The light has never been so bright. And Arizona high school football is basking in it.
Two Florida mega-powers – IMG Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas – are willing to travel more than 2,000 miles to play Arizona teams this year.
The quarterback pool is perhaps the deepest it has ever been with two of them – 2019 prospect Spencer Rattler of Phoenix Pinnacle and 2020 prospect Jack Miller of Scottsdale Chaparral – atop national recruiting service rankings in their respective classes at their position.
California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania may be among the nation’s leading high school football hotbeds. But Arizona has been on a fast track for a decade with year-round weather conducive to training, and urban sprawl with more communities being built and young families moving in.
And the invitations to play out-of-state teams are getting bigger and better.
IMG Academy of Bradenton, Fla., is ranked No. 2 in Super 25 football rankings. The Ascenders travel to play Chandler, No. 7 by USA TODAY Sports, on Aug. 26.
Then, No. 5 Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas travels to play Peoria Centennial on Sept. 29.
And No. 12 Salt Lake City East, the two-time defending Utah champion, travels to play four-time defending 4A champion Scottsdale Saguaro on Sept. 1.
These are three games that will shine the national spotlight on Arizona high school football.
The Chandler-IMG Academy game is being televised nationally on ESPNU.
“Proof is in the pudding,” Phoenix Brophy Prep coach Scooter Molander said. “Every year, there’s more and more college recruiters coming through. Not just the D-I schools, but Division III, NAIA schools we never heard about. We’re even getting JCs from out of state, which is new. We never had that. Thirty years ago, when I was in high school, there was on average 10 Division I football players out of Maricopa County. Twelve years ago, there was approximately 30. We have over 60 Division I football players now.”
Now, Arizona is getting the big dogs to come to them.