Zone Read: Football With A Spring Feel

See You In The Spring

Despite Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields’ best efforts, including a national petition which included hundreds of thousands of signatures, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren doubled down on postponing all fall sports Wednesday afternoon.

Two recent Arizona prep stars are now true freshmen at The Ohio State University: former Chaparral star quarterback Jack Miller and Tucson Salpointe two-way standout Lathan Ransom.

Ransom, who will play free safety for the Buckeyes, feels worst for the upperclassmen still in the program who helped paved the way for so much of OSU’s recent success.

“It’s hardest on the seniors and juniors, most definitely,” Ransom said to the “Zone Read” earlier this week. “They could really use this year to show that they’re good enough to go to the NFL. In the spring, they put in a lot of hard work. I feel really bad for them.”

The disappointment of no fall games on campus and in a football-crazed community like Columbus, Ohio was evident once the announcement was made.

“The Ohio State staff, the faculty, Coach [Ryan] Day…they were frustrated,” Ransom explained. “They were doing everything right – getting tested two times a week, social distancing, keeping our masks on. To take everything away, it’s just frustrating.”

One of the best prep players ever to play in southern Arizona said he’s already benefiting from practicing with some of the most elite talent in college football.

“Some of the linebackers, defensive linemen…every dude is just really big and really fast,” he said. “Everyone is just really talented and that’s what I was expecting. It’s fun to compete against those dudes every day. You just believe that, ‘Wow, I’m going to be special.’ You won’t see anyone better than that across the country. We face the best dudes in practice every day.” 

Ransom, who got straight A’s in his initial summer classes at OSU, said he plans on majoring in communications and minoring in business.

“I love it,” Ransom said of OSU. “It’s the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen. I’ve enjoyed it.” 

New Season, New Mindset

This summer “Zone Read” good friends Ralph Amsden and Chilly from ArizonaVarsity.com hinted a sneaky team to keep an eye on this fall would be Boulder Creek.

The Jags have always had decent talent but have been shouldered with a murder’s row schedule featuring the likes of Chandler, Perry, Liberty, Chaparral, Pinnacle, Highland, Liberty, Desert Vista…you get the idea.

2020 not only brings a new, far more manageable west Valley-based 6A schedule, but over 30 experienced, bonded seniors – including offensive mainstays in University of New Mexico quarterback commit Bear Milacek and stud running back Jacob Cisneros who rolled up 2,000 total yards and 16 touchdowns last fall.

“I love my senior leadership,” BC head coach Tony Casarella said. “I’ve waited for this group for a long time. It’s been five years [as] we’ve been bringing them up from the eighth grade. I love their work ethic…the expectations for us this year are much higher.”

Despite losing a handful of key defenders, including stud linebacker and 2019 Desert Valley Region Defensive Player of the Year Josh Van Gysel, Coach “Cass” believes there is strength in numbers to support what is expected to be a lights out offense behind Milecek, Cisneros, junior tight end Jack McFarland and three, 300-pound offensive linemen, highlighted by two-way junior star Jacob Moore – who’s also a state champion wrestler.

“I’m really excited to see us defensively,” he explained without hesitation.

Boulder Creek also takes great pride in playing for and representing their community the right way, regardless of the wins and losses.

“We are Anthem,” Milacek explained. “A lot of kids want to be heard and get recruited.”

His head coach echoes those sentiments. 

“We are more of a neighborhood football team up here,” Casarella said. “We don’t get transfers. That’s who we are. We play for each other. Every kid matters up here.”

The Jags will also be playing this season for former assistant coach Zach Hoffpauir, who tragically passed away at the age of 26 in May but not before making a major impact on the program, both on and off the field. 

Boulder Creek will be wearing “ZH” decals on the back of their helmets this year. 

A New Era?

COVID-19 has made many inside football circles consider what’s best for not only their immediate health but their long-term future, as well. 

One of those is Tucson’s Jonah Miller who committed to Oregon in March.

The massive 2021 offensive lineman helped Salpointe reach the Open Division semi-finals before deciding to transfer to Sahuaro High. Recently, the 6-foot-8, 275-pounder opted to skip his senior prep season and ramp up his academic load in hopes of getting to Eugene in the spring.

Recently, I posed the question if he could see other elite-level high high school players pulling back on part or possibly all of their senior season to avoid injuries before heading to their Power 5 destination.

“That’s an interesting question because you see it all the time in the NFL,” Miller said to the “Zone Read” during a Zoom interview. “Say a receiver doesn’t want to get hurt his senior year and he’s already good enough catch balls over senior corners. Of course he’s going to go to the league.”

“I think it applies in the same sense at the [high school level]. Am I really going to risk everything?”

Miller said those potential crossroads may become a personal decision during this football evolution, of sorts.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the decision for everyone because I think it’s a real memorable experience to win a state championship with your team members or be in those situations with your high school team,” Miller eloquently explained. “It’s definitely a decision a lot of kids are going to be in a position to make. It’s going to be interesting to see. This year definitely opened the gate for that.” 

Friday – August 20, 2020

I should wake up early pumped for Week Zero.

I should be printing my MaxPreps rosters and double-checking my storylines.

I should be Map Questing the fastest route to the high school.

I should be charging my camera batteries, clearing off disk space and triple-checking my work bag to make sure nothing is left behind.

I should be coordinating our weekly “Friday Feast” pre-game meal with Ralph and select other peers who love every single thing about this sport as much, if not more, than I do.

I should be hearing the warm-up hype music blaring through the stadium speakers as I walk through the parking lot.

I should be wondering why the field turf is so hot or why the real grass looks so dead.

I should be “taking it all in” before walking to midfield for the pre-game coin toss.

I should be tweeting in-game updates with the hashtag #FridayNight360AZ.

I should be deciding on my way home if I really want to stop by QT for a 10:00PM Dr. Pepper.

I should be sitting in the living room writing, with “Friday Night Fever” on in the background.

I should be so wired, even at 1:00AM, that I know it will be tough to get up for “College GameDay” five hours later.

This Friday, I won’t be.

But I promise you, I won’t forget the feeling of Friday nights over the next four-plus months, regardless if there’s a season or not.