azcentral sports breaks down the sections in Arizona high school football for the 2014 season. Return each day for more sections.
Division I, Section IV
Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Mesa Dobson, Phoenix Desert Vista, Tempe Corona del Sol, Phoenix Brophy Prep.
Mountain Pointe. Still the same rugged, fast, electric dominating team.
Brophy Prep. Trying to break the injury curse that has plagued past teams and get back to being a state title contender.
The dark horse:
Desert Vista. It has a talented backfield, but will the defense hold up?
Mountain Pointe starts a new quarterback for the first time in three years. … Corona del Sol is led by coach Cory Nenaber, who played and helped coach at Corona del Sol. He came over from Maricopa. … Brophy Prep opened the season with a 44-0 loss at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, which is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. … Mountain Pointe opened last week with a 66-13 win over Sparks (Nev.) Reed in Las Vegas. It was Mountain Pointe’s 15th consecutive victory. … Dobson has not had a winning season since 2007 when it went 7-5. It has not won more than three games in a season since 2008 when it won five.
Players to watch:
Garvin Alston, Mountain Pointe, Sr., QB; Nick Carman, Mountain Pointe, Sr., OL; Isaiah Douglas, Dobson, Sr., RB/LB; Alex Farina, Desert Vista, Jr., QB; Isaiah Ford, Desert Vista, Jr., RB; Jack Haddon, Brophy Prep, Sr., RB/LB; Bruce Hester, Mountain Pointe, Sr., DL; D.J. Jackson, Dobson, Jr., WR/LB; Paul Lucas, Mountain Pointe, Sr., RB; Isaiah Oliver, Brophy Prep, Sr., DB/WR; Cassius Peat, Corona del Sol, Sr., LB/TE; T.J. Roberts, Desert Vista, Sr., RB; Cade Van Raaphorst, Desert Vista, Sr., LB; Ryan Velez, Brophy Prep, Jr., RB.
Division I, Section V
Phoenix Pinnacle, Phoenix North Canyon, Anthem Boulder Creek, Phoenix Horizon, Glendale Mountain Ridge, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.
Pinnacle. As good as its offense is, the defense might be even better.
Horizon. Another dynamic offense led by one of the state’s more efficient passers.
The dark horse:
Boulder Creek. Solid line play will carry this team far.
Pinnacle gained a big receiver over the summer with 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior Adam Turner transferring in from Phoenix Thunderbird, where he had 65 catches for more than 1,000 yards last season. … Pinnacle QB Brian Lewerke has committed to Michigan State. … Horizon scored 557 points last season but replaces most of its playmakers. … Sandra Day O’Connor opened last week with a 43-7 loss to Chandler Hamilton. … North Canyon lost its last five games last season. North Canyon boys basketball coach Mike O’Guinn’s son, Tre, is a freshman running back/linebacker. … Boulder Creek coach Brandon Willard was leading Tucson Amphitheater’s program last year … Mountain Ridge’s defense should be improved with linebacker Billy McEowen back.
Players to watch:
Julian Carter, Horizon, Jr., WR/DB; Trey Casey, Pinnacle, Sr., RB/DB; Nathan Eldridge, Boulder Creek, Sr., DL/OL; Cole Finocchiaro, Horizon, Sr., LB; Jake Grant, Horizon, Sr., OL; Gunther Johnson, Boulder Creek, Jr., QB; Brian Lewerke, Pinnacle, Sr., QB; Jonathan Nolan, Horizon, Sr., LB; John Okwoli, North Canyon, Jr., WR/DB; Ryan Parenteau, Boulder Creek, Sr., DB; Jamison Pruitt, O’Connor, Sr., OL/DL; Kamran Rawji, North Canyon, Sr., WR/DL; Cules Rose, Pinnacle, Sr., WR; Dalton Sneed, Horizon, Sr., QB; Adam Turner, Pinnacle, Sr., WR; Troy Williams, Boulder Creek, Sr., LB/RB.
— Richard Obert
Division I, Section II
The teams: Phoenix Maryvale, Surprise Valley Vista, Avondale Westview, Goodyear Millennium, Laveen Cesar Chavez, Phoenix North.
The favorite: Westview. Different coach, same team, overachieving, tough, powerful run game.
The challenger: Millennium. Tough, strong, physical defense will set the tone.
The dark horse: Cesar Chavez. This is a young team but it has good skills and the line is massive and up to task.
The intrigue: Cesar Chavez coach Jim Rattay can win his 300th career game Friday when his team opens against Glendale Mountain Ridge. … North has a new coach, Bernie Busken, who won three big-school state titles at Mesa Mountain View in the 1990s. Busken was hired only a few weeks before the season began. … Westview coach Joe Parker was an assistant under former head coach Jeff Bowen since they were at Phoenix North Canyon in the early 2000s. … Maryvale, 0-10 last season, went 11-5-3 in 7-on-7 June games, using three different quarterbacks … All five of Millennium’s losses last year came against top-10 teams. … Successive losses to Millennium, Westview and Cesar Chavez in the second half of the season kept 5-5 Valley Vista from getting into the state playoffs.
