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GRIDIRON ARIZONA

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

5A Preseason Top 10

Coyotes should give fans plenty to cheer about in '17

WEEKLY BLOG:  8/6/17

Helmets and pads have come on as teams prepare for another football season.  This week brings a chance to hit someone in a different-colored jersey as scrimmages begin.

We're in the second year of the two-year realignment block, so those who played on varsity last season will be familiar with the opponents on the schedule.  Revenge is sought for those L's that appeared on last year's ledger.

Last week, we took a look at the 6A Conference (those rankings can be found under the "Recent Columns" tab), so today, we move on to the 5A.  There are 43 schools here that are broken into eight regions with 16 moving on to the playoffs in November.

But before taking a look at this season's list, let's check out the report card from last season's Top 10 posted on June 19 of 2016.  It had some mixed results, proving that this is not an exact science.

The No. 3 and 4 teams met in the championship with Williams Field taking on Centennial.  So, while they may not have been ranked in the top two, they were considered highly regarded.

Of the 10 on last year's list, eight made the playoffs (with one of the misses being Notre Dame Prep) with six of them finishing among the top 10 in the final AIA power point rankings.  In the postseason, six of the eight quarterfinalists were preseason top 10 selections.

So, yes, there were some misses.  Marana and Mesquite both played in the second weekend of November.  The biggest omission was Cienega, which ran the table in the regular season and made it all the way to the state semifinals.  I think the teams from about 6 to 19 are very close to one another.  Last year, two schools finished 7-3, but didn't crack the playoff field.  If your team doesn't play a particularly strong schedule, it will likely either need to win eight games or its region title.  I can easily see three teams fall short of the November brackets with 7-3 records this year.

What does it all mean?  It means every week counts!  For those teams that don't see themselves in the field on the last Saturday of October, you don't want to look back on that first game and wonder, "What if?".


2017 Preseason Top 10 for 5A:

1. CENTENNIAL (12-2) - Last year's final ranking (AIA regular season power points):  No. 5.
2016 Playoffs:
  State runner up.
It's easy to pick the Coyotes, who won championships in 2014 and 2015, as the No. 1 team, but there are good reasons beyond that success.  Centennial returns skill position players on offense in QB Ruben Beltran (14 TDs) and RB Zidane Thomas (a 2,300-yard rusher and a Boise State commit).  On defense, the Coyotes have a D-I recruit in Dominique Hampton in the secondary while Jordan Ware returns at linebacker.  There is a key loss in two-way player Andrew Nichols (now at Columbia), but CeHS has another set of strong lines (four returners on the OL) that can lift a lot of weight.
First game:  August 18 vs. No. 5 Desert Edge (10-2)

2. CIENEGA (12-1) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 1.
2016 Playoffs:  State semifinalist.
The Bobcats had a tremendous year in '16 going undefeated in the regular season for the second time in school history.  In the playoffs, the Boys in Vail used their offense to overpower Fairfax and Mesquite before losing to Centennial in the semis.  QB Jamarye Joiner (17 TDs passing, 13 TDs rushing) is an Arizona commit and ready to be one of the top dual-threats in the state again.  Terrell Hayward (WR/FS) is a three-sport athlete and scored 14 touchdowns (two on kick returns) while also tallying 61 tackles and six interceptions as a sophomore.
First game:  August 25 at Marana (9-3)

3. WILLIAMS FIELD (14-0) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 2.
2016 Playoffs:  State Champions.
A year ago, Williams Field had a dream season, particularly on defense, where no opponent scored more than 21 on the Black Hawks, and Centennial mustered just six in the title game.  The schedule is the same with Deer Valley, Verrado, Chaparral, Mesquite, and Queen Creek seeking payback.  It was a senior-laden team for WFHS, which lost a lot to graduation, but it's hard to imagine the Black Hawks won't reload around returning QB Zack Shepherd (25 TD passes as a sophomore).  Noa Pola-Gates had 62 tackles in the secondary in his sophomore season and was recently offered by Arizona.
First game:  August 18 vs. Arcadia (2-8)

