Zone Read: Playing The Transfer Game

As we continue to struggle against rising COVID19 numbers and prognostications, as well as process the unfathomable civil unrest of the past couple of weeks, here’s hoping the return of Arizona high school will brighten your summer day just a bit.

Please continue to be safe and be respectful of each and every individual around you.

Here’s my latest “Zone Read.”

Colorado Gold Rush 

As states neighboring and near Arizona continue their fight against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, the trickle-down effect of talented high school football players leaving their state for the desert continue to rise.

Maybe no school has seen a bigger influx of impact out of state transfers this off-season than the Hamilton Huskies who welcomed five newcomers this spring from the state of Colorado.

The headliner of the group is junior quarterback Nicco Marchiol, a four-star prospect with two dozen Division I offers.

So why has Hamilton become such a lightening rod for Marchiol and the rest of the Colorado crew?

“Nicco was the first one to come over,” Husky head coach Mike Zdebski said to the “Zone Read.” “The development Nick [Arvay] had last season leading us to the [Open Division] semifinals had a lot to do with it.”

Zdebski believes Nebraska, Texas and Arizona have been the three most popular states for Colorado players to transfer to and with weather playing a big factor in their final decision, State Forty Eight is pretty tough to beat.

With that being said, he believes any warm weather state – regardless of distance, will be options for players looking for a new home if there’s any uncertainty that this season may not be played due to the ongoing pandemic.

“They’re going to be looking at Florida and other states that are going to play this season,” Zdebski noted.

Marchiol is joined by brothers Jack and Jake Howell and Noah and Nathan Schmidt.    

“We Have To Use Our Platform”

“Zone Read” would argue few, if any in-state high school players, could impact a game like Saguaro Sabercat legend and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk.

Now, Kirk is using his social media to make an even bigger impact – in society as we continue to battle the civil unrest and racism many have – and continue to face in this country.

“I made sure that I spoke everything with my heart and put it all into words,” Kirk said on a Zoom conference call Wednesday morning with the media. “We have to use our platform. That was the thing about [athletes] and the position we’re in…the majority of the people on the front lines, protesting every single day. They don’t have the platform that we do and so that’s how they make their voices heard. We [athletes] need to use our platforms when he have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers to be able to portray what is in our heart. We’re finally being heard. The time for change is now.”

Kirk’s big, selfless heart comes his parents, Evan and Melissa Kirk. 

Evan is Black. Melissa is White. The conversations Christian had with parents about racism in American span not only over the past several days but far back into his youth growing up in the north Valley.

“My situation is unique,” Kirk said. “I’ve witnessed my dad be racially profiled. I’ve witnessed the racial oppression that he’s faced. It’s been tough…I give props to my mom being a White mother and birthing three Black children. Regardless of what’s in your blood or your DNA, we are seen by the color of our skin – unfortunately in society, right now. I even remember at a young age, her having to explain that to me.”

“I give her so much props in the strength to be able to tell one of your young kids, ‘Unfortunately, in this world, you’re going to be judged by the color of your skin.’ She’s been our rock through this whole thing.”

Thank you, Kirk family.     

The Weights Can Wait

As spring/summer workouts have ramped up this week, coaches have had to not only alter workout plans and schedules but adhere to the strict “Phase 1” guidelines many districts, including Paradise Valley, are mandating to keep players, coaches and staff members safe.

One of the most difficult areas to mandate is the weight room where no more than 10 players are allowed in to help with social distancing and keeping equipment clean and disinfected at all times.

Some Valley coaches, including Horizon’s Ty Wisdom, aren’t even bothering trying to navigate the possible pitfalls of the campus weight room this summer.

“It’s just a decision I made after talking with different colleagues in the state and around the country,” Wisdom said to the “Zone Read.” “With the Phases and Regulations that have been put in place, I felt it was in the best decision of our players and coaches to stay outside and get our work in there.”

Wisdom, who noted most of his players have access to local gyms if they want to lift, said he’d reevaluate the situation at the end of this month.

Greener Than Grass

Coming off their run to the Open Division playoffs in 2019, the Pinnacle Pioneers have quite a few areas to address – specifically on defense where the ‘Neers feature one of the best defensive lineman in the state in 6-foot-4, 240-pound Anthony Franklin but little else in terms of experience after holding seven of their 11 opponents in 2019 to 21 points or less, including four shutouts.

Outside of senior returning corners Dante Haynesworth and John Brooks, the back half of Pinnacle’s defense is completely unproven in terms of terms of varsity experience.

Throw in zero in-person spring workouts and PHS has plenty of work to do this summer before opening their season at home against the before mentioned Horizon Huskies on August 21st.

“We are left with only four [defensive] players with significant varsity experience,” long-time head coach Dana Zupke said to the “Zone Read.” “This year we really needed spring practice and every 7-on-7 opportunity to get our young players prepared for the upcoming season. However, nothing prepares you for Friday nights except Friday nights.”  

Pinnacle’s schedule is loaded with pitfalls, including four Open Division teams, 6A state champion Liberty, Brophy Prep and Highland.

Defensive coordinator Andrew Hurley will certainly get the most out of his group this fall.