Player to watch: Cesar Avila, Millennium, Sr., LB; Rasheem Blackmon, Cesar Chavez, Jr., RB/FS; Kreshawn Braker, Cesar Chavez, Jr., DL; Jalen Cook, Millennium, Sr., FS; Abram Cook II, Valley Vista, Sr., DL/FB; Storme Donahue, Westview, Sr., QB; Duane Dorsey, Millennium, Sr., RB; Jalen Johnson, Westview, Sr., RB; Juan Martinez, North, Sr., WR; Elmondo McCoy, Valley Vista, Sr., DB; Allante Shines, Maryvale, Jr., WR; Francisco Valenzuela, North, Jr., QB; Laruni Witty, Maryvale, Jr., WR.
— Richard Obert
Division I, Section III
The teams: Mesa Skyline, Mesa, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Mesa Desert Ridge, Mesa Mountain View, Mesa Red Mountain.
The favorite: Desert Ridge. Fast, dynamic offense coupled with a fast, physical defense equals wins.
The challenger: Red Mountain. Not flashy but fundamentally sound and physical.
The dark horse: Skyline. A strong line should help pave the way to success.
The intrigue: Desert Ridge has moved on without the Morrison twins, QB Tarek and RB Taren, who did not return to the team. … Mesa has a new coach, Scott Hare, who coached in Nevada. … Desert Mountain will see what life is like on the football field without QB Kyle Allen and WR Mark Andrews, who have moved onto major colleges after leading the school the past three seasons. … Skyline won its first five games last season, before losing five of last six. … Mountain View must replace its big passing duo after winning six games last year.
Players to watch: Justin Curtis, Mesa, Sr., LB; Xavier Davis, Red Mountain, Sr., WR/DL; Alec Hathcock, Desert Ridge, Sr., RB/LB; Phoenix Hollen, Mountain View, Sr., RB/LB; Justin Irby, Desert Ridge, Sr., RB; Ethan Lewis, Red Mountain, Jr., RB; David Madrid, Desert Ridge, Sr., LB; Jon Mariscal, Skyline, Sr., WR/DB; Dimetres Moore, Skyline, Jr., QB; Turrell Pietz-Nobe, Mesa, Sr., Athlete; Tate Shumway, Desert Ridge, Jr., QB; Samiuela Taueli, Mesa, Sr., DL; Nami Tuituu, Mesa, So., OL; Deion Warren, Desert Mountain, Sr., RB/LB.
— Richard Obert
Division I, Section I
The teams: Chandler Hamilton, Chandler, Gilbert Perry, Gilbert, Chandler Basha, Gilbert Highland.
The favorite: Chandler. This may be a first, Chandler favored over Hamilton. But the Wolves will need to prove they have what it takes for the long haul.
The challenger: Hamilton. It’s still Hamilton, strong, deep, relentless and refusing to lose.
The dark horse: Basha. Lots of question marks in several areas, but it has one of the best secondaries in the state.
The intrigue: Gerald Todd, a longtime assistant at Basha, is getting his first head coaching gig, replacing Bernie Busken, who is now at Phoenix North. … Hamilton got off to a strong start, beating Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 43-7 in last week’s opener, as Garrett Rand and Caleb Peart dominated the trenches on defense … Basha is expected to start a sophomore at quarterback, but Ryan Kelley is a special player … Chandler, ranked No.1 in Division I by azcentral sports, has not won a state championship since the Arizona Interscholastic Association started a playoff system in 1959. … Chandler opens the season Friday at No. 1-ranked (Division II) Peoria Centennial. … Chandler plays at Colorado perennial power Valor Christian in the Denver area on Sept. 12. That could be one of its biggest tests of the season. … Highland opened last season with a 21-14 loss to Division III power Queen Creek. It had both Hamilton and Chandler on the ropes late in the season with a stingy defense … Gilbert coach Tim Rutt is on paid administrative leave while the district investigates him. It could be opening Thursday at Gilbert Mesquite with an interim coach. … Perry won two of its first three games last year before losing its final seven games.
Players to watch: Kyeler Burke, Hamilton, Jr., RB/WR; N’Keal Harry, Chandler, Jr., WR/DB; Tyler Johnson, Highland, So., WR/DL; Morris Kroma, Hamilton, Sr., WR/DB/KR; Chase Lucas, Chandler, Jr., RB; Steven Miller, Gilbert, Sr., OL; Mason Moran, Chandler, Jr., DB/QB; Austin Nightingale, Perry, Sr., QB; Doc O’Connor, Basha, Sr., WR; Michael Parenti, Perry, Jr., DB; Bryce Perkins, Chandler, Sr., QB; Hunter Rison, Basha, So., WR; Jared Schmidt, Basha, Sr., WR; James Sosinski, Hamilton, Sr., QB; Parker Stott, Highland, Sr., C; Austin Williams, Basha, Sr., DB.
— Richard Obert
Division II, Section VII
The teams: Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, Phoenix Arcadia, Scottsdale Chaparral, Phoenix Paradise Valley.
The favorite: Chaparral. Young team that is retooling, but there is talent and coaching to make it work.
The challenger: Paradise Valley. New coach Greg Davis inheriting good talent.
