…and just like that, it’s over.
This weekend three more teams will hoist gold balls and script the final chapter in what’s been a rollercoaster ride of a high school season around Arizona. So many unforgettable moments, players and plays.
Soon we will be turning the page to 2019 where the story will pick up again but the script may be much different.
Until then, here’s this week’s “Zone Read.”
The Highland Hawks were right there two weeks ago, standing toe-to-toe with 6A bully Chandler. A play here or there and Brock Farrel’s team would still be playing.
Highland allowed just a single first half touchdown to Shaun Aguano’s offense.
On the other side of the ball the Hawks played smart and efficient behind quarterback Kaleb Herbert, receiver Noah Burdick and Swiss Army knife Kohner Cullimore.
How much will Perry try to mirror the Hawks’ blueprint?
One advantage for the Pumas could have is in the trenches, according to one coach familiar with both teams.
“I like Perry’s matchup up front, at least at the line of scrimmage” he said to the “Zone Read.” “They’re very effective with their stunts and can pressure with four. If they can force Chandler to throw more long down and distances, Perry will have success…because they can cover.”
— Perry High Football (@perrypumas) November 22, 2018
Preston Jones was oh so close to knocking off the Wolves in the ‘ship last year (49-42) but you have to believe a high-scoring game would once again favor Chandler simply because they have a bit more talent across the board.
Changing Things Up
Centennial’s offensive approach was evident to anyone who watched Coyotes dismantle Notre Dame Prep 42-21 in the 5A State Championship last December in Tucson. The ‘Yotes essentially played keep away, breaking down the interior of the Saints’ defense with star running back Zidane Thomas before allowing quarterback Ruben Beltran to expose the back half of the NDP secondary.
In the re-match expect the Saints to change their approach on both sides of the ball, including adding some new wrinkles, according to head coach George Prelock. He’s well aware his team is a big underdog and will need a near flawless performance to pull the upset Saturday afternoon in Tempe.
As for Centennial, one opposing head coach had this to say about their defense.
“They are fast and physical,” he said to the “Zone Read.” Their defensive line and linebackers fill the holes. I think their d-line is probably a little underrated.”
Sometimes stories do have happy endings. By now you’re well aware of Saguaro’s Marqui Johnson who transferred in from Chaparral last spring, fought the AIA and eventually won, despite missing a handful of games this fall.
I got a chance to see Johnson last summer with the Sabercats at their Cal Lutheran camp and was so impressed with how hard he worked in every drill and every practice.
He consistently drew praise from the coaching staff despite, at the time, not knowing if he’d ever play a single down for the black and gold his senior year.
His stats, much like his Hudl video, have been off-the-charts and harkened up memories of another dynamic playmaker who wore #2 a few years back for the ‘Cats (hint: he now plays for the Cardinals). Channel 12’s Cam Cox did an excellent, in-depth feature on Johnson’s journey.
Now the offers are starting to come in.
EXTREMELY THANKFUL & BLESSED TO ANNOUNCE I HAVE RECEIVED A SCHOLARSHIP OFFER TO CONTINUE MY ACADEMIC AND ATHLETIC CAREER AT NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY ‼️🏜 #AggieUp @CoachCoryNMSU @CoachMohns @MarquiDondreDad pic.twitter.com/8wuxV4trrK
— Marqui Johnson🏈🏅 (@MarquiJohnson) November 28, 2018
Don’t be surprised to see some even bigger ones in the coming weeks as a number of Power Five schools are keeping close tabs on this dynamic talent.
With most colleges either through their season or preparing for their upcoming to-be-determined bowl game, it’s common to see coaches visiting the Valley this time of year for in-home visits on committed future players.
I’ve always been curious about the general context of these visits (IE: topics of conversation, length, meals, etc.) so I spoke with one commit off the record about a recent in-home from the the school he committed to.
Attendees: head coach and position coach
Main Topics: recap of the college’s rivalry game, latest update on new football and university facilities, families’ background, how said player will fit into their scheme, scheduling an official visit to the school in the coming weeks
Food Served: pizza
Length: over two hours
Quote: “We cleaned everything. We made sure everything was perfect. We even added extra lights and decorations to our Christmas tree (laughing).
When he walked in I want to compare him to the President walking in somewhere. I was like, ‘Wow, this is the head coach in my house. This is crazy.'”
In The Catbird Seat
The off-season coaching carousel is starting to heat up with some new faces landing gigs, including one is the far southeast Valley.
👀🆕🏈 @STFHSFootball has hired @CoachSather as it’s new HC, pending @Florenceusd board approval. He served as an assistant coach with the Sabercats in 2018. Former college coach at Crown College most recently as DC & Strength/Conditioning Coach, pic.twitter.com/S1hX7PYLia
— County Line Preps (@CountyLinePreps) November 29, 2018
The Sabercats went 3-7, including losing four-straight to end the year.
Speaking of new gigs, I know the new job at Eastmark High in Queen Creek is a hot one. Expect the 60-acre campus near Ellsworth and Ray roads to attract quite a few familiar names as they begin their search for their first head coach in school history.
Eastmark is scheduled to open for the 2019-20 academic year and will be the 10th school in the QCUSD.