4. QUEEN CREEK (10-3) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 6.
2016 Playoffs:  State semifinalist.
Queen Creek had a balanced and explosive offense under head coach Travis Schureman as the Bulldogs averaged 30.8 points per game with over 2,000 yards each rushing and passing.  This year will see a new primary running back, but Devin Larsen is back at the controls after tossing 25 touchdowns as a sophomore.  A challenging non-league schedule of Hamilton, Deer Valley, and Ironwood Ridge will prepare QCHS for San Tan Region play.
First game:  August 18 vs. Cesar Chavez (6-5)

5. DESERT EDGE (10-2) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 4.
2016 Playoffs:  State quarterfinalist.
The Scorpions were Desert West Region champions last year and challenge themselves with five non-region games against teams that were a combined 40-17 last season.  RB Rocky Perez returns after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.  He'll be behind an experienced line of Max Wilhite, Tyson Jones, and Austin Young.  Jose Lucero, previously the head coach at North Canyon, has returned to DEHS (as the new head coach), where he was the offensive coordinator on the Division III 2015 championship team.
First game:  August 18 at No. 1 Centennial (12-2)

6. LIBERTY (7-4) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 12.
2016 Playoffs:  Lost in first round.
With eight starters returning on defense, it won't be easy to score on the Lions this year.  Ryan Bendle slides over to QB from the receiver position, but he's the only returning starter.  Jett Kinsch transferred to LHS from Mountain Ridge, so he will likely have to sit out the first five games.  The Lions will find out if they are for real in September with back-to-back games against Sunrise Mountain and Verrado.  Last year, both games were decided by a field goal or less.
First game:  August 25 vs. Boulder Creek (4-6)

7. CHAPARRAL (5-6) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 18.
2016 Playoffs:  Lost in first round.
The Firebirds failed to win the Northeast Valley Region, but were awarded the league's bid when Notre Dame was placed on probation.  Chaparral returns some talent in RB Marqui Johnson (970 yards, 11 TDs) and sophomore receiver/kicker Tommy Christakos.  The 'Birds also expanded themselves in that pool with incoming transfers of sophomore QB Jack Miller (3,653 yards, 53 TDs at Scottsdale Christian) and RB Darvon Hubbard (from Akron, Ohio).  Hubbard started as a freshman last year at Buchtel HS and has four D-I offers.

First game:  August 18 at Desert Mountain (4-6)

8. DEER VALLEY (6-4) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 17.
2016 Playoffs:  Missed postseason.
A year ago, the Skyhawks stumbled out of the gate at 1-3.  But after that, Dez Melton was moved from receiver to running back.  Deer Valley went 5-1 the rest of the way and Melton rushed for 1,362 yards and 15 touchdowns.  In those last six games, the sophomore back broke the 200-yard mark four times and had 150 or more in the other two.  A total of 14 starters return for DVHS, including offensive linemen Joey Ramos, Xavier Delgado, and Brandon McCrea.
First game:  August 25 vs. No. 3 Williams Field (14-0)

9. VERRADO (7-4) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 13.
2016 Playoffs:  Lost in first round.
The Vipers showed the substance last year in winning a defensive battle against Desert Edge in Week 10 (6-3 in double overtime) to reach the playoffs.  Tom Ward was promoted from defensive coordinator to be the interim head coach this summer.  Ja'Tai Jenkins returns at running back after scoring 14 touchdowns as a junior.  The Vipers have a new QB in Titan Widjaja, but bring back leading receiver Marcus Rivera (768 yards, 6 TDs.).
First game:  August 18 at Paradise Valley (2-8)

10. NOTRE DAME (8-2) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 10.
2016 Playoffs:  Ineligible due to probation.
The Saints knocked off all four of their Northeast Region foes to claim the league crown.  RB Cole Fisher returns after rushing for 866 yards and 14 touchdowns in just seven games before going down with an injury.  Notre Dame enters the season with a five-game win streak.  It should improve to six against Shadow Ridge in the opener, but could be in jeopardy on Aug. 25 against Desert Edge.  New head coach George Prelock worked with almost all of the many seniors on this year's roster while he was the program's freshman head coach.
First game:  August 18 at Shadow Ridge (2-8)