The dark horse: Notre Dame Prep. Always good numbers with great potential and a new stadium to inspire them.
The intrigue: Notre Dame is in the process of finishing its stadium, which will feature a synthetic surface, but may only get the last home game there with Scottsdale Community College still home until everything is done. … Chaparral has only three returning starters back on defense from a state runner-up team. … Chaparral coach Conrad Hamilton was the defensive coordinator on Chaparral’s 2009 and ’10 state championship teams. … Cactus Shadows is led by new coach Mike Hudnutt, who started last season at Surprise Willow Canyon before stepping down. … Arcadia left tackle Riley Kaye (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) comes from a golf family. His mom is Missy played golf at Phoenix Xavier Prep and Arizona State, like her sister, Heather, who died in 1993 at age 28 from breast cancer.
Players to watch: Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Paradise Valley, Jr., QB; Sean Paul Brophy, Sr., Chaparral, QB; Jacob Brown, Paradise Valley, Jr., WR/DB; Zach Compestine, Paradise Valley, Sr., LB; Jakob Gallagher, Notre Dame, Sr., OL; Brandon Jamison, Chaparral, Jr., DL; Riley Kaye, Arcadia, Jr., OL; Jeffrey Kindorf, Notre Dame, Jr., TE; Robbie Kleifield, Chaparral, Sr., LB; Bradley Kleitsch, Cactus Shadows, Sr., OL; Kurt Shughart, Chaparral, Jr., DB; Matt Sill, Cactus Shadows, Jr., DB/WR; Dylan Turelli, Arcadia, Jr., LB; Keenan Walker, Chaparral, Sr., OL.
— Richard Obert
Division II, Section V
The teams: Tucson Salpointe Catholic, Tucson, Marana Mountain View, Tucson Rincon University, Casa Grande Vista Grande, Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge.
Salpointe. The defending state champions began the season with a 48-9 rout of Sierra Vista Buena, letting people in Tucson know they’re not going away, despite the graduation of 15 starters.
Ironwood Ridge. Coach Matt Johnson once again has a well-trained offensive and defensive linethat will pave the way to success.
The dark horse:
Mountain View. With two talented transfers from Tucson High, the only thing that might stop them is the Arizona Interscholastic Association, after it received allegations of recruitment.
The intrigue: Salpointe senior QB Sam Muniz ran for more than 200 yards in his varsity debut as a starter. … Top LB Taylor Powell will be counted on to be a running back more this season for Salpointe … Mountain View is under investigation after Tucson High DB/WR Demetrius Flannigan and RB Bryce Coleman transferred this summer … Junior RB Cole McLafferty is expected to have a breakout season for Ironwood Ridge. … Mountain View junior QB/S Justice Summerset is one of the top high jumpers in the country in track and field. … Rincon has a new coach with Lucius Miller taking over for Virgil Henderson. … Vista Grande has not had a winning season since it began playing in 2010. … Tucson will try to regroup after losing top playmakers Coleman and Flannigan.
Players to watch:
Taylor Powell, Salpointe, LB/RB, Sr.; Austin Perkins, Tucson, Sr., QB/WR/RB; Jaylyn Juan, Salpointe, Sr., DE; Jacob Ksiazek, Salpointe, Jr., TE/LB; Justin Holt, Salpointe, Jr., DL; Justice Summerset, Mountain View, Jr., QB/DB; Josh Marlowe, Mountain View, Sr., RB/DB; Cole Lafferty, Ironwood Ridge, Jr., RB; Chase Laurita, Ironwood Ridge, Jr., OL/DL; Landon Wasson, Rincon, Sr., QB/DB; Sammy Armstrong, Rincon, Sr., TE; Deandre Walker, Vista Grande, Jr., OL/DL.
Division II, Section VI
The teams: Gilbert Campo Verde, Tempe Marcos de Niza, Gilbert Mesquite, Mesa Westwood, Florence Poston Butte.
Mesquite. Once again this will be a tough defensive team with a solid line and a balanced attack.
Campo Verde. Great defense that will be able to control clock with big, talented line.
The dark horse:
Westwood. Senior leadership continues to grow under third-year coach Spencer Stowers.
The intrigue: Westwood has 26 seniors, compared to 15 last year and eight in 2012. It returns seven defensive starters, four of whom will be three-year starters. … Mesquite has two former head coaches on Jim Jones’ staff — Tom Joseph and Roy Lopez. … Marcos de Niza lost three key players to transfers — WR N’Keal Harry (Chandler), C Vinny Vital (Chandler) and DB/WR Byron Murphy (Scottsdale Saguaro). … Campo Verde won its opener Friday 35-7 against Phoenix Barry Goldwater, getting six sacks. … Mesquite reached the state semifinals after moving down from DivisionI and in Jones’ first season as its head coach. … Poston Butte lost to Queen Creek 43-0 in Paul Moro’s first game as Poston Butte’s head coach. Moro won the last of his 13 state titles at Lakeside Blue Ridge last season.
