Zone Read: Trick or Treat?

Happy Halloween week to all my “Zone Readers.” Thank you, as always, for checking out this column every Thursday and please stay safe this weekend in whatever holiday festivities are on your agenda.

As for football…

…for some, this week marks the halfway, or just past, mark of the regular season. For others around the state of Arizona, their Friday night lights are just about to get started.

Here’s this week’s “Zone Read.”  

The Wait Is Over

Better late than never, right?

Absolutely.

COVID wrecked the once-scheduled mid-August start to the regular season and while many programs have gotten to play a handful of games, the public schools in Tucson will strap it up for the first time this fall on Friday.

The on again, off again start has always been tentative and with cases spiking once again around the state, who knows what the future holds moving forward but, for now, it’s time to play.

“It’s certainly been a rollercoaster and not much you can plan for as policies and procedures are arising daily,” Canyon del Oro head coach Dusty Peace said to the “Zone Read.” “As a coach it’s been tough to enjoy the process as I feel like I am always on edge but seeing the boys suit up Friday will be all the joy us coaches need.”

The feeling is mutual for his opening week opposing coach – who Peace coached with and even played for.

“We have a great group of seniors and parents who have worked so hard to get on the field,” said Cienega’s Patrick Nugent. “Just the ability to get [out] and play in this tough time will be motivation enough!”

It’s good to have football back to full strength in southern Arizona…for now.

Shutting It Down

It’s no secret “Zone Read” has always been big on Ty Wisdom and the job he is doing at Horizon.

After a Week One loss to Pinnacle, the Huskies have rolled to three-straight lopsided victories over Millennium, Apollo and Gilbert by a combined score of 146-20. 

Last Friday’s short-handed victory over the Tigers earned Wisdom some special recognition.

Due to COVID outbreaks. Horizon was forced to cancel their next two games against Saguaro and Maricopa.

The latest roadblock has been both frustrating and humbling.

“Not a lot of good at all,” Wisdom said to the “Zone Read.” “Obviously, there’s no book for taking two weeks off and then trying to regroup to play two very good opponents at the end of the year.”

As the entire program (freshman, junior varsity, varsity) quarantine, he is hopeful each player will independently step up over the next couple of weeks with a great opportunity still ahead next month when they hopefully return to game action.

“In order for us to be ready, obviously, everybody has to do their part,” he noted. “Working out, watching film, etc…not being able to be together as a team is difficult, especially with how young of a team we have. Our guys continue to have great attitudes and I know when we get the opportunity to get back on the field they will make the most of it.”

The Huskies are scheduled to host Campo Verde and Notre Dame Prep to close out the regular season.

Freshmen Attention

“Zone Read” would argue there is no more impactful person on the Arizona high school football scene than Chilly from ArizonaVarsity

His visibility is evident from the moment he steps on campus.

Chilly’s “Sideline Vlog” is a staple in and around the AZHS scene and its ajacent social media landing spots but in recent years he’s begun spotlighting players at the freshmen level, as well.

It started with Chandler’s ridiculous 2019 class which featured future Division I players like Jacob Conover (BYU), DeCarlos Brooks (Cal) and Brayden Liebrock (Texas).

Since then, his coverage has expanded.

“For the class of 2022 I created readable ‘watch lists’ and actually took ‘The Sideline Vlog’ to freshmen games,” he noted to the “Zone Read.” “For 2023 I created a post-season class ranking and now for the 2024 class I unveiled a preseason ‘watchlist’ that was seperated by position and ranking.”

Most recently he started his #Freshmen15 – I see what you did there, Chilly – which is dedicated to the freshmen level and streams live on his personal twitter (@JUSTCHILLY) once a week.

The greater purpose is to not only help promote players to watch at the freshman level but further educate families on the potential pitfalls and general craziness of this sport as it continues to grow and prosper in State 48.

Bravo, Chilly.

‘Tukee Troubles

Raise your hand if you had Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe a combined 0-8 entering their respective games this week?

Exactly.

It’s been tough sledding for two programs usually overflowing with talent. Sure, MP has been down a bit but first-year head coach Eric Lauer is absolutely the right person for that job and don’t kid yourself, the Pride will be back where they need to be sooner than later considering some of their pieces on offense, most notably quarterback Amier Boyd-Matthews and running back Cam Gillum. 

However, offense has been a problem through the first four games. Mountain Pointe has already been shut out twice and the road gets no easier with Corona del Sol (4-0), Mountain View (4-0) and Queen Creek coming up before their annual showdown with DV.

About four miles south the learning curve and unforseen circumstances for the 0-4 Thunder have been just as steep.

“It’s been a challenge this season due to the shutdown that was imposed by our district, along with a really young team with little varsity experience,” head coach Dan Hinds explained to the “Zone Read.” “This season of COVID is not typical of DV football. We will hit the reset button the Monday after our last home game…we have a ton of returning talent next year.”

As for the next two weeks – the Thunder will face the teeth of the southeast Valley hosting expected Open Eight participants Hamilton and Chandler.

Yuck.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.