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GRIDIRON ARIZONA

Your Source for 6A & 5A High School Football Scores, Schedules, and Power Points

2016 Playoffs

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CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

6A

GAME OF NOV. 26, 2016:

   
(2) Chandler 36
(1) Mountain Pointe     17

(Game @ University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale)

 

 

5A

GAME OF NOV. 26, 2016:

   
(5) Centennial 6
(2) Williams Field     14

(Game @ University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale)

 

All Grown up Dawgs champs again

LB McKinney part of 5 Williams Field players with unique double

WEEKLY BLOG:  12/4/16

Just over a week ago, Williams Field claimed the 5A State Championship, the first in school history.

It was a team that many thought would be very good.  In the Arizona Varsity Media Poll, the Black Hawks were ranked #4 in the preseason, which is also where I had them on my ballot.  But, WFHS exceeded those expectations with an undefeated season.  Despite being the #2 seed (compared to Centennial's #5), many in the media (yes, myself included) thought it would be the Coyotes winning a third straight gold ball.  To see the details of that game, click HERE.

So, who are these guys?

We know about their All-World kicker, Brandon Ruiz, who boomed field goals of 53 and 58 yards in consecutive weeks during these playoffs and will be taking his talents to Alabama.  Colleges have picked up on wide receiver Justis Stokes in recruiting, who has earned offers from Big Sky schools Northern Arizona and Southern Utah in the past month.  Tre' Bugg was the star player in the title game with his scoop and score touchdown in the first half and game-saving interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.  Bugg was visited by Montana coaches this week.  The Black Hawks are led by former Sun Devil quarterback Steve Campbell, who has run the program as a model of consistency as its only head coach (record 95-18 at Williams Field).  This season, it was a senior-laden team with a balanced offense and a tenacious defense that limited Centennial's 2,000-yard rusher Zidane Thomas to just one run of 20+ yards.

And then there are five players that don't necessarily get as many headlines, but do the work necessary for success in a team sport.  Braden Valentine, Max Fine, Zane McKinney, Justin Vaught, and Jackson Vaught will always carry the memory of being teammates during this special Williams Field season.  They share another common bond, as well.  Each of them is a state champion for the second time.

No, this isn't an article about students looking for greener pastures and transferring schools.  This is about a group of five boys that grew up playing together in the same Gilbert neighborhood and, ultimately, took their teams to the highest level of success that you can in a single season.  Twice.

Before Valentine, Fine, McKinney, and the Vaughts were Black Hawks, they were Gilbert Dawgs.  In 2008, the same year Williams Field played under the Friday night lights for the first time, the Dawgs were taking the field on Saturdays and won the state title.  The AYF program has continued to excel as the Dawgs won another state title this year, defeating the SEV Thunder at Sun Devil Stadium last month.

McKinney and Valentine are linebackers that ranked 1 and 2, respectively in tackles each of the past two seasons.  The many years of playing experience has helped.

"They have a great knack of understanding of the game," Campbell said.  "They read keys and see the game the old-school way."

McKinney set a school record for tackles with 155 this season (64 solo), playing much bigger than his 5-9 height.  Eighteen of those resulted in losses for the offense and he also forced five fumbles.  In his youth days, McKinney was a running back and didn't take up linebacker until his sophomore year.  He credits the guys up front for his flourishing this year.

"Without my D-line and my other linebackers feeding me all season, a record doesn't matter," McKinney said in an e-mail interview.  "No one on our team besides our kicker is spectacular, but together we formed a brotherhood and it made us unstoppable."

Valentine was close behind with 138 tackles this season with 18 coming in a region game against Mesquite.  His interception in the second quarter of the championship game was his fifth of the year.  Valentine is involved in Link Crew outside of football.  It's one of the most popular clubs at WFHS and helps integrate the freshmen into the school and provide leadership to them.  When it comes to tackling, it's a combination of talent and want.

"Over the years, my coaches have really emphasized proper technique when tackling," Valentine said in an e-mail interview.  "They stressed keeping our feet and driving up once we made contact.  They always talked about angles to put us in the position to tackle the ball carrier.  Our linebacker coach said it's 90 percent heart."

On the offense, Fine had 1,143 yards and 10 touchdowns averaging 20.4 yards per reception (56 catches).  Against Poston Butte, he had 149 yards and two touchdowns with just four receptions.  Twice in the title game, Fine caught passes on third down to move the chains.  But, if you want to call him a 'possession receiver', that would be wrong.

"He's more dynamic than people give him credit for," Campbell said.  "His body-space awareness is phenomenal."

Campbell is referring to where the defender is at compared to where Fine is running his route.  The 6-2, 215-pound receiver is unbelievably competitive and carries a confidence which helps in those clutch situations.  Fine is the only one in this group of five with college offers.  Adams State (Division II) and Arizona Christian (NAIA) have made them.  He has also been talking to a few FCS schools.  Fine has never played on a losing football team throughout his life and credits the coaches for valuable knowledge he has obtained beyond football.

"I have learned many life lessons from my coaches throughout my football career," Fine said in an e-mail interview.  "They have taught me how to be a man, how to work hard, and what it takes to be successful."