Players to watch:
Chris Musselman, Poston Butte, Sr., LB/RB; Brandon Hatfield, Poston Butte, Sr., RB; Zac Wheeler, Campo Verde, Sr., RB; Colton Johns, Campo Verde, Sr., OL; Finton Connolly, Campo Verde, Sr., DL; Jackson Loney, Marcos de Niza, Sr., WR/DB; Colton Ketterer, Marcos de Niza, Sr., K; Michael Premraj, Sr., RB; Roy LopezIII, Jr,. OL; Jake Suddreth, Mesquite, Sr., QB; Devon Shurrod, Westwood, Sr., LB; Tevon Sinica Williams, Westwood, Sr., DB; DJ Bex, Westwood, Sr., DB/WR.
Division II, Section III
The teams: Peoria Liberty, Glendale Apollo, Glendale Ironwood, Glendale Deer Valley, Peoria Centennial, Glendale Raymond S. Kellis, Surprise Willow Canyon.
The favorite: Centennial. Fast, physical on both side of the ball, led by T Brett Tonz.
The challenger: Deer Valley. Possesses one of the state’s better defenses, in any division.
The dark horse: Liberty. This team is loaded, top to bottom, and it starts with QB/K Tyler Wyatt.
The intrigue: This may be the strongest section in Division II with not only Centennial, Liberty and Deer Valley state championship contenders, but Apollo is expected to be much improved and capable of upsetting the top teams. … Apollo has a relatively inexperienced group but the junior class is loaded with very good athletes who get noticed this year. … Apollo sophomore WR Dre Marin is playing football for the first time after starting on the varsity basketball team as a freshman. … Shawn Copeland is the new coach at Kellis, which figures to be much better than last year’s 2-8 team. … Deer Valley’s top three sack leaders are back. … Centennial could use two QBs, Daniel Smith and Isaac Steele. … Jett Robertson will move back to running back after having to take over at quarterback at Ironwood last year because of an injury to the starter. … Six Centennial sophomores were part of a Pop Warner team that won a national championship two years ago.
Players to watch: Mohamed Mohamed, Apollo, Sr., RB/WR/DB; Steffon Canady, Apollo, Jr.,
RB/TE/LB; Carson Taylor, Apollo, Jr., TE/DL; Dedrick Young, Centennial, Sr., RB/LB; Brett Tonz, Centennial, Sr., OL/DL; Brian Calhoun, Deer Valley, Sr., TE/DL; Marlon Roberts, Deer Valley, Sr., DL; Marquette Mitchell, Deer Valley, Sr., DL; Xavier Alderman, Deer Valley, Sr., WR/DB; Tyler Wyatt, Liberty, Sr., QB/DB/K; Kory Wilson, Liberty, Sr., DB; Brock Murphy, Liberty, Sr., DB; Chase Hulbert, Liberty, Jr., LB; Bryce Utter, Liberty, Jr., WR; Ryan Kammeyer, Kellis, Sr., TE/OL/DL; Alex Gallaspy, Willow Canyon, Sr., WR; Jonah Hurst, Willow Canyon, Sr., QB.
Division II, Section IV
The teams: Yuma, Yuma Gila Ridge, Yuma Kofa, Lake Havasu, Yuma Cibola.
The favorite: Cibola. The Raiders have owned Yuma public-schools football but must find a replacement for three-year starting QB Lucky Arvizo Jr.
The challenger: Lake Havasu. Returns leading passer and rusher from team that posted a winning record.
The dark horse: Gila Ridge. Has improved since losing to Cibola by just two points last year.
The intrigue: Lake Havasu finished last season winning four of its final five games. … Cibola replaces nine defensive starters. … Cibola has not lost to a Yuma school in five years. … Gila Ridge lost its first five games last year when interim coach Tom Hurt came in mid-August to try to keep the program going. … Tyler Kosel, now leading Gila Ridge, may be the youngest head coach in Arizona at 24. … Gila Ridge will go from a wing-T to a spread offense … Yuma will be senior-laden with eight starting on defense … Yuma’s last winning season came in 2009. … Kofa graduated 25 seniors from a two-win team that lost seven games by four touchdowns.
Players to watch: Brandon Kehl, Gila Ridge, Sr., QB; Luis Montano, Gila Ridge, Sr., WR/DB; Chris Gonzales, Yuma, Sr., RB; Michael Doiron, Yuma, Sr., LB; Josh McDonald, Sr., OL/DL; Tanner Peterson, Kofa, Jr., QB; Octavio Rios, Yuma, Jr., LB; Grady Atkins, Lake Havasu, Sr., QB; Austin Stefick, Lake Havasu, Sr., RB; Abraham Thompson, Cibola, Sr., RB; Michael Decorse-Hall, Cibola, Sr., WR.
— Richard Obert
Division II, Section I
The teams: Tolleson, Glendale Copper Canyon, Avondale La Joya, Phoenix St. Mary’s, Phoenix Carl Hayden, Phoenix Camelback, Phoenix Trevor Browne, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Laveen Betty Fairfax.
The favorite: Sunnyslope. As long as RB Tim Fryson is on the field, there is no stopping this team in this section.
The challenger: Betty Fairfax. It has a new coach but he has been in the system and will get the most out of overachieving players.
The dark horse: St. Mary’s. Experienced team led by arguably the state’s most prolific passer.
