azcentral sports’ Richard Obert ranks the Top 10 teams in each division before the start of the 2014 season. He begins with Division I and works his way through Division VI. Is defending champion Mountain Pointe the team to beat in Division I?
azcentral sports’ Richard Obert ranks the Top 10 teams in each division before the start of the 2014 season. He begins with Division I and works his way through Division VI.
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No. 1 Chandler Wolves: Fast, physical and hungry for school’s first state championship after coming close last year.
No. 2 Phoenix Mountain Pointe Pride: Great offensive line, backs, defense and a rock-solid foundation of winning laid by coach Norris Vaughan.
No. 3 Chandler Hamilton Huskies: This might be the lowest preseason ranking since they began their rich tradition, but the ‘underdog’ role will motivate these guys more.
No. 4 Mesa Desert Ridge Jaguars: Defense will have to lead the way, but the offense isn’t bad with junior QB Tate Shumway and backs Justin Irby and Alec Hathcock.
No. 5 Phoenix Brophy Prep: Another gauntlet schedule, but this a much more mature, experience group to handle the best of the best.
No. 6 Phoenix Pinnacle Pioneers: QB Brian Lewerke has two big-play receiving treats in Adam Turner and Cules Rose to make this a special season.
No. 7 Phoenix Horizon Huskies: QB Dalton Sneed is back with a strong line and a defense that looks improved.
No. 8 Chandler Basha Bears: The Gerald Todd coaching era, it appears, begins with sophomore QB Ryan Kelley, who appears to have what it takes to lead this team to the playoffs.
No. 9 Mesa Red Mountain Lions: Wiz’s kids should be all right with depth and dogged determination.
No. 10 Mesa Skyline Coyotes: A big line, a strong defense and continued improvement under former Desert Ridge defensive line coach Angelo Paffumi make this a sleeper team.
No. 1 Peoria Centennial Coyotes: This team is loaded, top to bottom, with two-way star Dedrick Young leading the way.
No. 2 Glendale Deer Valley Skyhawks: These guys will pressure quarterbacks up and down the field and the secondary is athletic making it hard for QBs to find open targets.
No. 3 Peoria Liberty Lions: QB Tyler Wyatt is the closest thing to a one-man wrecking crew.
No. 4 Tucson Salpointe Catholic Lancers: This could be one of coach Dennis Bene’s toughest jobs, replacing so many great players from a 14-0 championship team, but the foundation was down long ago for annual success and the defense is impressive.
No. 5 Scottsdale Chaparral Firebirds: From Ron Estabrook to Charlie Ragle to Dave Huffine to Conrad Hamilton, the Firebirds’ coaching chain is linked with championships.
No. 6 Marana Mountain View Lions: Loaded with athletes, led by Tucson-transfer Demetrius Flannigan, a receiver/defensive back who committed to Arizona.
No. 7 Gilbert Mesquite Wildcats: With an all-star cast of coaches, led by Jim Jones, and a stout defense and strong run game, this team could get back to the semifinals.
No. 8 Vail Cienega Bobcats: They won their last four games but a 1-5 start was too much to overcome. This is a playoff team with so many strong pieces on both sides of the ball.
No. 9 Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks: They had a rare down season last year with five losses, rebuilding from a state championship 2012 season. But they’re on their way back up.
No. 10 San Tan Valley Poston Butte Broncos: New coach Paul Moro makes them an instant success story.
No. 1 Scottsdale Saguaro Sabercats: This is as good a team as any team Saguaro ever has had, and you can go back to the Mike Brown years in the ’90s.
No. 2 Queen Creek Bulldogs: RB Weston Barlow was unstoppable at times last season. He’s even bigger and faster and stronger now.
No. 3 Gilbert Williams Field Black Hawks: This could be one of the most improved defenses in the state with John Sanders coaching defensive backs. And with Josh Page running behind a strong line, this has the makings of a championship team.
No. 4 Oro Valley Canyon del Oro Dorados: Coach Dusty Peace is getting closer to the team he had that beat Saguaro in the state title game when Ka’Deem Carey was a junior. It’s fast, athletic, punishing and experienced.
No. 5 Goodyear Desert Edge Scorpions: They may not have the same playmakers as last year’s semifinal team, but they are big up front and they have enough electrifying skill players to keep them a contender.
No. 6 Gilbert Higley Knights: They averaged close to 300 passing yards last season and that won’t let up with QB Tyler Bloom back with main target, Trent Gilbert.
No. 7 Peoria Sunrise Mountain Mustangs: Sophomore QB Chase Cord started seven game on varsity as a freshman and put up good numbers. He has the size and poise to lead this team deep in the playoffs.
No. 8 Tucson Sabino Sabercats: Some big pieces to replace, but QB Emilio Araiza returns, making everybody around him look better.
No. 9 Peoria Panthers: Coach Will Babb continues to push the Panthers to prominence since he took over the program a few years ago from Doug Clapp.
