Zone Read: A Whole Lotta Questions

Back again and sorry we were a little late getting the play called for this week’s ‘Zone Read.’ Busy, busy time of year as we hit mid-October (where did the season go?) and come down the home stretch which, for the big schools, has only two weeks remaining after this week.

Without further delay, here’s this week’s ‘Zone Read.’

Q&A

I recently sat in the office of a head coach who had an interesting recruiting call with an assistant from one of the most storied and successful programs in college football. The near 20-minute visit was one of the more unique and thought-provoking conversations I’ve encountered since covering football.

The head coach of this 6A Valley school was asked a number of various, and at times random, questions about one of his up-and-coming 2020 lineman prospects who this Power Five power is considering offering. The spectrum ranged from the players’ deep-rooted/random interests away from football to the type of local business his parents own and operate here in Phoenix.

As the coach ended the call, there was a look of both confusion and relief as he quickly recapped the melodrama. 

I also heard tales of college recruiters asking prep coaches if players wore braces to gauge if they’re “entitled” both on and off the field.

Sure, big-time college football is a wildly popular, multi-billion dollar business and brand but at the end of the day the focus is best centered on the “less is more” approach, especially considering these teenagers can be easily influenced and will likely take a misstep or two in some way during their four years of high school. 

Tucson Teamwork

I don’t think too many people are surprised Marana is 5-2 here in mid-October. The Tigers weathered a mini, mid-season two-game slide and find themselves just a game behind Cienega in the 5A Southern Region. The two teams will square off in southern Tucson on Friday.

Mental toughness has helped the tight-knit Tigers, and first-year head coach Louie Ramirez, stay on track during the grind of the season and much of it was established last summer in seven-on-seven tournaments around the state.

“The thing is a lot of people don’t like them because it’s no real football but at the same time AAU is for basketball players and it’s just getting your craft better,” stud senior quarterback Trenton Bourget said to the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show. “We’re playing against the best DB’s, the best quarterbacks, the best wide receivers across the nation.”

The nation, you ask?

Yep, MHS played against a team from Houston which had close to 30 Division-I players on their roster, according to Bourget.

Expect an exciting game with a share of the region lead on the line this weekend if the Tigers can pull off the upset at Cienega.

Party Crashers

While Bradshaw Mountain got most of the hype last week, it was Prescott who ended up crashing the party Friday on a chilly night in Prescott Valley.

The Badgers size eventually out-muscled the Bears speed and PHS got a key stop on fourth and two late in the fourth quarter to hold on for the 26-21 win in front of a packed house in northern Arizona. It was Bradshaw’s first loss of the season.

Senior quarterback Austin Clark was brilliant throwing for a season-high 203 yards and three touchdowns. He also helped keep Bradshaw’s aggressive defense on their heels tallying 131 yards on 17 carries and a score on the ground.

For the year Clark is already closing in on 1200 rushing yards with three games remaining to be played. His 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame often proved to be too much for Bradshaw’s scrappy but undersized defensive front seven.

Most importantly, Prescott is now 5-2, 3-0 in the Grand Canyon Region and holds the tiebreaker over currently second-place Bradshaw.

Spreading the Wealth

Despite only having 39 varsity players the 4-4 Gilbert Tigers are still managing to stay competitive in the loaded 5A San Tan Region (Williams Field, Higley, Casteel, Campo Verde…you get the idea) behind junior quarterback Will Plummer and a host of talented receivers.

“When we went into the off-season last year we were losing 23 seniors, it’s the next man up,” head coach Derek Zellner said to the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show. “Anybody’s got the opportunity to touch the ball on every single play and Will has done a great job of distributing the ball over the field.”

Yeah, you could say that.

Plummer was absolutely lights out earlier this year in a wild shootout loss to Sunrise Mountain throwing for close to 700 yards and six TD’s, as well as adding a rushing score.

Despite having to play “ironman football” as Zellner called it, I don’t think many teams would be thrilled seeing the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs if they qualify.

Gilbert also features five receivers with at least 300 receiving yards so plenty of firepower for Plummer to work with and opposing coaches to stress over.