Zone Read: And So It Begins

As the calendar flips to October, we’re another week closer to the playoffs and all the pomp and circumstances which will surround it this year. The buzz is everywhere, so let’s start this week’s “Zone Read” right there.

The Open 8 Debate

Well, isn’t this fun?

The first week of October isn’t the time to jump to any conclusions but it is a bit discerning to see the side-by-side comparison Devon posted above earlier this week. 

Obviously, the biggest discrepancy is Saguaro who would be a “first 4 out” team if the Open 8 started this week. My good friend Ralph Amsden touched on this issue months ago: an out-of-state loss could hurt a 4A school like the Sabercats simply because, as it’s been proven before, the computers tend to favor undefeated teams, despite the fact schools like #SagU and Desert Vista lost close, down-to-the-wire showcase games against high-level national California powers (Cathedral Catholic and Notre Dame).

Look, I’ve always been a proponent for an open division playoff because who doesn’t want to see the power programs play one another? With that being said, there will always be skeptics and coaches/players/teams who will feel slighted.

In the end, let’s hope the system this fall balances itself out because nobody, including Saguaro, wants to see the ‘Cats demolish the rest of 4A if they finish the regular season 9-1 as is expected.

Oh, by the way, Cathedral Catholic is nationally ranked.

Cougar Crossroads

Without question, the biggest surprise in the initial AIA Open 8 rankings was Tucson Sahuaro who checked in at number seven.

“Why they’re listed in the Open 8 is beyond me,” Chris Eaton of Gridiron Arizona said to the “Zone Read.” “I personally think there’s a flaw in the formula when it comes to comparing 4A schools to 6A ones. [Sahuaro’s] opponents are 12-19 and their best win is Buena.”

In fairness to the Cougars or any other team some may believe isn’t deserving, these schools can only play who’s on their schedule. Sahuaro can’t dictate what numbers the computer spits out, nor should they be held accountable for it…especially just past the mid-point of the season.

This isn’t comparable to college basketball where teams stack their non-conference schedule with either high-level competition or easy win layups.

As for the Cougars… 

…Scott McKee’s team is a perfect 6-0 and have set the tone to this point with a strong rushing attack (1778 total yards, averaging 9.9 per attempt) and a stingy defense (11.6 points per game allowed). Senior running back Izaiah Davis is one of the most underrated players in the state and is well on his way to a 1,000-season with 581 yards (9.5 per carry) and six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Devyn Roberts has yet to throw an interception and a QB rating of 125.7.

McKee has built off of last year’s 10-3 campaign, their first winning season since 2014. 

Friday will tell us much more about the Cougars as unbeaten Salpointe makes the 10-mile trek east down Speedway Blvd. 

Scorpion Trail

Although Desert Edge doesn’t face an out-of-state team in 2019, the murder’s row schedule to this point and moving forward will have the Scorpions battle-tested and ready for the 4A playoffs.

Edge (4-2) has only played one team to this point with a losing record (Moon Valley) and their five other opponents (Prescott, Salpointe Catholic, Millennium, Poston Butte, Peoria) are a combined 17-7.

“We knew coming into this season we would have no easy weeks,” Desert Edge head coach Jose Lucero said to the “Zone Read.” “I think any time you play a really quality schedule, you always learn a lot about yourself. We have seen our strengths and most importantly identified our weaknesses and have taken the opportunity to focus on those areas for improvement.”

The Scorpions are on a modest two-game win streak but landmines ahead include a home contest Friday against before mentioned Saguaro, followed by a trip to Glendale to tangle with 4-1 Cactus.

Still plenty of work ahead for DE.

Still Perfect

As I predicted following their Week Zero win over Liberty, the Brophy Broncos are 6-0 heading their headline game Friday in Chandler against Hamilton.

Jason Jewell’s squad is winning with a suffocating defense, as well as a steady, two-quarterback offense.

Senior starter Matthew Winter and sophomore Elijah Warner have thrown a combined 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions in 138 attempts. The duo has completed 104 out of 136 attempts. Quite an accomplishment for two players who hadn’t thrown a varsity pass before this season.

As you can see above, I picked Hamilton this week in AZ Audibles but this is a coin-flip game between two of the top teams in the statest toughest section. Brophy has the better defense, Hamilton a better offense.

If BCP can handle Hamilton’s big offensive line and control the run game like they did against Liberty, don’t be surprised to see the Broncos roll back to central Phoenix with another signature win.

It’s good for Arizona high school football to have these two schools playing at a high level again.

Back to the Backfield

With senior Dayson Coleman nursing a high ankle sprain, don’t be surprised to see a familiar face return to the Queen Creek backfield Friday when the Bulldogs make the trip to Tempe to take on Corona del Sol.

Trey Reynolds, much like last season, is proving to be Mr. Versatilty at QC. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior who already holds offers from Washington, Wisconsin, Utah State and BYU has also played inside linebacker (what he’s being recruited as), as well as quarterback.

Reynolds, whose dad Paul was a standout linebacker at Arizona State, is averaging over 10 tackles per game and has an interception, as well.

The Wait Is Over

This week all transfer players will officially become eligibile per AIA rules and regulations. So too begins the delicate balancing act some coaches face when reshuffling depth charts heading into the home stretches of the regular season.

It’s no different at Salpointe where brothers Tobin (senior) and Treyson Bourguet (sophomore) will play at Sahuaro.

Head coach Dennis Bene told the “Zone Read” senior Jackson Bolin will start at quarterback against the Cougars but Treyson will play, as well. Bolin has been efficient when asked to throw, completing 23-31 for 489 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s only thrown one interception through the first half of 2019. 

It’s been refreshing to hear both Lancer quarterbacks have supported each other in what can be a delicate situation, considering only one can play.

Bourguet said he’s ready whenever his number is called.

“I feel blessed to be in the position I am in,” Bouguet told the “Zone Read.” “I am taking it slow and am confident in my abilities to make plays no matter the circumstance.”

Regardless of who’s behind center, having Bijan Robinson in the same backfield never hurts.