The intrigue: Dylan Winemiller, a top aide under Kevin Belcher at Fairfax, takes over as head coach at Fairfax. … Sunnyslope went 10-0 last year, before losing in the first round of the state playoffs. … St. Mary’s senior QB Gabe Losada was fifth in the state in passing yardage with 3,448 and tied for fifth in touchdown passes with 42 last season. … Tolleson replaces its leading passer, rusher and receiver after an eight-win season. … La Joya returns leading rusher Javian Roebuck, who had 1,212 yards last year.
Players to watch: Jullian Clark, Copper Canyon, Sr., RB/DB; Jacob Eshelman, Sunnyslope, Jr., WR/LB; Tamir Fears, Camelback, Sr., WR/DB; Tim Fryson, Sunnyslope, Sr., RB; Carlos Garcia, Tolleson, Sr., OL; Angelo Lopez, Betty Fairfax, Sr., LB/WR; Gabe Losada, St. Mary’s, Sr., QB; Manuel Orona, Trevor Browne, Jr., OL/DL; Ben Pieri, Sunnyslope, S., WR/DB; Angel Silva, St. Mary’s, Sr., LB/TE; Tino Vidales, St. Mary’s, Sr., WR/DB.
— Richard Obert
Division II, Section II
The teams: Tucson Desert View,
Nogales, Vail Cienega, Tucson Sahuaro, Tucson Sunnyside, Sierra Vista Buena.
The favorite: Sahuaro. Very athletic team led by all-everything Derik Hall.
The challenger: Cienega. Got late hot last season but it was too late to make the playoffs.
The dark horse: Sunnyside. Deep in tradition, this is a physical, well-coached bunch.
The intrigue: Cienega, which played in the state final three years ago, has a solid core returning, led by WR/DB Terrence Johnson. … Buena is going with co-head coaches, Frank Valdez and Brice Birmbeck, to lead the team. … Sahuaro’s defense could rank among the best in DivisionII. … Kevin Kuhm takes over as head coach at Nogales, which looks to bounce back after a 4-6 season. … Sunnyside returns enough experience to improve on last year’s 5-5 season.
Players to watch: Adriell Alvarado, Cienega, Sr., QB; Matt Aragon, Cienega, Sr., WR/P; Casey Carnaghi, Sahuaro, Jr., WR; Coy Colgate, Nogales, Jr., LB/FB; Derik Hall,
Sahuaro, Sr., RB/LB; Ben Jaiman, Sr., RB/LB; Terrence Johnson, Cienega, Sr., WR/DB; Omar Lloyd, Sahuaro, Sr., DB; Stephen Miller, Jr., QB/TE; Anthony Peralta, Sunnyside, Sr., Ath.; Derek Sommers, Cienega, Sr., DL/OL; Deonte Williams, Buena, Sr., WR.
— Richard Obert
Division III, Section VI
The teams: Phoenix Washington, Phoenix Christian, Tempe, Phoenix Shadow Mountain, Phoenix Moon Valley, Phoenix Thunderbird, Phoenix Alhambra, Phoenix Central.
The favorite: Tempe. Losing RB Kam’ron Johnson to Scottsdale Saguaro will hurt, but 3,000-yard passer Emanuel Gant is back in a down year for the section.
The challenger: Thunderbird. If it can find a replacement for departed QB Jake Glatting, this team will be in the hunt.
The dark horse: Washington. Will lean on the running game, and will need its defense to step up to be competitive.
The intrigue: Tempe, Thunderbird and Washington all lost in the first round of the playoffs last season. … Phoenix Christian took its lumps after moving up two divisions, but still managed a 4-6 campaign. … Alhambra went a combined 8-62 from 2004 to 2010, but is a respectable 17-13 since. … Brock Farrel takes over as the third coach in four years at Shadow Mountain. … Central failed to win a game last season and was outscored by an average of nearly 30 points. … Moon Valley made strides in coach Sam Jacobs’ second season, improving by three wins over 2012.
Players to watch: Tim Adams, Sr., WR, Moon Valley; Lakel Davis, Jr., RB, Alhambra; Emanuel Gant, Sr., QB, Tempe; Zack Gomez, Sr., LB, Thunderbird; Antwain Marlowe, Sr., RB, Washington; Emilio Sanchez, Sr., LB, Washington; Adam Turner, Sr., WR, Thunderbird; Brett Voss, Jr., DB, Moon Valley.
— Tyler Killian
Division III, Section VII
The teams: Buckeye Youngker, Surprise Shadow Ridge, Goodyear Desert Edge, Avondale Agua Fria, Buckeye, Phoenix Sierra Linda, Buckeye Verrado.
The favorite: Desert Edge. A hefty offensive line and a glut of talented skill players could land this team in the state semifinals once more.
The challenger: Buckeye. Kelley Moore’s arrival means good things for a team that had already enjoyed some recent success.
The dark horse: Agua Fria. This is mostly by default, as none of the other teams in the section look to put up much of challenge.
The intrigue: Desert Edge is 42-9 in coach Rich Wellbrock’s four seasons with the program. … Shadow Ridge must adapt to a new coach in Ray Karvis, as well as the loss of 2,000-yard rusher Chris Salsberry. … Verrado keeps trying to get over the hump, having won one, two, two, three, three and four games in its six years of varsity existence. … Sierra Linda is 4-26 over the last three seasons. … Youngker scored just 7.4 points per game a year ago. … Agua Fria was a streaky team in 2013, winning four straight games during one stretch and losing four of five during another.
Players to watch: Jordan Banister, Sr., WR, Buckeye: Art Bojorquez, Jr., QB, Buckeye; Raider Diaz, Sr., LB, Agua Fria; Ross Dietz, Sr., RB, Verrado; Kyle Doren, Sr., LB, Shadow Ridge; Roshaun Johnson, So., RB, Desert Edge; Steven Medrano, Sr., QB, Agua Fria; Feliciano Murillo, Sr., LB, Desert Edge; Eric Ruiz, Sr., QB, Verrado.
— Tyler Killian
Division III, Section IV
The teams: Bullhead City Mohave, Cottonwood Mingus, Kingman, Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, Flagstaff Coconino, Flagstaff, Prescott.
The favorite: Bradshaw Mountain. The only team from the section to make the state tournament last season returns its starting quarterback and its top two rushers.
The challenger: Prescott. Will face an upward climb to reach the playoffs, but should be motivated after missing out with a 6-4 record in 2013.
The dark horse: Mingus. Has won at least five games every year since 2005, and has the pieces to ensure that streak continues.
The intrigue: Despite its 7-4 record, Bradshaw Mountain was outscored by 13 points last season. … Flagstaff must make up for huge losses of production on offense, which include the graduation of its starting quarterback, top seven rushers and top four receivers. … Jeremiah Smith takes over at Coconino after the team went 1-9 last year. … Kingman is on its third coach in as many seasons, with Greg Tonjes stepping up in 2014. … Mohave scored just 11 points per game last season and was outscored by an average of 26.7. … Cody Collette enters his third season as coach at Prescott after going a combined 13-8 in his first two.
Players to watch: Zach Bierman, Sr., LB, Flagstaff; Tyler Bruso, Sr., LB, Prescott; Jarett Cain, Sr., QB, Bradshaw Mountain; Levin Collins, Sr., LB, Mingus; Javin Helsel, Sr., RB, Mingus; Jesus Mendoza, Sr., LB, Coconino; Doug McKee, Sr., CB, Mohave; Shane Sorrells, Sr., RB, Bradshaw Mountain; Cristo Tabaras, Jr., QB, Coconino.
— Tyler Killian
Division III, Section V
The teams: Maricopa, Oro Valley Canyon del Oro, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Tucson Flowing Wells, Marana, Casa Grande.
The favorite: Canyon del Oro. An athletic group with postseason experience and an offense that put up more than 36 points per game last season.
The challenger: Catalina Foothills. Jeff Scurran took an 0-10 squad from 2012 and turned it into a playoff team that finished 8-3 last year. Another step forward is possible.
The dark horse: Maricopa. Isaiah Pedro threw for nearly 1,500 yards as a sophomore in 2013. If his offensive line holds up, he and his team could surprise some people.
The intrigue: Canyon del Oro went 5-0 on the road last season. … Catalina Foothills increased its total scoring by 306 points from 2012 to 2013, and its defense improved by 264 points. … Chris McDonald takes over at Maricopa for Cory Nenaber, who is now at Tempe Corona del Sol. … Flowing Wells has failed to win more than two games in four of the last five years. … Casa Grande is coming off back-to-back 2-8 seasons. … Marana must replace its starting quarterback, running back and its top two tacklers from 2013.
Players to watch: Joey Dill, Sr., LB, Casa Grande; Dionte Flores, Jr., RB, Flowing Wells; Travis Howard, Sr., TE, Marana; Grant Hubble, Sr., K, Catalina Foothills; Adam Kochheiser, Sr., DB, Maricopa; Keanu Lankster, Sr., LB, Casa Grande; Jared McElmell, Sr., OL, Canyon del Oro; Isaiah Pedro, Jr., QB, Maricopa; Rhett Rodriguez, So, QB, Catalina Foothills; Tommy Sawyer, Sr., DB, Canyon del Oro.
— Tyler Killian
Division III, Section II
Tucson Catalina, Tucson Empire, Douglas, Tucson Pueblo, Tucson Sabino, Tucson Cholla.
The favorite: Sabino. And it’s not really close. The Sabercats were the only team from the section to reach the playoffs in 2013, losing in the second round to Division III champion Scottsdale Saguaro.
The challenger: Empire. Looking to build off last year’s 6-4 record, which was an encouraging introduction to the division after moving up from the small-school ranks.
The dark horse: Cholla. Ended last year on a positive note, getting half of its four wins against two of the other teams in the section.
The intrigue: Sabino and Empire were the only teams in the section to finish last season with a winning record. … Catalina, Douglas and Pueblo combined to go 0-13 on the road in 2013. … One of Cholla’s four victories came on a retroactive forfeit by Tucson Santa Rita. … Sabino outscored its opponents by 18.6 points per game last year. … Empire enters the season on a four-game winning streak. … Douglas’ Riki Valdez and Pueblo’s Brandon Sanders are the third coaches in as many years at their respective schools.
