Zone Read: One Month Away

It’s getting so close we can taste it. 

The Arizona high school football season starts in less than a month as teams from around the state are in fall practice mode as we speak. We are on the cusp of what I believe will be an incredible year. 

Here’s this week’s “Zone Read.”

It’s A Numbers Game…Few teams in Arizona have been impacted by a decrease in football participation more than the Gilbert Tigers. As I write this, the 5A Tigers show, per MaxPreps, 22 varsity players on their roster.

How can a coach as talented and dedicated as Derek Zellner compete in a region with perennial heavyweights Williams Field and Higley, as well as up-and-coming schools like Campo Verde and Casteel?

In short, he can’t…even with quarterbacks as talented as Jack Plummer (Purdue redshirt freshman) and younger sibling and current Tigers’ starter Will Plummer (Arizona 2020 commit).

Part of the problem GHS faces is keeping kids in the district wearing the black and gold.

“The emergence of some new schools have taken kids away,” former Gilbert star, now ASU senior offensive lineman Steven Miller told the “Zone Read.” “Honestly, Coach Z. is doing an amazing job with the numbers he has. Gilbert High is starting to turn into an old high school. People are starting to go towards the Perry’s, towards the Casteel’s, towards the American Leadership Academy’s.” 

It’s crazy to think Gilbert hasn’t had a winning record since 2009. 

The times they are a changin’.

Forks Up!…The Chandler High sideline won’t look the same when the Wolves open the season later this month in Las Vegas against Liberty (NV). Sure, the three-time defending 6A champions will once again be loaded but for the first time in eight years, Shaun Aguano will be coaching in a different stadium, usually on a different day of the week.

As ASU opens practice this week, the new running backs coach has enjoyed his new roles at the college level on and off the field.

“It’s been awesome,” Aguano told The “Zone Read” on his new role in recruiting. “A lot of times I’ve used my experience on the other side [at the high school level]…it’s been incredible being on the road, building relationships with other coaches.”

Aguano, who was hired by Herm Edwards in early January, has been as much of an educator as he’s been a recruiter. 

“A lot of guys don’t have the advantage of being privy to all the knowledge out there about recruiting, especially the parents,” he explained. “I’m trying to make sure they understand the recruiting process.”

Aguano’s presence on the road has already been well-received, especially considering the commitment from Ohio’s DeaMonte Trayanum , a four-star running back who picked the Devils over Big Ten heavyweights Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Back-to-Back Big Ones…Like many of the power programs here in Arizona, Saguaro has made a habit of playing national heavyweights before jumping head-first into the bulk of their region games.

The out-of-state matchups are played back-to-back weeks which only further adds to the complexity of the situation.

“The disadvantage is the physical toll it takes on your team,” head coach Jason Mohns said to The “Zone Read.” “The positive is you find out who you are and where you are as a team very early in the season and get seven more games to fix and build on those things.”

This year’s double doozy starts with Cathedral Catholic in San Diego on August 31st, followed by a trip to Las Vegas the following weekend to take on the Faith Lutheran Crusaders.

The games are even more imperative this year for #SagU as they’ll need all the power points they can earn in hopes of landing a spot in the first-year open division playoffs later this fall.

The Number Grows…with Jaylan Jeffers picking Oregon and two days later Salpointe Catholic’s Bruno Fina committing to UCLA, the laundry list of high-level 2020 offensive linemen is flat-out impressive across the board.

Valley Vista’s Andrew Rumary, Tye Kassen from Saguaro and Chandler’s Nehemiah Magalei are still uncommitted.  

Swag Game…Everything in and around high school football in this state is getting bigger. Bigger players, bigger games, bigger prospects and even some schools raising the bar on social media.

I couldn’t help but tip my cap to Desert Vista who dropped this gem a couple of weeks ago.

The video already has nearly 6,000 views and I’m sure it has opened the eyes of some schools in and around the area about how to self-promote their program the right way.

The blessing, and sometimes curse, of social media is not only is it immediate, it can also have staying power.

It’s quite common to see colleges or fans of colleges release “hype” videos.

Have to wonder if it’s only matter of time before we see more of it at the prep level here in Arizona, as well. 

Regardless, well done DV.

Let’s Get This Started Now…When you’re out and about this fall on Friday nights please continue to use our hashtag #FridayNight360AZ on all your score updates and fun facts around Arizona. 

Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you back here next week.