PHOTO CAPTION:  The Centennial spiritline performs a routine during a quarter break in last year's 5A state championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale last November.  Tryouts for this year's squad will take place next week for both the cheer and pom groups.  Centennial earned the top recognition at the United Dance Association Pom camp and received a bid to attend the National Dance Team Competition in Florida.  They can be seen on the sidelines of Coyote games in Peoria starting on August 18 against Desert Edge.

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6A Preseason Top 10

Protection up front lets #1 Chandler post big offensive numbers

WEEKLY BLOG:  7/30/17

The season is drawing closer.  Teams have gone to training camps and camaraderie is high as trust was built with teammates both new and old.

We're in the second year of the two-year realignment block, so those who played on varsity last season will be familiar with the opponents on the schedule.  Revenge is sought for those L's that appeared on last year's ledger.

And with that, we'll take a stab at forecasting the top of the largest conference in the state - 6A.  The 40 largest schools are broken into seven regions with 16 moving on to the playoffs in November.

But before taking a look at this season's list, let's take a look at the report card of last season's Top 10 posted on July 17 of last year.  It had some mixed results, proving that this is not an exact science.

The No. 1 and 2 teams were right on with Mountain Pointe and Chandler.  They were in the right order for the regular season matchup (a 52-7 MPHS win), but the wrong one for the state title game (36-17 by CHS).

All 10 of the schools on last year's list made the playoffs with six of them finishing among the top 10 in the final AIA power point rankings.  In the postseason, six of the eight quarterfinalists were preseason top 10 selections.

So, yes, there were some misses.  None bigger than the omission of Perry, who finished 11-2 in the best season in school history.  The two first-round winners that were left off were Brophy and Mountain View.  Skyline (9-1) also made me look bad by finishing No. 4 after the regular season.

What does it all mean?  Well, the 10 schools on this list should have a good season and play more than 10 football games this year.  And if your team isn't on it, you could be one of this season's sleepers that will get your just due when the playoff brackets come out (which really count).


2017 Preseason Top 10 for 6A:

1. CHANDLER (13-2) - Last year's final ranking (AIA regular season power points):  No. 2.
2016 Playoffs:
  State Champions.
The Wolves appear loaded again.  Much of the senior class played a part in last year's 6A title-winning team.  The non-region schedule includes contenders Red Mountain, Pinnacle, and Mountain Pointe.  Oh yes, and IMG Academy, the Florida powerhouse that will pay a visit to Austin Field for a nationally-televised game on Aug. 26.  The passing game is lethal with junior Jacob Conover (32 TDs, 3,715 yards) leading the way.  Senior receivers Gunner Romney (a BYU commit) and Jarick Caldwell (a UNLV commit) combined for almost 1,800 yards and 13 touchdowns.
First game:  August 18 vs. No. 8 Red Mountain (8-5)

2. MOUNTAIN POINTE (13-1) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 1.
2016 Playoffs:  State runner up.
The Pride certainly has the talent to get back to the 6A state championship game and could even run the table again in the regular season.  Their offense, led by running backs Gary Bragg (891 yards and 11 TDs in 5 games) and Delano Salgado (730 yards, 6 TDs), can be as explosive as any team.  QB Nick Wallerstedt got into six games as a sophomore filling in for injured starter Noah Grover.  Mountain Pointe will travel to California to play Chaminade on Aug. 31 in the Brothers in Arms Classic.  Chaminade was 8-4 last season.  Other road tests for MPHS will be at Chandler and Desert Vista.
First game:  August 18 at O'Connor (1-9)

3. PERRY (11-2) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 3.
2016 Playoffs:  State semifinalist.
The Pumas will once again be dangerous come playoff time because of the presence of standout quarterback Brock Purdy (3,333 yards, 42 TDs) along with receivers D'Shayne James and Colby Dickie (1,039 yards, 12 TDs).  Expect another fast start for Perry as just one of the schedule's first six opponents were in last year's playoffs (Desert Vista).
First game:  August 18 at No. 6 Desert Vista (7-5)