Justin Vaught plays tight end in the pro-style, two-back offense that Williams Field employs.  It's an offense that operates out of multiple formations and ran the ball 61 percent of the time this season.  That means few opportunities for Vaught to put up statistics (3 catches, 36 yards, 1 touchdown), but he does the dirty work when it comes to blocking for the rushing game. 

"Every year the tight end gets more valuable because people don't run it anymore," Campbell said.  "He relished the term of being an extension of the offensive line."

Vaught spent the majority of his time at practice with the offensive line and embraced the "hold the rope" mantra of the squad.  He is also a varsity baseball player that batted .353 last spring and won three games on the mound.  This year, Justin also took advantage of the chance to win a championship with his younger brother.

"It's a great feeling," Justin Vaught said in an e-mail interview.  "Not many people get the opportunity to play with their brother and to be able to win a state championship with him, it will always make our relationship that much better."

And that leads us to Jackson Vaught, the lone junior in the group.  Like Valentine, he is in the Link Crew and also a member of National Honor Society.  Vaught credits his involvement in clubs for increasing leadership skills.  They will come in handy on a young defense next season.

"On the defensive side, we will be young with just two returning starters," Campbell said.  "Jackson is a great student and works his butt off.  Having him back will help carry the defense back a long ways."

Jackson plays defensive tackle and had 41 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery.  Against Campo Verde, he had a season-high eight tackles.  The defense has used nicknames that were passed down from former players and coaches.  The defensive line was know as Death Row, the linebackers as LBC, the defensive backs were the Game Changers, and the defense as a whole was coined the Darkside.

Jackson also credits the closeness of the team and their overall concentration throughout the season for the success of 2016.

"The bond that was formed from this team was impossible to break," Jackson Vaught said in an e-mail interview.  "We were able to deal with adversity as well as our greatest achievements together.  We were able to stay focused and not let anyone on the team 'hop onto the bandwagon'."

One of the symbols of the unity shared by the team was a link worn around their necks.

"The links remind us that you are only as strong as your weakest link," McKinney said.  "Everyone has the same rope cut from the same top and the same link cut from the same chain and we are all of equal value to the team."

Most importantly, each of them carried the needed attention and accountability in the classroom on Monday through Friday.  Sports360AZ came out with the 2016 All-Academic team earlier this week and all five were listed on it with Jackson Vaught a First Team selection with his 4.39 GPA.

"That's what made this team special," Campbell said.  "Sixteen of our 23 starters qualified.  That's what shaped the character of the team."

Campbell has three young sons, one of which plays tackle at the youth level, and stresses the importance of respect, responsibility, and schoolwork when talking to the future high school players.

"When I go speak to the Dawgs, we talk about having good character at home and in the classroom," Campbell said.  "There is a strong correlation between them."

With these five young men, the positions have changed throughout the years growing up, but the successes and friendships have been constant.

"The bond that was created with these four is unreal and it was an unbelievable experience playing with my brother and teammates," Jackson Vaught said.  "It only made me closer to the game of football and helped me to learn to cherish the moments even more with my teammates whether it's practice, games, meetings, commitments, or anything that involves us being together."


PHOTO CAPTIONS:  Top - Zane McKinney pursues on a ball carrier during the 5A State Championship game against Centennial at University of Phoenix Stadium during the Black Hawks' 14-6 victory (Gridiron Arizona).  2nd - The 2008 Gilbert Dawgs AYS team photo (Photo Courtesy Vaught family).  The squad was the state champions that year.  Current WFHS players in the photo are Braden Valentine (45), Jackson Vaught (7), Justin Vaught (5), Zane McKinney (22), and Max Fine (89).  3rd - Jackson (55) and Justin (11) Vaught pose hold the Gold Ball trophy after Williams Field's victory (Photo Courtesy Vaught family).  4th - Max Fine picks up some yards after the catch during the title game (Gridiron Arizona).  5th - Braden Valentine in his Gilbert Dawgs days and today (Photo Courtesy Valentine family).

 

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GRIDIRON ARIZONA POWER POINTS - 2016

