…and just like that, it’s over.
After a few days of reflection, I decided to share some of my favorite moments and stories from the 2019 Arizona high school football season and beyond. I continue to be humbled by the opportunity to cover this sport and share these tales both on and off the field.
Here’s a shortened timeline of some of my favorites and most polarizing from the past year as a whole.
It’s Miller Time
Life can be a fragile and few know that better than former Verrado wide receiver Dylan Miller. His miraculous story which I chronicled in January is one of luck, strength and incredible perseverance when the odds were stacked against him in the far west Valley.
Last winter Miller decided to pay his gratitude forward working for and supporting another Viper sports program in a different capacity.
Salpointe Catholic High School was a popular place this time a year ago with Power Five coaches from around the country flocking to the southern Arizona Catholic school to get a first-hand look at what eventually would be the Lancers’ quartet of high-end prospects.
Sure, we were all familiar with Bijan Robinson and Lathan Ransom but the recruitment of offensive linemen Jonah Miller and more specifically Bruno Fina skyrocketed in the early spring window.
I made a day trip to the Old Pueblo and caught up with all four to talk about the chaos on campus.
Aguano to ASU
One of the most successful and well-respected high school coaches ever in our state decided after last season it was time to take his game to the next level: literally.
ASU head coach Herm Edwards looked just down the 101 freeway to tab his new running backs coach before the Sun Devils opened their early spring workouts.
Always approachable and accessible, I chatted with Aguano about why the time was right to leave Chandler and what the opportunity presented relocating his football office to Tempe.
Staying Close To Home
While initially former Saguaro High star Byron Murphy was disappointed he slid out of the first round, “BJ” was thrilled when the hometown Cardinals selected him with the first pick of the second round (33rd overall).
I was lucky enough to be with Murphy when his name was called.
The cornerback has, for the most part, performed well as a rookie starter in Vance Joseph’s 3-4 scheme.
Kerry Taylor Saga
The most talked about head coach last summer was certainly Arcadia’s Kerry Taylor. The former ASU star and one-time Cardinals and NFL wide receiver was fired by the school before being re-hired weeks later after a sea of parental outrage pressured district officials to have a change of heart.
The Titans’ 2019 season followed script to 2018. AHS jumped out to a 3-0 start before stumblin in conference play, finishing 6-4 and missing the playoffs.
Taylor stepped down from the position early last month.
Sometimes things simply aren’t meant to be and it became evident, even after was he re-hired, that marriage wasn’t going last long.
From Memphis With Love
One of my favorite parts of storytelling, specifically at the high school level, is unearthing players and backstories which may never be told.
Despite an all-in approach from now former head coach Sean Freeman, Copper Canyon struggled to win games on the field but it wasn’t from lack of effort. One of the more underappreciated players was defensive lineman Eric “Memphis” Williams who led CCHS in sacks and tackles-for-loss in 2019.
More importantly, the Memphis native who re-located to the Valley with his family, is setting the standard in the classroom and is on pace to do something no one in his family has done before.
What more can be said about the Carter Twins and the entire staff at South Mountain, that hasn’t already?
From zero wins to region champs (7-3) in four years may surprise some but I saw it coming long before The Mountain allowed me to camp with them last summer in Ash Fork.
The culture has changed and the future is bright with a talented freshman and junior varsity team ready to re-load an already deep core group in 2020 in south Phoenix.
Bijan Runs Wild
I said it last season and I’ll reiterate my thoughts here: Bijan Robinson is the greatest prep running back to ever come out of Arizona.
While he went from unstoppable to excellent in Tucson Salpointe’s Open Division games, the soon-to-be University of Texas commit was simply special nearly every time he touched the ball in now former head coach Dennis Bene’s offense. His performance early in the season against a talented Desert Edge team was jaw-dropping.
Change of Heart
While Perry didn’t quite have the same success on the field they had the previous two seasons, the Puma football family had a big one off it as the Veach family’s prayers were answered regarding their youngest son, Shae.
Life is so much bigger than football. This is one story which is a true testament to that.
I’ll Close With This
The Open Division has revolutionized high school football in this state. Not only did we get to see the top teams, regardless of classification, square off against one another, the format allowed for lower-seeded teams like Mesquite and Liberty fulfill their dreams of holding gold balls in early December.
The recent re-classification will continue to push towards “competitive balance” everywhere and something tells me the football within our state is only get better as we close in 2020.
Again, thank you and Happy Holidays to all my #FridayNight360AZ followers and readers.
Morning of reflection: 2019 was one of the most memorable and exciting years of AZHS football I’ve covered. As the final curtain closes, just wanted to say thank you to the players, coaches and parents who helped and allowed me to share their incredible stories with @Sports360AZ. pic.twitter.com/sEuQkQDMoD
— Eric Sorenson (@EricSports360AZ) December 8, 2019