4. PINNACLE (6-6) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 12.
2016 Playoffs:  Lost in first round.
Dana Zupke has led the Pioneers to 10 straight postseason appearances.  With junior QB Spencer Rattler (an Oklahoma commit) poised for his third year as a starter, this could be the time for PHS to break through with a deep playoff run.  Rattler has 5,274 yards and 48 TDs in his varsity career.  It's a deep receiving corps led by junior Hayden Hatten.  Six different Pioneer returners caught touchdowns last season.  Andrew Hurley, a former Pinnacle player, is the new defensive coordinator.  He'll give the team a sharp edge and improve a group that allowed 34 points per game last year.
First game:  August 19 vs. Brophy (8-4) at Coconino HS in Flagstaff

5. HAMILTON (7-5) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 6.
2016 Playoffs:  State quarterfinalist.
The Huskies return a 1-2 punch at the skill positions this year, led by senior quarterback Tyler Shough (a North Carolina commit that had 2,079 yards and 27 TDs) and Jawhar Jordan (a Syracuse commit that had 1,269 yards and 17 TDs).  The offensive line includes Arizona State commit Hunter Mayginnes (6-5, 318).  The key for the Huskies will be how the defense develops and focusing on football as the cloud of distractions from the hazing incident will be present daily.  As a result of that, Dick Baniszewski was named the head coach for this year as Steve Belles was reassigned while the investigation continues.  Baniszewski has been at HHS since 2006.
First game:  August 18 at Boulder Creek (4-6)

6. DESERT VISTA (7-5) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 10.
2016 Playoffs:  State quarterfinalist.
The Thunder did lose Division I talent to graduation, including QB Nick Thomas, RB Lelon Dillard, and DE Myles Wilson.  However, DVHS does return defensive end/tight end James Stagg (5.5 sacks), DB Alijah Gammage (7 INTs in 6 games), and WR/RB Keishaud White (11 total TDs).  Derek Kline, a two-year starter, moved in from Reno to take the reins at quarterback.  The Thunder threw just four interceptions last year.  Quarterback play will determine how far they go.
First game:  August 18 vs. No. 3 Perry (11-2)

7. DESERT RIDGE (8-4) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 8.
2016 Playoffs:  State quarterfinalist.
With running backs Donjae Logan and Tyrese Allen, both seniors, along with junior Lucas Wright, the Jaguars appear to have the skill position talent to be a player in the Central Region.  The trio combined for nearly 2.400 yards and 23 TDs.  Sophomore QB Matt Purnell took over the job midway through last season.  Purnell's development and the play of the line will determine if DRHS can have long clock-eating drives.
First game:  August 25 vs. Brophy (8-4) at Central HS

8. RED MOUNTAIN (8-5) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 13.
2016 Playoffs:  State semifinalist.
The Mountain Lions should not miss a beat even with the head coaching change.  Mike Peterson, who has served as the defensive coordinator at RMHS since 2010, moves into the head coaching slot after Ron Wisniewski was let go.  The Lions have a slew of returnees led by senior running back Lance Lawson (1,539 rushing yards, 25 total TDs) and senior middle linebacker Delton Jackson (82 tackles).  Expect to see more of Lawson in the slot as Red Mountain uses him in a myriad of ways to confuse defenses.
First game:  August 18 at No. 1 Chandler (13-2)

9. WESTVIEW (8-3) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 9.
2016 Playoffs:  Lost in first round.
The Knights will be younger as back-to-back 2,000-yard rusher Tyler Vasko has graduated.  Westview runs a unique offense that still includes some Wing T and anywhere from one to three running backs on the field at once.  Orange Mooney (7 TDs, 10.3 yards per carry) could be one of those RBs to watch for the Knights.  Senior Scott Fallers takes over at QB.  Westview has won its region (currently the Southwest) six straight years.
First game:  August 18 vs. Basha (3-8)

10. SKYLINE (9-2) - Last year's final ranking:  No. 4.
2016 Playoffs:  Lost in first round.
The Coyotes did lose a lot to graduation, but Angelo Paffumi (sixth season) always coaches them up and gets the most out of his charges.  Skyline is 31-5 over the past three years.  Junior Aaron Wood (876 yards, 9 TDs) takes over for a team that loves to run the ball.  The D-Line looks strong with DT Sam To'oto (4.5 sacks) and DE Aaron Romero (3 sacks).
First game:  August 18 vs. Westwood (2-8)


PHOTO CAPTION:  Chandler offensive tackle Joshua Pena makes his way back to the line following a play from last year's game against Perry.  Pena started at right tackle as a sophomore on the Wolves' championship season in 2016.  Chandler opens its title defense on August 18 at home against Red Mountain.

Follow me on:  Twitter.com/gridironarizona


Mustangs ready to break through

North HS football succeeds in Central Phoenix

WEEKLY BLOG:  7/22/17

Continuing a tradition that dates back to his days at Mountain View before his current crop of players were born, North head coach Bernie Busken took his team to Mogollon HS in Heber this week for four days of football camp to prepare for the upcoming season.

"The kids really worked hard," Busken, who first took the Toros to the Mogollon Rim for camp in 1996, said.  "I was very, very impressed."

One of the things that helped the Mustangs was support from the parents, several of whom made the trip north to cook an evening meal at 9:30 following the night time practice.

This year's varsity roster is up from 35 to 48 and it has its share of veterans as the Mustangs have a total of 17 returning starters from a 5-5 team (3-2 6A Metro Region) last season.

Junior Anthony Badilla, who is not one of those returning starters, will start the season under center.

"He's really stepping up and listens well and follows directions," Busken said.  "We're really excited for him."

Badilla will be joined by the team's top two rushers from a year ago in seniors Dominic Fiorucci and Milon Harvey.  Fiorucci may be little (5-6, 155), but he is mighty and had three 100-yard games.  He improved throughout the season as four of his six touchdowns came in North's last four games.  Harvey (503 yards rushing) also plays corner and has been getting more aggressive on that side of the ball.

It was on the ground that NHS did most of its damage last season as the team ran the ball on more than 85 percent of its offensive snaps.  Busken doesn't expect this year's numbers to look as lopsided.

"It will be a lot more balanced," Busken said.  We have some excellent receivers and running backs."

As far as the Mustangs' aerial attack is concerned, senior athlete Jason Cortez will be a key element.  He will be a three-year starter playing wide receiver and cornerback (50 tackles) and has a great feel for the game.  Another receiver is Eriq Saucedo, who started last season and doubles as a free safety.

Along the line, North has some size for a Phoenix Union District school.  Isidoro Lagod (6-2, 270) has excellent footwork at the left tackle position.  Others expected to make blocks to keep the chains moving are senior Lorenzo Pacheco (6-3, 270) and sophomore Joey Cortez (6-1, 245).

Defensively, North plays a multiple 4-3 with a Cover 2 Zone in the secondary. 

X Enrique returns as a starter at cornerback.  Manning the middle linebacker spot is junior Julio Ortiz, who had 35 tackles, a pair of interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a blocked field goal last season.  Moving from the secondary to an outside linebacker spot is Andre Johnson.  Also seeing time at the LB position are seniors Angel Juarez and Izzy Araiza.  In the trenches, Maxamus Valdez was a First Team performer at defensive end as a sophomore.  He had eight sacks among his 45 tackles.  At defensive tackle, Gabriel Vega does the job.

This summer, North competed in 7-on-7 and big man competitions at Central HS, Scottsdale, and Prescott.  Busken said the Mustangs competed pretty well.  Unlike some schools that implement plays just for tournaments, North actually runs its offense (minus the runs).  The team also used the events for building depth and played a lot of kids.

