Best in the West: Week 0 Preview

EVERYONE REJOICE! FOOTBALL SEASON HAS RETURNED! In the past few years, Arizona has become a hotbed for football talent. In 2018, the west valley took home two state titles and is expected to be represented in the AIA’s first-ever Open Division Playoff. This ‘Best in the West’ notebook is here to preview upcoming games for west side schools and a list of every game happening in the west valley for you to go out and support your teams. Let’s jump on in and check out some of the big games happening on the west side this Friday night!

 

Game of the Week: East Anchorage (AK) vs Cesar Chavez

There will be a real treat in Laveen this Friday night with a unique group flying in from way up north. Arizona gets a taste of Alaska on Friday as the defending Alaskan Division I State Champion, East Anchorage Thunderbirds, visit the Cesar Chavez Champions in Laveen. East is ranked the second-best team in Alaska by MaxPreps and already has a victory on the season.

This is the second game of the series after the Champions traveled to the Anchorage school of around 2,000 students and sunk the T-birds 40-14 last year. The Champion’s run game put five TD’s on the scoreboard and the defense sacked the East QB five times as well led by now senior, Zachary Patterson. Cesar Chavez went undefeated in 6A Metro Region play, finishing 7-3 in 2018 and made the 6A Tournament.

The major predicament to overcome for East will be the 100-degree temperature at kickoff in Laveen. All around Alaska, an abundance of sun and lack of rain has caused a drought this summer making temperatures warmer than usual. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, that only means a daily high around the 70’s, a little cooler than the temperatures they’ll have to prepare for on Friday night.

Cesar Chavez ended 2018 ranked 12th in the 6A Conference and was knocked out in the first round by Highland. If many 6A teams are removed from the tournament to play in the new Open Division Playoff, the Champions could be fighting for a first-round home game in November. Meanwhile, this was the only blemish on the Thunderbirds’ 2019 record, and a win against a strong Arizona team could go a long way to East going back-to-back.

A win to open the season will be vital for the Champions as they head into a three-game road trip starting with Red Mountain and Queen Creek. As always, it’s exciting when teams from out of state visit the desert but it turns into an event when you see a team from so far away making the trip to the desert. We would love to have East back in Arizona as long as they bring some Alaskan weather with them along the way!

 

Making Statements on Day One

Casteel put the 5A Conference on notice last year after their huge jump from 3A. Throughout the season, they proved they could compete with best last year, ending the season ranked fourth in the conference. Once again, they face the toughest challenge of any 5A team to open the season, battling one of the most powerful teams in the state, Peoria’s Centennial Coyotes.

In 2018, Casteel was the newbie facing the ultimate test. This go-around, the Colts are contenders fighting to see what they’re made of in 2019. Meanwhile, this has become a way for the Coyotes to make a statement in their home opener showing off the talent that has grown from a junior class core to a senior class steamroller.

Centennial knocked out Notre Dame Prep with a haymaker last December capturing their fourth state championship in the past five years. With Casteel proving they’re a force to be reckoned with, this season opener could be a great way for the Coyotes to measure themselves in the 5A Conference if Casteel proves to be a top tier team again.

Senior quarterback, Jonathan Morris, is the obvious highlight of the team, but the entire offense will make headlines with multi-purpose returners like Jaydin Young and Eric Haney. Young also made nearly 100 tackles and Haney picked off four passes on defense. In 2018, the junior class score a combined 264 points, nearly 20 points per game. Did I also mention most of the special team’s unit will return too?

All the rust must be knocked off this Friday night because they’ll have to be in midseason (or maybe even post-season) form against Mater Dei in their next game on Sept. 6. This could be a historic quest on their way to a potential three-peat but there’s no time to look ahead in the journey, they have to take every game one at a time because plenty of teams want to be the one to knock the ‘Yotes off their throne, starting with Casteel.

 

Building Up and Fighting Strong

Trivia Time! What’s the best way for a team with a new coach and tons of new players to test themselves? If you answered playing the best team in the Conference, you are probably correct! The Griffins of Glendale Prep may do just that when they host fellow west valley team, Trivium Prep on Friday.

The Crimson Knights are based out of Goodyear and were ranked second in the 2A Conference in 2018. An undefeated season gave TP momentum into the state tournament but fell short in the second round against St. Johns. Trivium Prep will be out for revenge behind a defense whose top players were just juniors in 2018. Their battle for the tournament may rely on offensive productivity. Not a single returner threw a pass for the team in 2018. David Marquez led the team in rushing and ran in 23 touchdowns in 2018 and last year’s leading receiver, August Hubbard is only a junior.

Robert Addicott is taking over the program at Glendale Prep for the 2019 season. A huge highlight for GP is senior returners on the O-line, Andrew Lam, and Elijah Mizysak. The offense and its front line is in good hands. Former Sunrise Mountain JV Coach, Chris Alvarez, has come out of retirement to join the Griffins as the Offensive Coordinator to help build up the program. Even though the Griffins only went 1-9 in 2018, they were ranked above eight teams in the 2A Conference and have six home games this fall.

These two west side teams were on completely different sides of the spectrum in 2018 and both have enormously different needs and goals in 2019. The first game of the season will help both these squads blueprint their building and see what the rest of 2019 may hold.

 

Making Every Sting Hurt

If both Salpointe Catholic and Scottsdale Saguaro don’t shimmy their way into the new Open Division Playoff, it might be because Desert Edge plays the role of ‘party pooper.’ The Scorpions went 7-2 in 4A Conference play in 2018, their lone losses on the road by a mere 28 combined points to the two 4A juggernauts.

Desert Edge moved down from the 5A Conference last year and stole the West Valley Region title and third-place ranking in the postseason tournament. DEHS gets the opportunity to see both Saguaro and Salpointe Catholic again this year but this time will have home turf advantage.

Their vie to become ‘Mr. Upsetter’ begins this weekend at home against Prescott. One of the difficult parts of battle schools outside of metro Phoenix is the inability to prepare for them because of the lack of film, experience, and common opponents. In this case, the Scorpions played Prescott in last year’s opener on the road taking a 40-17 win. The Badgers have grown since then though and will send their run attack in full force. Another Badger to keep an eye on is tight end, Aaron Greene who has multiple DI offers and could spread the Prescott offense out in 2019.

If PHS moves that offense around with Greene’s talent, it will be a great opportunity for returners such as Steven Ortiz Jr., C.J. McDowell, Isaibien Ramos, Cameron Steele, and to get in the zone for their junior years.

 

Be sure to share where you’re at and join the conversation using #FridayNight360AZ and enjoy the 2019 high school football season!

 

Best in the West (8/23):

Casteel @ Centennial

Mesa @ Sandra Day O’Connor

Desert Mountain @ Apollo

Prescott @ Desert Edge

Cactus Shadows @ Carl Hayden

East (AK) @ Cesar Chavez

Washington @ Dysart

Fountain Hills @ Northwest Christian

Trivium Prep @ Glendale Prep