Today’s article previewing the upcoming 2014 high-school football season looks at teams in the Valley that could be contenders for big-schools championships.
Phoenix Mountain Pointe had a season for the ages in 2013, going undefeated on its way to a Division I state championship and a spot in multiple national rankings.
This year, Mountain Pointe loses 14 starters from that title team, but does it still have a chance at replicating the unparalleled success of last season?
“Probably not,” coach Norris Vaughan said. “That team’s gone. I’m not trying to be crass, but they’re gone. If they were back, we’d be the team to beat. That’s for sure. But they’re not.”
Still, Mountain Pointe heads the list when it comes to contenders in Division I, especially if its defense can come anywhere close to the 9.1 points per game it allowed a year ago.
Chandler, with rising quarterback Bryce Perkins, and Chandler Hamilton present Mountain Pointe’s most likely challengers.
Phoenix Brophy Prep should be in the mix, a season after going 5-7 and suffering through a prolific rash of injuries that held it back considerably, though Brophy still managed to reach the Division I quarterfinals.
“While the overall record wasn’t great, it was a year in which I think leadership was re-established by the senior class,” coach Scooter Molander said. “I think it was a growth year, and I think it sets us up to have a better year this year.”
Early on, Division II looks to be a three-team race between Scottsdale Chaparral, Tucson Salpointe Catholic and Peoria Centennial.
Chaparral is adjusting to a new head coach — former defensive coordinator Conrad Hamilton — Salpointe is the defending champion and Centennial will field what coach Richard Taylor called the “strongest physical team we’ve ever had.”
“We could be there,” Taylor said. “But I can never tell at this time of year. It seems like there’s always someone who’s hungry and waiting out there, believing it’s their turn. I think after a few weeks, things start shuffling out and you can kind of see who is going to play well.”
In Division III, Scottsdale Saguaro joins Mountain Pointe and Salpointe as defending champions that could repeat in 2014.
Saguaro must replace All-Arizona quarterback Luke Rubenzer, but it still has perhaps the most dynamic player in the state in Christian Kirk.
Queen Creek, Gilbert Williams Field and Goodyear Desert Edge all are capable of deep postseason runs, as well, but Saguaro already has its eyes on another championship.
“We’ve never gone into a season without that as our Number 1 goal on the top of our list,” coach Jason Mohns said. “It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be a lot of teams looking to take it away from us. But we want to keep the gold ball at Saguaro, and we’re going to bust our butt from here until Nov. 29 to see if we can make that happen.”