Show Low football coach Randy Ricedorff doesn’t know if he’ll ever have a more talented team than he did last year.
But, after losing to rival Lakeside Blue Ridge 14-7 in the Division IV semifinals last year, Ricedorff realizes it take more than great talent to win championships.
A team has to be healthy, hungry and hot.
Since that loss, Show Low players have been motivated to finish the deal this year. The Cougars come into the season ranked No. 1 in Division IV by azcentral sports with a big, strong line and good skill players, led by 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior receiver/linebacker Quentin Clark.
“I think we’re going to come out pretty strong,” Clark said. “We’re going to do what we know and get wins.
“Over camp, we were going, ‘We’re going to take it this year, nobody is going to stop us.’ We’re going to come out 100 percent all day and work our butts off.”
Last year’s team was loaded with seniors. Even though key spots will be filled with new players, there is enough talent to give Ricedorff confidence.
“It’s too early to compare this team to last year,” Ricedorff said. “That was a good football team we had. One of the better teams we had at Show Low. (Then-Blue Ridge coach Paul) Moro is a great coach. We got beat up. There’s a lot of things it takes to win a championship. You have to stay healthy. We have a state championship caliber team when we’re healthy. Hopefully, we’ll stay healthy.”
Show Low again has a tough schedule playing up a division against top Division III teams Gilbert Williams Field (in Week 1) and Queen Creek (in Week 3).
Those were Show Low’s only regular-season losses last season.
This team could revolve around Clark’s special talents. He will be used some at quarterback in wildcat situations. He will start at wide receiver. His college future is at safety but for Show Low he has to play linebacker.
“He might be the best player in the state at our level,” Ricedorff said.
Tight end/fullback/linebacker Willie Wyatt returns after making all-state as a sophomore.
Slot receiver/safety Garrett Means, cornerback Jarom Fawcett and center Logan Barton also comprise of the core of this Show Low team.
Show Low must replace quarterback Colby Maxwell (2,400 passing yards, 30 touchdowns last season) and 1,000-yard rusher Dallin Crandell, but Ricedorff likes the balance on offense.
“We can do both, pass and run,” Ricedorff said. “It’s a matter of taking what defenses give you and not forcing things, how we approach the game. If teams line up and try to stop the run, we’ll throw the heck out of the ball. If they sit back and play two deep safeties, it gives up the opportunity to run the ball.”
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?
Division IV rankings
No. 1 Show Low: 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 Mohave Valley River Valley: They have a new coach and a new quarterback, but Brandon Long and his 2,200 yards and 32 touchdowns returns.
No. 3 Coolidge: 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: 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: Coach Rex Bowser now has a perennial power with the last three teams going a combined 36-4.
No. 6 Lakeside Blue Ridge: The Jake Belshe coaching era begins with running back/receiver Nathan Miles doing much of the heavy lifting.
No. 7 Snowflake: Lots of lost yardage from graduation but don’t feel sorry for coach Ron Tenney, who reloads around receiver Travis Blake.
No. 8 Safford: This team is capable of winning eight games with size up front and two strong junior running backs.
No. 9 Winslow: 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: Junior RB Joe Logan returns after rushing for nearly 1,600 yards and 23 TDs, looking like a man amongst boys.
— Richard Obert
Preseason All-Arizona selections: