Zone Read: Messages Of Strength

I hope this finds each and every one of you safe as we continue to embark on what has been a remarkably difficult first half of 2020.

Here’s my latest “Zone Read.”

More Than Coach Speak

In the midst of civic unrest throughout our country, it’s been refreshing, motivating and inspiring to see so many Arizona high school coaches share their messages and beliefs through social media since the unthinkable killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

One who has been at the forefront is Central High head coach Chandler Hovik.

“On our Zoom meeting [Wednesday] morning we discussed how we will fight these issues together, not just for the next week but for every day moving forward,” Hovik explained to the “Zone Read.” “It is a real issue that we will take head on together.”

Bravo, Coach Hovik and all of his peers who have spoken out to help better educate the youth they coach and mentor.

Flagstaff In Focus

“Zone Read” continues to be impressed by the job the NAU coaching staff has done cornering a sizable part of the Arizona high school football landscape. 

By now, everyone is aware our state not only attracts every Pac-12 school to the desert but many of the national powers – including CFP Champion LSU to check out our high-level players.

In the cool pines of Flagstaff, head coach Chris Ball and company have picked up right where Jerome Souers left off. The Lumberjacks have become a popular landing spot and I only see this number increasing in the future.

One of those standouts from the Valley is senior starting guard Luke Rudolph, who starred at Horizon High before becoming a ‘Jack.

“These past few years at NAU have been some of the best of my life and I wouldn’t change my experience for anything,” Rudolph told the “Zone Read.” “Playing football at NAU has given me bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. I am thankful that I got a chance to represent the state of Arizona and am thankful our coaching staff is committed to giving Arizona kids like me the opportunity to represent the state and our families.”

Phase 2

We’re slowly seeing some students-athletes trickling back on to high school campuses around the state but that isn’t the case yet for both Casa Grande and Vista Grande as it was announced at a recent school board meeting both school’s facilities would not be re-opening until Governor Doug Ducey green lights Phase 2 of Arizona’s recovery.

Each were in the process implementing practices but will have to wait until Ducey deems our state ready to take the next step in our COVID-19 recovery process.

Irish Goodbye

It seemed it was only going to be a matter of time and now it’s official, Notre Dame Prep’s game against Fenwick High (IL) scheduled for August 28th in Dublin has been canceled due to COVID-19.

So where do the Saints go from here?

Head coach George Prelock told the “Zone Read” their 5A representative is actively looking to add an in-state game to replace the week zero void in their schedule due to the unforeseen change of plans.

The high school football showcase, which was made official late last August, was a part of Global Football and included a scheduled game between Notre Dame and Navy at Aviva Stadium the day after NDP was set to play Fenwick. 

Earlier this week it was announced Notre Dame-Navy would be moved to Annapolis, Maryland and played on either September 5th or 6th.

Late Bloomer

Speaking of the Saints – one of the more unique personalities the “Zone Read” has had a chance to write about and cover is now former NDP standout linebacker Brock Locnikar who will be leaving later this summer to continue his academic and football career in Boston at Harvard.

Forget the fact he tallied 241 tackles (36.5 for loss) over the last two seasons or was a state championship wrestler, what’s most fascinating about the outgoing, seemingly always smiling, 6-foot-1, 220-pound wrecking ball is what sport he participated in before he found football.

“I only started playing football when I was in eighth grade,” Locnikar said to Sports360AZ.com in a recent Skpye interview as part of our “2020 Vision” feature spotlighting student-athletes from this class. “Before that I fought for most of my childhood.”

“I did MMA fighting so that was something that always brought that contact component into me. I loved combat sports. That was my thing.”

Locnikar started boxing at age four, participating in jiu jutsu at age five and participated in his first sanctioned MMA fight at nine. 

His dad was an in-ring doctor for a number of big boxing cards.