The second in a series previewing high school football in the state.
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