Players to watch: Emilio Araiza, Sr., QB, Sabino; Fernando Chacon, Sr., WR, Douglas; Marcus Edwards, Sr., DL, Sabino; Frankie Gomez, Jr, QB, Pueblo; Isaiah Martin, Sr., DB, Empire; Justin Pledger, Jr., QB, Cholla; Jorge Romero, Jr., RB, Pueblo; Blaze Rose, Sr., QB, Douglas; RJ Villalobos, Sr., DB, Catalina.
– Tyler Killian
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. The defending champs will face strong challenges from across the division, but especially in this loaded section.
The challenger: Queen Creek. One thing’s for sure: the running game is in good hands with senior back Weston Barlow and a stout offensive line.
The dark horse: Williams Field. Just missed a championship-game appearance last season, and should be even better in 2014.
The intrigue: Travis Schureman is in his first full season as head coach at Queen Creek after taking over for Joe Germaine in the middle of last year. … Former Saguaro coach John Sanders is now an assistant at Williams Field, coaching defensive backs. … Higley was forced to forfeit two wins last season due to using an ineligible player. … Fourth-year McClintock coach Matt Lewis was a former assistant at Saguaro. … South Mountain has just one win combined over the last three seasons. … Vance Miller takes over for Dave Aoyagi at Apache Junction, and is the fourth coach in five years.
Players to watch: Weston Barlow, Sr., RB, Queen Creek; Tyler Bloom, Jr., QB, Higley; Skyler Bollman, Sr., DL, Queen Creek; Steven Chacon, Sr., LB, McClintock; Cade Cote, Sr., OL, Williams Field; Jaxxon Fagg, Sr., LB, Williams Field; Trent Gilbert, Sr., WR, Higley; Christian Kirk, Sr., ATH, Saguaro; Kayden Lyles, So., OL, Saguaro; Cody Morgan, Sr., LB, Apache Junction.
Division III, Section I
The teams: El Mirage Dysart, Peoria, Phoenix Greenway, Peoria Sunrise Mountain, Phoenix Goldwater, Glendale Independence, Glendale Cactus.
The favorite: Sunrise Mountain. Went a disappointing 6-4 and missed the playoffs after being picked as the section favorite last year. Don’t count on two flukes in a row.
The challenger: Peoria. Rising team whose only loss of 2013 came in the second round of the playoffs. Will Babb has this program headed in the right direction in his third season.
The dark horse: Cactus. Been down record-wise the past couple of years, but Larry Fetkenhier always has his teams in the hunt.
The intrigue: Dysart’s two wins last season came against teams that went a combined 1-19. … Babb led Peoria to state championships in 1986 and 1987 as the starting quarterback. … Goldwater hasn’t had a winning season since 2007. … Independence has won two games total over the past three seasons. … Fetkenhier is two wins away from 300 for his career, and would become the fourth coach in state history to get all 300 in Arizona. … All seven coaches in the section were with their respective teams last year.
Players to watch: Chase Cord, So., QB, Sunrise Mountain; Robby Deaver, Sr., LB, Greenway; Aulbrie Frazier, Sr., WR/DB, Dysart; Frankie Leal, Jr., LB, Peoria; Jacob Leonard, Sr., OL, Sunrise Mountain; Austin Marshall, RB/KR, Cactus; Zeke Palomares, Sr., LB, Goldwater; Kooper Ray, Sr., QB, Goldwater.
— Tyler Killian
The favorite: Show Low. This is one of coach Randy Ricedorff’s biggest and most skilled teams.
The challenger: Coolidge. Fast, physical and seasoned group that will pressure teams on both sides of the ball.
The dark horse: Fountain Hills. With titles usually running through the White Mountains, this team has become an after-thought, but the offense is potent and the defense tough enough to make a serious run.
The intrigue: Goodyear Estrella Foothills has one of the more dynamic running backs at any level in junior Joe Logan. … Lakeside Blue Ridge has a new coach for the first time in 30 years with Jake Belshe taking over for legendary Paul Moro (now leading San Tan Foothills Poston Butte). … Coach Terry Staggs no longer leads 2013 state runner-up Mohave Valley River Valley, but fast, tough running back Brandon Long returns after running for 2,204 yards and 34 TDs last season. … Fountain Hills returns eight starters from an offense that averaged 24 points last seasons. … A season-ending injury last season motivated Sahuarita offensive lineman Eugene Santa Cruz, 6-4, 335, to put in the work to show he among the state’s top linemen. … Tucson Palo Verde went 9-4-1 in 7-on-7 passing games this summer, losing only to Tucson and Sahuarita. … Former Scottsdale Chaparral assistant coach Mike Olson got a late start but is energizing Scottsdale Coronado’s football, with new AD and former Chaparral head coach Dave Huffine there for support. … Chandler Seton Catholic is 36-4 in the past three seasons under coach Rex Bowser. … Carson Miller, Phoenix Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan’s line coach from last year’s Division I championship season, takes over at his alma mater, Wickenburg.
