Zone Read: On To The Quarter-Finals

The 2018 Arizona high school football season kicked off with a bang last week: outstanding individual performances, clutch plays and, per usual, a few upsets.

Friday takes us to the “Elite Eight” in many classifications with marquee matchups all over the Valley. 

So let’s get into this week’s “Zone Read” with a few things which piqued my interest since the last time I scribed this column…and remember, #FridayNight360AZ.

Casteel-ing the Show

Outside of the team who defeated them in Zero Week (Centennial), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a squad playing better football than the Casteel Colts who destroyed battle-tested Horizon last week.

By now you know all about offensive stars like Gunner Cruz, Zach Nelson, Brandt Goodwin and Jayce Knudsen but let’s give some much-deserved love to guys such as leading tackler Jehrt Flitton, sack master Cruz Webster and senior cornerback Brandon Thomas who haven’t allowed more than 24 points since a close 27-22 loss to Williams Field in mid-September.

The Higley Knights, a team Casteel destroyed back in late September, stand between them and a ticket to the semi-finals where they’ll likely get a rematch with the 5A defending state champion Coyotes (remember, that’s ki-yotes) next week.

Congrats to first-year head coach Bobby Newcombe and the Colts who have proved a lot of skeptics, including myself at times, wrong crashing the 5A party and taking names in 2018.  

Passing the Test

Earlier this week Notre Dame Prep head coach George Prelock talked to the “Zone Read” about how “smart” his team is. Despite not returning a single defensive starter the Saints find themselves in a similar position to a year ago: entering the 5A quarter-finals undefeated and playing their best football at just the right time.

Prelock and his staff not only have NDP playing sharp physically but mentally, as well. Each player on Thursday evening is given a test with blocking assignments, reads and other schemes leading into that Friday’s game.

“This is something I learned from [now Pinnacle assistant] Mike Brown when he was offensive coordinator here,” Prelock explained. “The reasoning behind it is to make sure players are prepared and understand their assignment. They have to be able to use their mind in difficult situations, especially when they’re tired.”

It’s also helpful for players to learn multiple positions should in-game injuries occur and position changes are needed.

The 11-0 Saints have certainly had all the right answers so far this season.

Good Teammate

Forget for a minute all the accolades which follow Chaparral junior quarterback and Ohio State commit Jack Miller.

Miller didn’t play in the Firebirds loss to Desert Vista in Ahwatukee Friday but showed great leadership and selflessness encouraging his teammates on the sidelines and giving a few in-game pointers to freshman quarterback Brayton Silbor who started in his place against the Thunder. These are the types of examples younger players gravitate to.

Let’s hope Miller Time lasts a full season next fall. 

Northern Exposure

He’s not always the first name mentioned when the discuss of who the state’s top wide receiver is but Hendrix Johnson’s season was an incredible one at Boulder Creek who saw their season come to an end against Chandler (join the club).

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder caught 84 passes for 1,446 yards and 20 touchdowns in 11 games. He averaged over 130 yards per game at a clip of over 17 per reception.

“Converted quarterback that has turned himself into one of the most productive wide receivers in the state,” Sports360AZ.com Recruiting Expert Jason Jewell told the “Zone Read.” “Shouldn’t be a huge surprise as he comes from an athletic family. Great character kid with fantastic grades. You know you will get his all every rep and do all of the little things right.”

He finished his stellar career against the Wolves catching eight passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson’s dad was an offensive lineman at Arizona and his older brother, Gunther, is a junior quarterback at Georgetown. 

This guy’s a big-time talent who is going to make one college very happy over the next several years.

Squeezing the Orange

I was so happy to see this appear on my timeline. Hard work pays off.

It sure looks like former Hamilton High star Jahwar Jordan is ready hit the ground running (literally) in upstate New York.

Jordan and Syracuse football: the perfect success story.