As if Phoenix Brophy Prep’s football schedule wasn’t tough enough last year, it got tougher this year when the Broncos accepted an invitation from the Arizona and Nevada prep associations to take on the No. 1-ranked team in the nation to open the season.
Brophy Prep plays at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, at 7 Friday night in the first of back-to-back nights of the Sollenberger Classic, which pits top Arizona teams against top Nevada teams.
Defending Division I champion Phoenix Mountain Pointe plays Sparks (Nev.) Reed at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bishop Gorman.
Both games are being televised on Fox Sports Arizona Plus.
Bishop Gorman, which lost at home last year to Mountain Pointe, has won the past five Nevada championships.
“The main thing to take out of this game is to improve,” Brophy coach Scooter Molander said. “We want to continue to get better. They are tremendous. They’ve got a great team speed, and they’re very well-coached.”
Molander has never dodged tough opponents.
Two years ago, when he had quarterback Tyler Bruggman and receiver Devon Allen, Molander scheduled two games within four days to open the season in order to play Southern California power Rancho Santa Margarita.
Last year, Brophy had arguably the state’s toughest schedule, losing four of its first five games with Chandler Hamilton, Peoria Centennial, Mesa Red Mountain and Mesa Desert Ridge in that order. It also played Mountain Pointe and Scottsdale Chaparral the second half of the season, and finished 5-7, losing to Desert Ridge in the state quarterfinals.
Preseason Arizona high school football rankings: Divisions I-VI
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?
That team was hit hard by injuries.
This team figures to be better equipped to take on the big boys, including Bishop Gorman.
Senior tailback Jack Haddon, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, is back, running hard.
Defensive end Connor Murphy, who was out with a fractured arm last year, is bigger, stronger, hungrier, a big part of a strong defense.
And weight-room fanatic Ryan Velez is a year more mature at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds after a breakout sophomore season. Velez had to become the featured running back with Haddon out last year.
Now Molander will be able to do more with his offense.
Velez gives Brophy flexibility as a receiver and running back.
Brophy could go with both Velez and Haddon in the backfield and make two-way senior Isaiah Oliver a big-play receiving threat.
Oliver had an impressive scrimmage last week against Peoria Liberty, catching two touchdowns passes and intercepting a pass.
Molander wants to see improvement out of his offensive line and more than Oliver come through catching the ball.
Quarterback Cade Knox has a chance to have a big season.
It starts against the best.
“Regardless of what the score is, it will be a win by us,” Molander said. “But we know we have a huge task at hand.”
Preseason All-Arizona selections: