Happy summer as the “Zone Read” rolls through June. Much like the NFL, there really is no off-season and always plenty to get to so here we go.
A Small Minority
Regardless of how you feel about his style and sizzle, Arizona prep football needs more Kerry Taylor’s. By this, I mean more African American head coaches.
There are 272 schools in the AIA. Below is the list of African American head varsity coaches.
Myron Blueford (Arizona College Prep)
Marcus and Mark Carter (South Mountain)
Chris Crockett (Alhambra)
Rishard Davis (Eloy)
Devin Dourisseau (La Joya)
Lamar Early (Millennium)
Sean Freeman (Copper Canyon)
Nate Gill (Sierra Linda)
Conrad Hamilton (Desert Mountain)
George Hawthorne (Skyline)
James Hardy (Ironwood Ridge)
Alonzo Highsmith, Jr. (Willcox)
Darius Kelly (Catalina Foothills)
George Kelly (Empire)
Eric Lauer (Marcos de Niza)
Bobby Newcombe (Casteel)
Brandon Sanders (Pueblo)
Kerry Taylor (Arcadia)
Joe Thomas (Buena)
Brian Walker (Tempe)
Justin Watson (Maryvale)
22 African American coaches.
Why the lack of trust?
With all due respect to the schools listed above, none of those programs are considered consistent powers. In fact, the Carter brothers and Taylor took over winless programs. Both have done exceptional work one and off the field since their arrival.
How does something like this happen and where is the dis-connect in each and every single one of these districts?
At the beginning of the 2018 football season we had three African Americans head coaches at the major college and professional levels (Herm Edwards, Kevin Sumlin, Steve Wilks).
Why aren’t the same opportunities given at the high school level?
Clash of the Titans
Some valuable lessons were learned by everyone in the Taylor fiasco. Maybe most importantly, perception isn’t always reality and a rush to judgment can make you look foolish and reckless (Scottsdale Unified School District).
Did Taylor, at times, push the envelope too far? Probably.
With that being said, his impact on the program has been drastically more positive than negative as evidenced by the six-win improvement in his first season and Taylor’s non-stop work ethic in baptizing and transforming the Titan program in less than a calendar year.
I was told one east Valley power program reached out to Taylor just hours after he was fired to gauge his interest in joining their staff.
My only hope is there are lessons not only to be learned, but absorbed on both sides. Some believe Taylor’s alleged mis-steps were simply a combination of his out-spoken personality and his inexperience as a head coach.
The biggest question now is, how long will Taylor stay at AHS before a bigger, better opportunity presents itself?
Bigger is Better
You don’t have to look far and wide around state forty eight to find elite-level offensive linemen holding numerous Power 5 offers. Arizona isn’t just loaded with quarterbacks and skill players and you could argue some of their video game-type numbers corresponds with the bigs up front doing their jobs.
So why all the success?
Take your pick.
”Today’s offensive linemen are much bigger, stronger and faster,” long-time Saguaro offensive line coach Mark Martinez said to the “Zone Read.” “They are much more athletic than yesterday’s o-linemen and for that reason we are starting to see kids blossoming into these dominating linemen they are today.”
They also have the advantage of progressive and ever-improving weight rooms and strength programs, paired with nutrition plans and maybe most importantly, coaching veterans like Martinez who’s tutored bigs for over two decades, including the last four at #SagU.
It also doesn’t hurt seeing so many o-linemen partipate in track, including former North Canyon star and current 6-foot-6, 290-pound USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson who anchored the Rattlers’ 4 X 100-meter relay back in 2017. Google it.
Touched By An Angel
Last “Zone Read” I mentioned the overall strength in numbers of the 2022 Arizona high school quarterback class, including Casa Grande’s Angel Flores or “Jelly” as he’s called by teammates and coaches.
Flores not only played but played well for the Cougars in 2018 as a freshman. After struggling early with interceptions, he threw only four in CG’s final six games.
What impressed me most was his accuracy and timing on deep balls. Flores averaged over 17 yards per attempt and completed close to 60 percent of his throws.
”Last season we put a lot on his shoulders only being a freshman but he handled it very well,” head coach Jake Barro told the “Zone Read.” “He has a tireless work ethic and is always in the weight room or in the film room trying to make himself better for the team.”
He’s also making himself better for his family, frequently assisting his mom or helping his younger siblings.