Zone Read: Faith, Family, Football

First off, just wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for reading this weekly collection of information and thoughts I piece together. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with the people closest to you.

Please take time to slow life down and enjoy this week. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

Now, let’s talk some football.

Passing Plays vs. Passing The Turkey

This week is nothing new to David Inness. The likable, highly successful Northwest Christian head coach has juggled the triple option and tryptophan hangover as well as any in Arizona over the years.

You see, Thanksgiving in the Inness home is usually a hodgepodge of big dishes and big games. This week is no different as the 3A top-seeded Crusaders face annual power Yuma Catholic Friday night at Campo Verde High School. 

“It’s really, really hard,” the family-first Inness told the “Zone Read.” “I’m just thankful I married a gal that loves football. As a young coach I got so consumed that I wasn’t home much but I’ve tried to get more balanced.”

Son Dusty concurs, it’s sometimes not easy but it always memorable.

“We definitely look forward to it,” the senior defensive back/wing back/long snapper said. “My dad always says, every year, ‘It’s a good thing if we’re practicing on Thanksgiving Day.’ My dad doesn’t get much sleep this week. That’s for sure.”

Just the Facts, Please

Big-game settings and championship match-ups have become the norm for Shaun Aguano and his Chandler Wolves but certainly not routine.

Few schools have experienced the type of long-standing success as Chandler, who will be playing in their fifth-straight title game next weekend against Perry at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, but it isn’t something Aguano takes for granted. He’s constantly “shuffling the deck” in hopes of raising the bar the following season.

“Every year as soon as the season is done I set a goal and expectation for us,” Aguano explained to the “Zone Read.” “I don’t want to…expect to be in the championship again. I make it a little harder for our kids and I make it a little harder for our coaches every year.”

Don’t think for a second Aguano is immune to any of it. He actually embraces it.

“I do an evaluation of me,” he said. “I ask our coaches to evaluate me. I just want to make sure that we are progressing as a program to the highest level. How was I in big game situations? Was my demeanor comfortable? Are my demands for their work too much?

It’s tough getting to the top and even tougher staying there but Aguano and Wolves never shy away from the challenge.

So Nice, Let’s Play Twice

By now you’re well aware the 4A, 5A and 6A championship games are all rematches from last December in Tucson.

The Old Pueblo will host only one next week when 4A top-seed Salpointe Catholic tangles with five-time state champion Saguaro at the University of Arizona.

Outside of Centennial, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any team playing better ball than Jason Mohns’ ‘Cats. #SagU hasn’t allowed more than seven points to an opponent since late September and the offense has hit its stride, as well.

Dennis Bene’s Lancers understand, despite being the higher seed, they will need to play a near perfect game on November 30th.

“We are staying with the process that got us to this point,” he said. “Will it be enough to beat a Saguaro team who I believe doesn’t have any weaknesses? I don’t know. We understand that they are a heavy favorite but my kids and coaches have worked all year for this opportunity. We will play with everything we have.”

Coyote Ugly

Angelo Paffumi never had a losing record at Skyline High School. 

In his seven years as head coach he won more than twice as many as he lost and dominated the other Mesa schools in the area but he was recently fired, or “released” by Skyline’s principal. 

Paffumi’s high-level intensity may have rubbed some people the wrong way but I know his players enjoyed being pushed to reach their ultimate potential, something he did best between 2014-16 when he went 32-4. 

While he may no longer coach the ‘Yotes, his legacy lived on this week as players and students paid tribute to his success.

Sometimes you don’t miss someone until they’re gone. My guess is Skyline will know all about this in the coming months.

Never Forget

With zero returning defensive starters this fall you simply can’t say enough about the job head coach George Prelock and his staff have done getting Notre Dame Prep back in the 5A State Championship where they’ll face top-seeded Centennial next week.

A long time ago, 2004 to be exact, Prelock got his coaching break on Scott Bemis’ staff at NDP.  He’s been there ever since and owes much of what he’s learned to the late Saints’ head coach who passed away from lung cancer back in 2012.

For the eighth-consecutive year Prelock and the NDP community will honor Bemis with the playing of the Bemis Bowl, while raising money for the Bemis Scholarship, as well as cancer research.

The round robin, flag football event featuring alums and other NDP dignitaries, will take place at Bemis Field Thursday morning. 

The event is open to the public and you can get more information at NDPSaints.org

Young Life

There really isn’t much junior Jaydin Young doesn’t do for Centennial. The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder plays running back, safety and returns kicks among other tasks for head coach Richard Taylor.

In last week’s semi-final blowout of Higley Young returned a kickoff for a touchdown, blocked a field goal at the end of the first half, made a handful of tackles and took a short dump pass over the middle deep in Knights’ territory.

Expect Young’s recruitment to pick way up in 2019.