Zone Read: Coming Down The Stretch

We have now officially hit fall and the last four weeks of the Arizona high school football season which has flown by faster than Noa Pola-Gates. The transfers have now played and coaches around the state have a grasp of what their teams look like with the post-season approaching in less than a month.

So let’s get right to it, here’s this week’s ‘Zone Read.’

Full Nelson

After his Week Zero performance against Centennial (14 catches, 189 yards, two touchdowns) I pounded the pulpit for Casteel senior wide receiver Zach Nelson. Six weeks later I still believe he’s the most complete wide receiver I’ve seen in person this season.

He leads the state, at all levels, in both catches (59) and yards (913).

His body transformation in the past year is an incredible story of willingness and dedication.

“I sat down with my weight’s coach, Coach [Chris] Musselman, and went over a diet plan best for me and my body type,” Nelson said to the ‘Zone Read.’ “I had to eat 4000-5000 calories a day. I had to drink a lot of them through protein shakes. I would lift [weights] every day, then go home and drink a 1200-calorie shake. Through this process I went from 158 to 190 [pounds].” 

Forget the stats, the flash and the overall athleticism, what impresses me most is Nelson’s fearless approach to playing in the slot and catching balls in traffic across the middle, as well as his selfless approach to blocking downfield.

Nelson bench-presses 285 pounds, squats 405 and dead lifts 505. Are you kidding me?

“He does all the little things right,” Sports360AZ’s Recruiting Expert Jason Jewell said on this week’s Recruiting Roundup. “I do think this kid’s a Division I football player.”

He’s the total package and some college is going to be happy to have him next fall.

Racing Into The Record Books

Speaking of productive wide receivers, it’s tough to beat the feat Mesa High’s Edward Mcclendon pulled off against section rival Dobson High last week. 

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound wide receiver reeled in nine passes, seven of which went for touchdowns in the Jackrabbits 56-13 road win. His 225 receiving yards was nearly half his total through the previous four games of the season.

Did we mention he also had a fumble recovery for a score which helped tie a 6A record for touchdowns in a game (eight)?

An all-region cornerback last season, he’s averaging seven tackles a game now playing safety, good for third on the ‘Rabbits. His five tackles for loss is tied for the team lead.

Talented two-way player with good size who certainly uses it to his advantage.

Welcome to Nash-ville

At the end of August I said Horizon could easily be the best 0-3 team on the west coast. Well, since then the Huskies have won three-straight and now get ready for a huge 5A Northeast Valley Region showdown at home with unbeaten Notre Dame Prep (7-0, 3-0) Friday night.

One of the stalwarts on both sides of the ball during the Dawgs’ revival has been senior Nash Giffin who has steadily improved each of his three seasons on varsity for head coach Ty Wisdom.

“Nash has just grown up each year,” Wisdom said to the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show Wednesday morning. “The younger kids really look up to him. When we went up to camp and we voted for team captains, I’ve been a coach for 13 years and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen every single teammate voted him for team captain. As far as on the field, his play speaks for himself.”

Giffin and the rest of the Dawgs defense will have their hands full this weekend against Jake Smith and an NDP offense which is averaging 48 points a game and picking up right where they left off last season, despite having to replace a number of key players on that side of the ball.

Expect a good ‘ole fashion shootout in north Scottsdale.  

Steady At Cienega

After Jamarye Joiner took his high-flying, video game-type numbers to the University of Arizona this fall, Cienega head coach Patrick Nugent knew his 2018 quarterback version would look and play much different than in 2017.

However, even last spring he had a hunch the transition to senior Luis Morales would be smoother than some may have expected.

Clearly Nugent knows a thing or two about winning (33-9 since taking the job back in 2015), as well as the makeup of his team.

The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Morales may lack the sizzle of Joiner but he takes care of the ball and most importantly, wins games. 

“Luis has almost been perfect at times throwing the ball and running the offense,” Nugent said to the ‘Zone Read.’ “He threw his first interception last week but has been great with play-action and the quick pass game.”

The Bobcats are 5-1 and face 4-2 Buena this week in Tucson.