(per AIA/MaxPreps) - FINAL

6A CONFERENCE
  School Section         Record Power Points Playoffs        
1. Mountain Pointe Central 13-1    23.1548 Championship Game
2. Chandler Premier 12-2    18.3323 STATE CHAMPS
3. Perry Premier 11-2    16.5586 Semifinals
4. Skyline East Valley 9-2    13.9604 First Round
5. Brophy Premier 8-4    12.8055 Quarterfinals
6. Hamilton Premier 7-5    11.4263 Quarterfinals
7. Mesa Mountain View East Valley 7-4    10.6341 First Round
8. Desert Ridge Central 8-4    10.4863 Quarterfinals
9. Westview Southwest 8-3      9.9066 First Round
10. Desert Vista Central 7-5      9.8184 Quarterfinals 
11. Tucson Southern 6-5      7.2087 First Round
12. Pinnacle Desert Valley 6-6      7.1250 First Round
13. Red Mountain East Valley 8-5      6.5276 Semifinals
14. Valley Vista Southwest 7-4      6.1075 First Round 
15. Basha Premier 3-8      3.7819 First Round
  Highland Central 3-7      3.5641  
  Corona del Sol Central 4-6      3.1098  
  Horizon Desert Valley 6-4      2.4988  
16. Cesar Chavez Metro 6-5      1.8672 First Round
  Boulder Creek Desert Valley 4-6      1.7984  
  Cibola Southern 6-4      1.7805  
  Millennium Southwest 4-6      1.3490  
  Desert Mountain Desert Valley 4-6      1.1421  
  Dobson East Valley 5-5      0.5503  
  Mesa East Valley 4-7   -  0.9293  
  Sunnyside Southern 4-6   -  1.3228  
  Mountain Ridge Desert Valley 3-7   -  1.8851  
  Tolleson Southwest 5-5   -  1.9436  
  La Joya Southwest 4-6   -  2.9091  
  Central Metro 6-4   -  4.0757  
  Alhambra Metro 6-4   -  4.4643  
  Gilbert Central 1-9   -  5.3678  
  O'Connor Desert Valley 1-9   -  5.6245  
  Kofa Southern 5-5   -  5.6826  
  North Metro 5-5   -  6.1890  
  Westwood East Valley 2-8   -  6.7406  
  Rincon Southern 3-7   -  7.8383  
  Copper Canyon Southwest 3-7   -  8.0550  
  Maryvale Metro 4-6   -  9.2338  
  Trevor Browne Metro 1-9   -17.2769  


The top team from each section based on section record is guaranteed one of the 16 playoff berths.  These 16 teams will be placed in a bracket according to the final power points.

The AIA works with Maxpreps in devising the power points formula.  The formula utilizes results from all games nationwide as opposed to only leveraging results from opponents and the opponents of opponents.  All teams start on a level playing field.  No values are given for division, enrollment, returning starters, previous record, etc. 

 

5A CONFERENCE
  School Section         Record Power Points Playoffs      
1. Cienega Southern 12-1    21.1641 Semifinals
2. Williams Field San Tan 14-0    18.3806 STATE CHAMPS
3. Ironwood Ridge Southern 9-3    13.6948 Quarterfinals
4. Desert Edge Desert West 10-2    13.0262 Quarterfinals
5. Centennial Northwest 12-2    12.9235 Championship Game
6. Queen Creek San Tan 10-3    12.9102 Semifinals
7. Marana Sonoran 9-3    11.1349 Quarterfinals
8. Marana Mountain View Southern 7-4      9.2635 First Round
9. Mesquite San Tan 8-4      8.7741 Quarterfinals 
x- Notre Dame Northeast Valley 8-2      8.6463  
10. Kellis Metro 9-2      8.2574 First Round
11. Desert View Sonoran 8-3      7.2707 First Round
12. Liberty Northwest 7-4      5.8718 First Round 
13. Verrado Desert West 7-4      5.6889 First Round 
14. Flowing Wells Sonoran 6-5      4.2088 First Round
  Sunnyslope Metro 7-3      4.1984  
  Campo Verde San Tan 7-3      4.0454  
  Deer Valley Desert West 6-4      3.7663  
15. Chaparral Northeast Valley 5-6      3.4287 First Round
16. Fairfax Union 8-3      1.8410 First Round
  Maricopa Metro 5-5      0.5103  
  Sahuaro Southern 3-7      0.3177  
  Apollo Metro 4-6   -  0.6394  
  North Canyon Northeast Valley 6-4   -  1.2943  
  Arcadia Northeast Valley 2-8   -  2.9097  
  Poston Butte Sonoran 4-6   -  3.2365  
  Shadow Ridge Northwest 2-8   -  3.3190  
  Willow Canyon Northwest 3-7   -  3.7983  
  Lake Havasu Desert West 4-6   -  4.2261  
  Vista Grande San Tan 2-8   -  4.8533  
  McClintock Metro 3-7   -  5.2503  
  Paradise Valley Northeast Valley 2-8   -  5.5881  
  Ironwood Metro 2-8   -  5.8001  
  Independence Union 4-6   -  7.6249  
  Cholla Sonoran 1-9   -  9.1833  
  Glendale Union 5-5   -  9.2587  
  Agua Fria Desert West 2-8   -  9.4001  
  Camelback Union 3-7   -12.3102  
  Carl Hayden Union 3-7   -12.3102  
  Buena Southern 0-10   -13.3795  
  Goldwater Desert West 1-9   -14.3591  
  South Mountain Union 1-10   -17.4770  
  Sierra Linda Northwest 0-10   -19.4251  

x- Notre Dame Prep is on probation for holding padded practices out of season and is ineligible for the 2016 playoffs.

The top team from each section based on section record is guaranteed one of the 16 playoff berths.  These 16 teams will be placed in a bracket according to the final power points.  With Notre Dame Prep ruled ineligible, the 2nd place team from the Northeast Valley Region was an automatic qualifier.

The AIA works with Maxpreps in devising the power points formula.  The formula utilizes results from all games nationwide as opposed to only leveraging results from opponents and the opponents of opponents.  All teams start on a level playing field.  No values are given for division, enrollment, returning starters, previous record, etc. 

 

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