No. 10 Glendale Cactus Cobras: Coach Larry Fetkenhier will get his 300th win with his usual high-scoring offense and a defense that will make plays.
No. 1 Show Low Cougars: One of the biggest offensive lines coach Randy Ricedorff has had. Lots of hungry seniors eager to rid the bad taste of losing to Blue Ridge in the semifinals.
No. 2 River Valley Dust Devils: They have a new coach and a new quarterback, but Brandon Long and his 2,200 yards and 32 touchdowns returns.
No. 3 Coolidge Bears: A fast and aggressive defense, along with a speedy QB in Dominick Ellis and a strong and athletic offensive line give these guys hope for a championship.
No. 4 Fountain Hills Falcons: Potent team with all but three starters returning on offense, led by strong-armed QB Luke McDermott and RB Mike Doka.
No. 5 Chandler Seton Catholic Sentinels: Coach Rex Bowser now has a perennial power with the last three teams going a combined 36-4.
No. 6 Lakeside Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets: The Jake Belshe coaching era begins with running back/receiver Nathan Miles doing much of the heavy lifting.
No. 7 Snowflake Lobos: Lots of lost yardage from graduation but don’t feel sorry for coach Ron Tenney, who reloads around receiver Travis Blake.
No. 8 Safford Bulldogs: This team is capable of winning eight games with size up front and two strong junior running backs.
No. 9 Winslow Bulldogs: Will be tough replacing leading passer and rusher from 8-4 team, but C.J. Chacon averaged 8 yards a carry and the defense is stout.
No. 10 Goodyear Estrella Foothills Wolves: Junior RB Joe Logan returns after rushing for nearly 1,600 yards and 23 TDs, looking like a man amongst boys.
No. 1 Yuma Catholic Shamrocks: Most dynamic offense at this level with their top play-makers, including running back Carter Rodriguez, back to defend the title.
No. 2 Phoenix Northwest Christian Crusaders: They should be back knocking on a championship door with most of last year’s young team back, led by junior QB Drew Inness.
No. 3 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Academy Coyotes: Very explosive, well-rounded team that will try to get the ball in the hands of big receiver Brady Cook as much as possible.
No. 4 Tucson Pusch Ridge Lions: RB Taylor Fitzgerald returns after rushing for 1,334 yards and 18 TDs and catching 14 passes for 277 yards and three more scores.
No. 5 Eagar Round Valley Elks: After feeling the sting of a 63-35 loss to Yuma Catholic in the state final, the Elks will group with a heavy emphasis on defense.
No. 6 Glendale Joy Christian Eagles: They scored more than 600 points in their first season in 11-man football and return 1,000-yard rusher Tonka Watson, along with some playmaking receivers.
No. 7 St. Johns Redskins: Coach Mike Morgan is four wins away from 300 in his illustrious career, which could happen by midseason with another seasoned, hard-nosed group.
No. 8 Tempe Prep Knights: One of the best senior classes with 18 quality players returning, along with five juniors who will start both ways. This will be a fast team.
No. 9 Morenci Wildcats: After beating Thatcher in the regular-season finale, their season ended in the first round against Thatcher. That was motivation to put in the off-season work to replicate that 2012 magical final run.
No. 10 Thatcher Eagles: QB/S Heath Motes is back after ruining a lot of teams’ Friday nights with his ability to run and pass and break up passes.
No.1 Bagdad Sultans: The defending state champion return their potent backfield of Tony Jauregui, Justin Pacheco and Casey Jeans.
No.2 Pima Roughriders: Last year’s semifinalist, led by QB Devon Kartchner and RB Andrew Judd, are aching to get back after losing only three starters.
No.3 Heber Mogollon Mustangs: State finalist loses arguably top D.VI player with graduation of Dallyn Despain, but tradition and a strong core make them title contenders.
No.4 Phoenix Valley Lutheran Flames: These guys will roll on offense with two of the more dynamic players in Elijah Bowie and Kyroin Newton. Depth may be the only issue.
No.5 St. David Tigers: Strong coaching staff returns playoff team, led by QB Travis Davis.
No.6 Kearny Ray Bearcats: Dual-threat QB Destry Yocum makes this team go. He is back running the pistol as well as anybody in 8-man ball.
No.7 Glendale Prep Griffins: This team is powered by the running of Myles Mattox and got stronger over the summer with dedicated weight-room sessions.
No.8 Gilbert Christian Knights: This state semifinal team returns QB Bailey Anderson, who threw 36 TD passes, including 10 in one game, last season.
No.9 Elfrida Valley Union Blue Devils: they only won three games last year but they return all but two players and will be a handful for teams.
No.10 Salome Frogs: Confidence was gained with a playoff win last year, look for the Frogs to play a smash-mouth style and get back for more playoff fun.
High school football preseason preparations: