Stronger, deeper, larger football teams can withstand a few injuries. But eight?
That is the number of starters defending Division I champion Chandler Hamilton is expected to be missing for Friday night’s big showdown at No. 1-ranked Phoenix Mountain Pointe.
No. 2 Hamilton (4-0) has lost four receivers, and is expected to have linebacker Santana Sterling (the heart and soul of its defense) and tackle Casey Tucker (the heart and soul of its offense) on the sideline.
Mountain Pointe (5-0) isn’t expected to have senior running back/linebacker Wesley Payne (the heart and soul of its team), because of an arm injury suffered last week against Chandler.
Coach Steve Belles said he will never use injuries as an excuse and he knows nobody is going to feel sympathy for Hamilton, which has won seven state championships since 2003 and five under Belles since 2006. Hamilton has arguably the deepest roster in Arizona.
“If Hamilton uses injuries for an excuse, it should be a crime,” said Mesa Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock, who is just happy to have his dual-threat quarterback, Tarek Morrison, back after he missed the first three games while recovering from knee surgery.
Six Scottsdale Desert Mountain starters, including last year’s Player of the Year, receiver Mark Andrews, are questionable for Friday night’s game against Phoenix Horizon.
Buckeye, one of the smaller enrollment-wise among the 48 Division III teams, is off to 4-0 start but injuries are starting to take a toll.
“We are a program that cannot afford injuries like some others can,” Buckeye coach Bobby Barnes said. “We just never have the depth to lose three or four key players. Losing doesn’t bother me if we had our best against their best.”
Mesa High is off to 3-1 start, but coach Kelley Moore said earlier in the week he had 17 players out with either injuries or illnesses.
“The greatest thing about these kids is they continue to play over their heads,” Moore said.
Ready for Eckley
Tempe Marcos de Niza coach Roy Lopez didn’t return messages regarding the status of senior quarterback Josh Eckley, who’s had as phenomenal a start to any player in the state. Eckley suffered an ankle injury during Marcos de Niza’s comeback win two weeks ago against Sierra Vista Buena and had a setback last week in an eight-point win against Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Tucson Salpointe Catholic coach Dennis Bene, whose No. 1-ranked team was off last week, was able to see Eckley and Marcos de Niza play in person last week.
He is expecting to see Eckley on the field Friday night at Salpointe when the top two ranked teams in Division II meet.
“Our whole game plan is to account for Josh and his tremendous abilities,” Bene said. “That won’t change, regardless of what is out there. We expect him to play and we are preparing for him.”
A pair of 2-2 teams meet inside the NAU Walkup Skydome Friday night when Flagstaff plays host to Tucson Sabino. What makes it intriguing is Flagstaff is led by Ed Campos and Sabino’s head coach is his son, Jay.
The only other time father and son opposed each other was 2003, when Jay’s first Sabino team beat Ed’s last Flagstaff Sinagua team 28-14.
“Usually, during the season we’ll talk a couple of times a week,” Jay said.
“Dad, he is a great guy, a great mentor, no question. He does a heck of a job. We’ll probably talk a lot more after this game.”