A school that was founded in 1957, Paradise Valley’s football program started to pick up momentum in the ’70s, before turning it on in the ’80s.
With fluctuating enrollment in north Phoenix, the school has moved up and down the conferences. Coach Donnie Yantis, among the school’s greatest all-time players, established stability. He won 94 games and led the Trojans to nine state playoff appearances in 13 years, before starting Arizona Christian University’s first NAIA football program last year.
With the Trojans capping a 10-0 regular season, this seems like a good time to roll out the school’s all-time 10 greatest players list with input from Yantis and others.
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 | Cactus
No. 1 Matt Clapp, FB/LB, 2005
He was in constant beast mode for the Trojans, impacting the game on both sides of the ball. A bullish back who delivered big hits on defense, Clapp went on to play for the Oklahoma Sooners and two years in the NFL.
No. 2 Steve Bush, TE, 1992
Bush was a big target in the early 1990s, making plays after catches. He had great hands and was a tremendous blocker. After playing at Arizona State, Bush played in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, being used at both tight end and special teams and fullback.
No. 3 Paul Shields, RB/SS, 1995
Shields had 34 touchdowns in his final year at Paradise Valley and 71 in his career. He carried the Trojans on defense as well, as a big-hitting strong safety. He went to Scottsdale Community College as a defensive back, before transferring to the University of Arizona. He ended up playing a couple of seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
Arizona’s best high school football programs:
No. 4 Joel Filani, WR, 2002
A big, athletic target at 6-2, Filani made All-Arizona his senior year, before high school football turned into video games with wild stats. He had 653 receiving yards and 559 rushing yards. He went on to star at Texas Tech, where he was first-team All-Big 12 in both 2005 and 2006 when he had more than 1,000 receiving yards each season. He was sixth-round NFL pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2007.
No. 5 Daniel Bridge-Gadd, QB, 2016
Bridge-Gadd, who followed Finley, is in the midst of putting together what he hopes is a story-book ending to his prep career. He led the Trojans to a 10-0 regular season, passing for 2,667 yards and 31 TDs. He has 7,817 yards and 99 TDs in his brilliant career. He hopes to make the playoffs his greatest chapter yet.
No. 6 Ryan Finley, QB, 2013
Finley made All-Arizona his senior year, after committing to Boise State. He passed for 3,442 yards and 35 touchdowns, completing 270 of 424 passes. He also ran for nearly 300 yards his senior season. As a junior, Finley passed for 2,911 yards and 25 TDs. He won the starting job at Boise State to start his sophomore season this year.
No. 7 Jacob Brown, WR, 2016
He has rewritten the school’s record book this year and he may have three games to go in his career. He has 156 catches for 2,928 yards and 42 TDs receiving in a brilliant three-year varsity career. He is a dynamo after catching the ball, putting on an array of moves to turn short gains into big scores. He has been Bridge-Gadd’s favorite target the last two seasons. He already has duplicated the 19 TD catches he had his junior season.
No. 8 Geoff Ducksworth, RB, 2000
He set a single-season school record in 1999 with 1,819 yards. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He was turned into a wide receiver at Northern Arizona, where he played four seasons. Ducksworth had great speed and skill, an explosiveness that left his stamp on Trojans history.
No. 9 Shawn Byrnes, OL, 2005
Considered the best lineman to walk the halls of Paradise Valley. He was huge at 6-4, 300, and possessed a nasty streak and athleticism on the field. He went on to play at Texas Tech, where he was a starting center his sophomore year in 2007. He was an anchor to the line, which allowed only 18 sacks and led the nation in passing.
No. 10 Donnie Yantis, WR, 1989
Was a main part of the first Paradise Valley team to reach the state playoffs under coach Pat Lavin. During the running era of high school football, Yantis caught 117 career passes for about 1,400 yards. He was two catches short of former Phoenix St. Mary’s receiver Speedy Hart’s career state record at the time. Jordan Brown broke Yantis’ school record a couple of years ago, followed by his brother Jacob breaking Jordan’s record this year.
Reach Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.