Division III, Section III
The teams: Gilbert Williams Field, Queen Creek, Tempe McClintock, Apache Junction, Phoenix South Mountain, Gilbert Higley, Scottsdale Saguaro.
The favorite: Saguaro. As good as ever on offense with an off-season emphasis on defense.
The challenger: Queen Creek. The defending state champs ran the table (14-0) last season and return perhaps the state’s best running back.
The dark horse: Higley. It will count on a sophomore quarterback, but he could be the best at that position in school history before it’s over, and he is surrounded by very good receivers.
The intrigue: Saguaro’s state quarterfinal finish last year was its worst since 2005, when it had its last losing record (5-6). … Senior QB Luke Rubenzer led Saguaro in passing (2,834 yards) and rushing (1,184) in 2012. … Saguaro opens the season Aug. 30 at archrival Chaparral in a game that could showcase the No. 1 teams in Divisions II and III. … Senior RB Matt Guida averaged 202 yards rushing a game for Queen Creek during its first state-championship season. … Williams Field reached the state semifinals last season behind QB Jeddediah Fagg and WR Cole Forsgren, who both return. … Higley TE Nick Colson transferred in from Mesa Desert Ridge. … Dave Aoyagi is in his first year as head coach at Apache Junction. … South Mountain is moving down from Division II. … McClintock, Higley, Apache Junction and South Mountain were a combined 7-33 last season.
Players to watch: Alex Anderson, Sr., OL, Saguaro; Quinn Bailey, Sr., OL, Higley; Nick Bialkowski, Sr., LB, Williams Field; Tyler Bloom, Soph., QB, Higley; Brett Darling, Sr., QB, Apache Junction; Drevonne Dodd, Sr., RB, South Mountain; Javier Figueroa, Sr., OL, South Mountain; Christian Kirk, Jr., WR/DB, Saguaro; J.T. Nettleton, Sr., DB, Saguaro; Dominic Orona, Sr., DB, McClintock; Marcus Still, Sr., WR, Queen Creek.