Best in the West: Building on the Foundation

After a season that was riddled by headlines caused by COVID-19, we once again enter an offseason of unknowns but with experience from 2021. A multitude of programs hit the turf after a season that has set the groundwork for potential success in 2021.

 

Potential for Repeat Success

Following elimination in the 2020 6A football quarterfinals, Shadow Ridge hit the weight room two weeks after the season’s conclusion. As we re-enter a COVID-filled spring season, there are a plentiful number of obstacles to once again overcome.

“From day one, they understood the expectations and rose to every challenge that was presented,” Shadow Ridge head coach, Sean Hegarty, said. “From the ever-changing COVID restrictions to the 5:30 AM practices, every coach and athlete bought in and played a part in our success during the season.” 

A 6-2 regular season with late statement wins against Mountain Ridge and Valley Vista, pushed the Stallions into the final spot of the eight-team 6A State Tournament. It was the first postseason appearance by SRHS since 2013.

Seth Gallardo picked up the starting quarterback position last offseason and solidified his spot in the season opener against Basha, completing 13 of his 16 passes and rushing for two touchdowns, in a 41-31 victory. The junior led his team, accumulating over 2,000 total yards, en route to averaging 30 points per game in 2020.

“I was repeatedly amazed by his efforts and attention to details throughout the season, this is one of the many reasons he had such a breakout year as our quarterback,” said Hegarty. “He continues to work very hard to improve his game management skills, his mastery of the offense, and is looking to have an even more successful senior season.”

Coach Hagerty looks towards soon-to-be seniors, Isaac Yates, Micah Hendricks, Torrey Oltman, and Ashton Broemer to be leaders on and off the field, as they continue to push their teammates in the weight room. Yates led the team in 2020 in all-purpose yards while Hendricks was a strong two-way player.

Glendale Prep’s Youth Movement

Another program that made strides in 2020 was 2A Conference member, Glendale Preparatory Academy, making their first playoff appearance as an 11-man football team.

The Griffins relied on several fresh-faced freshmen and seek exponential growth in 2021. A key frosh last season was Jason Cullum, who ranked third on the team in all-purpose yards and will see more balls slung his way.

“I think our diamond in the rough will be Jack Biddinger,” said head coach, Robert Addicott. “We asked a lot from him last season as a freshman, he desires to be one of our QBs, however, I see him contributing more at a different spot on offense.”

Biddinger saw a few snaps as a running back in 2020 and shined defensively in the regular-season finale against Kingman Academy. Coach Addicott believes Biddinger can also be a key contributor on defense. The soon-to-be sophomore found a way to get to the ball and made tackles, helping GP squeeze out a 26-24 victory which propelled them into the state tournament.

Samuel Terpstra will return to the QB slot for his senior year but without star piece, Malachi Mizysak, who accounted for 17 of the team’s 38 total touchdowns in 2020. Coach Addicott looks for improvement from Terpstra in reading defenses and running the offense. The team sees Terpstra’s talent, averaging over 200 passing yards per game, and need him to play to his potential.

Glendale Prep has a chance to deliver their best season in program history when the 2021 season comes around. The foundation has been set and GP’s youth continues to climb up the ranks.

 

One Final Step

A heartbreaking overtime loss to Mesquite in the 2019 4A State Semifinals was followed up in 2020 by another heartbreaker to MHS in the 4A State Championship for the Cactus Cobras. In the program’s eighth state title game appearance since 1978, the Cobras again came up a two-point conversion shy against Mesquite.

With the past two seasons ended by one-point losses to Mesquite, Cactus may be the hungriest program for a state title in recent memory with a whopping 17 starters returning for the 2021 season.

“I think we learned to just have experience at the highest game you can play in, it’s going to help all our young players so much moving forward,” head coach, Joseph Ortiz, said. “They now know what they have to do to rewrite the ending this coming up season.”

A pair of two-way stars, Joseph Lagafuaina and Ata Teutupe, will fight to cap off their senior years with state championships. A star-studded backfield will also return soon-to-be juniors, quarterback Will Galvan and running back Damian Jiles. Those four players were responsible for 23 total touchdowns in 2020.

A key component that is often overlooked on the Cobras is offensive lineman, Mason Cullop, simply described by Ortiz as, “an absolute stud.” With the pure caliber of players returning to this roster and the AIA’s decision to leave conferences as they are, Cactus has placed themselves as the team to beat in the 4A Conference.

Cactus will have a target on their back all year and will still need to prove they are worthy of earning the program’s third state title.