Players to watch: Dante Anderson, Jr., RB/LB, Tucson Amphitheater; Logan Barton, Sr., C, Show Low; Antonio Campanella, Sr., RB, Seton; C.J. Chacon, Jr., RB, Winslow; Wyatt Chapman, Jr., RB, Payson; Quentin Clark, Jr., QB/WR, Show Low; Mike Doka, Sr., RB, Fountain Hills; Jerome Doss, Jr., OL/DL, Tucson Cholla; Dominick Ellis, Sr., QB/FS, Coolidge; Travis Flake, Sr., TE, Snowflake, TE; Hunter Gaines, Sr., FB/LB, Wickenburg; Spencer Hall, Sr., QB, Blue Ridge; Bobby Herrera, Sr., QB, Florence; Peyton Kendrick, QB, Sr., Tucson Santa Rita; Jawon Mathis, Sr., OL/DL, Safford; Charles McCarty, Jr., RB, Coolidge; Luke McDermott, Sr., QB, Fountain Hills; Geovan Neuser, Sr., RB/S/P, Sahuarita; Emilio Salazar, Sr., RB/WR, Florence; Weston Wiltbank, Sr., TE/DL, Safford; Willie Wyatt, Jr., TE/FB, Show Low; Arick Young, Jr., OL/DL, Kayenta Monument Valley.
— Richard Obert
The favorite: Yuma Catholic. Will once again put plenty of points on the scoreboard, a season after averaging more than 43 per game on the way to a state title.
The challenger: Phoenix Northwest Christian. Last season’s first-round exit is the exception to the rule for a team that went to the championship each year from 2010 to 2012.
The dark horse: Phoenix Arizona Lutheran. Last year’s top seed has the depth and the talent to be right there again.
The intrigue: Eagar Round Valley will look to improve its defense after surrendering 63 points in the state championship last season. … Glendale Joy Christian appears primed to take another leap forward in its second year of 11-man football. … St. Johns coach Mike Morgan needs four wins to reach 300 for his career. … Tempe Prep returns a deep senior class and will play hard and fast. … Two years removed from a state-title appearance, Morenci will try to rebound after getting bounced in the first round in 2013. … Phoenix Bourgade Catholic’s passing game is in good shape with its quarterback and top two receivers returning. … With Small Schools Player of the Year Matt Munsil having graduated and his older brother, former coach Will Munsil, joining the staff at Arizona Christian University, Scottsdale Prep has two big holes to fill.
Players to watch: Travis Barney, Sr., QB/DB, Benson; Kai Cienfuegos, Sr., LB, Miami; Jagan Cleary, Sr., QB, Yuma Catholic; Brady Cook, Sr., WR, Arizona Lutheran; Taylor Fitzgerald, Sr., RB, Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian; Aidan Grantham, Sr., DB, Williams; Drew Inness, Jr., QB, Northwest Christian; Heath Motes, Sr., QB/S, Thatcher; Trent Padilla, Sr., OL, Round Valley; Carter Rodriguez, Sr., RB, Yuma Catholic; Nick Smith, Sr., QB, Scottsdale Prep; Tonka Watson, Sr., RB, Joy Christian; Ricky Wilson, Sr., LB, Queen Creek San Tan Foothills; Ryan Wilson, Sr., OL, San Tan Foothills; Ethan Workman, Sr., RB, Round Valley.
– Tyler Killian
The favorite: Bagdad. The defending champs have all the pieces to make it two in a row, including arguably the most loaded backfield in the division.
The challenger: Pima. Plenty of experience returns, with only three starters gone from last season’s state semifinalist. This year could bring the next step.
The dark horse: St. David. A perennial playoff contender in the eight-man game, this is a team that could thrive if not given the proper respect from the rest of the division.
The intrigue: Heber Mogollon should challenge again after reaching the state-championship game last season. … Salome’s hard-nosed style could lift it back into the playoffs, a season after being eliminated in the second round. … Elfrida Valley Union graduated just two players from last year’s team, and should turn things around following a disappointing 3-5 campaign. … Phoenix Valley Lutheran should have no trouble scoring points, but a lack of depth could leave it exposed if injuries strike. … Gilbert Christian appears to be underrated after making the state semifinals a season ago. … The former Mesa Prep is now Mesa Arete Prep, and Amy Arnold’s group will look to improve upon last year’s first-round playoff exit.
Players to watch: Bailey Anderson, Sr., QB, Gilbert Christian; Johnny Boren, Jr., OL, Pima; Elijah Bowie, Jr., WR/DB, Valley Lutheran; Chance Bray, Sr., LB, Joseph City; E.A. Fonte, Jr., DB, Bagdad; Joe Gaylor, Sr., DB, Mogollon; Casey Jeans, Sr., RB, Bagdad; Lane Lunt, Sr., TE, Pima; Myles Mattox, Sr., RB, Glendale Prep; Mitchell Mayberry, Jr., DB, St. David; Baylend Stephens, Jr., LB, Mogollon; Xavier Sturdevant, Sr., LB, Duncan; McKay Turley, Sr., DL, Mogollon; Laken Yargus, Sr., OL, Bagdad; Destry Yocum, Sr., QB, Kearny Ray.
– Tyler Killian