Coach Larry Fetkenhier has won more than 300 games in an incredible football coaching career. He quickly turned Glendale Cactus into a power in the mid-1980s, when he was ahead of his time with coaching philosophies.
He has turned out so many great players that he has a hard time helping me cut it down to 10.
With some help from the longest active tenured coach in Arizona, here are my 10 greatest to wear the powder blue at Cactus (these are my order):
Greatest players by school: Marcos de Niza | South Mountain | Desert Vista | Brophy Prep | Chaparral | Chandler | Mesa Mountain View | Saguaro | Agua Fria | Hamilton | McClintock | Mesa | St. Mary’s | Tempe | Centennial | Maryvale | White Mountains | Mountain Pointe | Peoria
No. 1 Jonathan Beasley, QB, 1996
An All-Arizona quarterback in 1994 and the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year in ’95, Beasley was the first Fetkenhier player at Cactus to run the no-huddle offense back when nobody in the state ran no huddle. He was given three choices of play selection every time he came to the line of scrimmage. He once threw for 396 yards in a game and wound up with 5,139 yards and 56 TD passes in his career. He was a two-year starter at Kansas State, leading the Wildcats to a huge upset of Nebraska. He has been coaching college football since 2007.
No. 2 Kyle Kosier, LB/OL, 1997
He was a 6-foot-5 All-Arizona middle linebacker in high school. It was at Arizona State that Kosier made the switch to offensive linemen, which led him to a substantial NFL career, playing for the San Francisco 49ers (2002-04), Detroit Lions (2005) and the Dallas Cowboys (2006-11). He was All-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2001. His NFL career is the longest by any Peoria district player. ASU needed help at offensive line, which prompted the Sun Devils converting Kosier from defense.
No. 3 Ryan Christopherson, RB, 1990
Christopherson was a bulldog running back who had power and speed. He averaged 10.2 yards his senior season, making All-Arizona for the Cobras. He starred at Wyoming, eventually to be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. He left as Wyoming’s all-time leading rusher with 2,096 yards from 1991-94. He had two 1,000-yards rushing seasons. He also was an Academic All-American. He went on to play in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cardinals.
No. 4 Derrick Ray, RB, 1989
He holds the school record for career rushing yards with 4,128. He might have been the fastest and most elusive running back Fetkenhier ever had. He was a threat to score every time he touched the ball. Ray scored 76 touchdowns during his career. It was a state record at the time.
No. 5 Jason Birdsong, WR, 1991
He still holds school receiving records for yards in a season, game and career, twice making all-state. He went on to play at Arizona State. He had remarkable hands and was not only a tremendous route runner but he could break away from tackles after catches for big plays.
Arizona’s best high school football programs:
No. 6 Jake Liber, DE, 2006
He was one of the greatest defenders the state saw in the 2000s. Teams had to game plan against him. He was instrumental in helping Cactus get to the Class 4A final in 2004. His senior year, he had 107 tackles, 16 sacks, four fumble recoveries, 11 pass deflections and one blocked kick. His life was cut way too soon. He died in spring of 2007 at age 19 in a car accident.
No. 7 Mickey Bell, DB/WR, 1981
Bell came before the Fetkenhier era, coached by Paul Williams. He was a talented two-way player who stood out mostly at safety, where he made all-state, before going to Utah State, where he was a receiver and kick returner from 1983-85. He still holds Cactus’ record for interceptions in a season (14) and a career (24). He went on to have a successful coaching career at Glendale Community College.
No. 8 Bret Powers, QB, 1989
A tall, rangy 6-foot-6 quarterback with a rocket arm, Powers was an All-Arizona player in 1988, before moving onto Arizona State, then to Ohio State, where helped the Buckeyes win a bowl game. Powers was one of the smartest players Fetkenhier ever coached. He was also a pretty good basketball player in high school.
No. 9 Kyle Pooler, K/WR, 1989
For 20 years, he held the state record for longest made field goal in a game with a 62-yarder. He has the school record for made points after touchdowns in a career with 146. And he was a go-to receiver for the Cobras. A great all-around athlete who also excelled on the soccer field. Pooler starred at kicker and punter at Missouri. He is a former Arizona Rattlers kicker, who was key to Peoria Centennial’s run of three straight state championships in the 2000s as the offensive coordinator.
No. 10 Jon Stoner, QB/P, 2000
The most prolific passer in school history, Stoner passed for 7,239 yards and 78 touchdowns in a brilliant career. He threw for 3,146 yards and 36 TDs his senior year. He had a combined passing and rushing 8,721 yards and 115 touchdowns in high school. He also averaged 46.6 yards a punt his last year. A talented baseball player, as well, Stoner went on to play football at San Diego State.
Arizona’s best high school football coaches:
Reach Obert at email@example.com or 602-460-1710. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert, Listen to the Which Wich High School Football Preview Show every Friday from 6-7 p.m., on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 with Dan Manucci and Richard Obert.