Zone Read: Too Many Tricks, Not Enough Treats

First, Happy Halloween to all my Zone Readers! 

Early award for most creative costumes goes to the Pinnacle coaching staff.

Best is seeing head coach Dana Zupke dressed as his son, Clay. Too perfect.

With that being said, this has been a tough week for the Pioneers so let’s start there.

Bigger Than Football

News broke and spread quickly on social media Wednesday afternoon about Pinnacle senior quarterback JD Johnson.

A childhood heart condition will no longer allow him to play football for the ‘Neers or at the University of Michigan. Props to Jim Harbaugh for honoring his scholarship and allowing Johnson to be part of the Wolverines’ program once he arrives in Ann Arbor.

There’s simply no other way to cut it: this is a tough, unexpected and sudden deal.

“JD has been an incredible quarterback, captain, teammate and friend,” Dana Zupke said to Sports360AZ.com. “Despite his terrible circumstance, he is still helping this team, providing coaching and mentorship to his replacements. I am saddened that he will no longer play this game but I am inspired by his grit and resilience.”

Johnson has always been quite the jokester and, I have to admit, he got me earlier this year.

I was off on the sideline doing an interview with wide receiver Marcus Libman just before a Pinnacle practice when Johnson yelled, “Ball! Heads Up!” Of course, both of ducked expecting the errant pass to hit us. We both turned around to see Johnson laughing and casually spinning a ball in his hands.

Don’t ever change, JD.

Another Tough One

It’s simply been a bad week for north Valley quarterbacks.

Horizon senior Jake Martinelli was lost for the season with a knee injury which will be operated on Halloween afternoon by one of the top surgeons in the country, Dr. Anikar Chhabra at Mayo Clinic Tempe.

On the field Martinelli has been a driving force in the Huskies (8-1) run to the Open Division playoffs. The dual threat signal-caller completed 97-150 passes for 16 touchdowns, against just five interceptions. He also rushed for 729 yards and 16 scores.

Now it’s time for Martinelli to mentor a close friend who will be leading Horizon’s up-tempo, spread offense under head coach Ty Wisdom.

“Canyon Funk has been by my side since eighth grade,” said to the “Zone Read” of his fellow senior quarterback. “Underrated quarterback. He is one of the smartest kids I know on the football field and I know he has been waiting for his moment his whole life…this team is so tight we all support each other.”

The bar has been set high this season and Martinelli believes the Dawgs’ offense won’t miss a beat.

“I truly think with our coaches, players and even fans, this team will not fall off in efficiency.”

Horizon closes out their regular season Friday at Desert Mountain. 

#ChapTown Revival

More on the Scottsdale feel…

…this is the time of year every head coach wants their team to be playing their best football.

Enter the 7-2 Chaparral Firebirds.

Fresh off a 28-21 upset of Pinnacle last week, the ‘Birds have reeled off five-straight and seven of their last eight as they prepare to make the trek west to Peoria to take on 6-3 Liberty Friday. 

One of the biggest key to streak has simply been health and depth.

“They’ve really turned it up, especially defensively,” one opposing coach said to the “Zone Read.” “Offensively, [Jack] Miller and [Tommy] Christakos get most of the headlines but they have playmakers everywhere.”

As we speak, Chap is on the outside looking in (barely) for the Open 8 but expect more shakeup after the final regular season edition of #FridayNight360AZ settles.