

I understand all of this. It’s not uncommon for student-athletes to decide on a different path after high school but please do it the right way.

Be transparent and honest. Don’t leave your coaches and teammates hanging by missing or consistently being late to classes and meetings or by not returning text messages from concerned staffers. 

Football is the ultimate TEAM sport and I was disappointed to hear from one college coach how poorly this particular player conducted himself both on and off the field since he arrived on campus earlier this summer.

Cyclone Season

Remember Brock Purdy? Of course you do. Who could forget his unique journey from small school offers to last-minute Power Five courtships from schools like Alabama and Texas A&M.

The former Perry star, who signed with Iowa State back in February, is now fully engulfed in college life both on and off the field. He reported in early June and is finding his way in middle America.

Purdy told ‘Zone Read’ earlier this week the biggest adjustment for him is mastering head coach Matt Campbell’s expansive playbook as the ‘Clones work in their second week of camp. He did mention the game is “starting to slow down” practicing with and against the Big 12’s biggest surprise last fall.

Purdy is the poster child for student-athletes who let the recruiting process play itself out, while handling their business on the field and, more importantly, in the classroom.