The third in a series previewing high school football in the state.
Division III, Section II
The teams: 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.
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.