Senior kicker Carlos Cruz was the difference in a 32-26 victory over Central last season.  He converted two field goals in the win and was 26-of-27 on extra points for the year.  North also took advantage of some teams not looking for onside kicks to get its offense back out on the field.

Busken was hired very late in the offseason (July) in 2014 and went 1-9 in his first year with the Mustangs.  He followed that up with 6-4 and 5-5 marks the past two seasons.  Busken also feels the team let a couple games get away each of those seasons and they could have been seven or eight-win years.  Last season, North fell behind Camelback 16-0 in the first half of its opener before falling 19-14.  A couple weeks later against Fairfax, the Mustangs led 14-10 after three quarters, but lost 23-14.  For the second year in a row, North will play all nine of the other PUHSD schools, plus a test against Horizon, a potential playoff team.

"We have pretty high expectations," Busken said.  "If our kids do what they're supposed to do and stay healthy, we should have a great year."

In his career at Mountain View, Basha, and North, Busken has a record of 125-43.  He teaches the team lessons and stresses accountability.  Busken wants his players to not just be good teammates, but good citizens.  Part of taking responsibility for themselves comes in the form of the weight room.  It takes a long time (and a lot of work) to add strength, but doing so helps with reducing injuries.

North is an inner-city school with players that often must take jobs to help supplement the family income.  Homes don't always have two parents in them.  While the enrollment figures (2,561 students) put NHS in the 6A Conference, the socioeconomics would suggest otherwise.

"Some of our kids come from some pretty tough situations," Busken said.  "But we're not going to use it as an excuse."

Jon Sheaffer is the defensive coordinator.  He has been around Busken since the age of 14 playing for him at Mountain View and later coaching on his staff at Western New Mexico.  Adan Mendoza is a North High grad and is in his third year as an assistant coaching the defensive line.  Rod Windsor played for Busken at WNMU and later was an Arizona Rattler.  He coaches the wide receivers for the Mustangs.  Dyshod Carter played five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and is now working with the defensive backs at North.  Mike Kaddatz is the special teams coordinator and has coached at Chaparral.  Felipe Becerra was previously a softball coach at Desert Vista and is is directing the linebackers at North.

Busken is a leader for these kids and serves as part of their support system.  The gratitude has worked both ways.

"I've never really been anywhere that I was more appreciated than here," Busken said.

Many of the varsity players don't have long football backgrounds at NHS.  Despite a coaching career that has spanned 40 years, Busken continues to evolve.

"I do a better job of explaining why," Busken said.  "The kids nowadays want to know why we're doing something and how it benefits them."


PHOTO CAPTION:  The North High cheerleaders have a banner prepared for the Mustangs to burst through in a game from last year.  The Mustangs open this season with four straight home games starting with Alhambra on Aug. 18.  The campus near 12th Street & Thomas opened its doors in 1939. (Photo Courtesy of North Mustangs Football)

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Arizona Showcase Camp

Local athletes brave heat to learn from college coaches

WEEKLY BLOG:  7/8/17

Last weekend, about 100 high school football players worked on their crafts, learned (or had reinforced) some skills, and compared their offseason grinds to those of their peers.

And it was all in front of several college coaches.

This was the third year of the Arizona Showcase Camp, presented by KDP Athletics.  It was a two-night (six total hour) camp held at Coronado High School in Scottsdale.  The camp was run by Chris "Chico" Martinez, the defensive coordinator at Coronado.  The acronym stands for Keep Dreams Possible.

"The focus of the camp is to help a lot of kids get exposure to smaller universities," Martinez said.  "A lot of athletes overlook smaller schools because they want to play D-I ball.  You can get the same type of experience winning championships at a Division II or III school."

A total of eight coaches were there representing six different colleges.  Adams State (Division II), located in Colorado, had Ross Brunelle working with the running backs and Colin Fuller with the defensive linemen.  Howard Payne (Division III) is in the center of Texas and Matt Moore, new to the HPU staff, coached the linebackers.  Missouri Valley (NAIA) and Montana State-Northern (NAIA) had assistant coaches that have Valley roots represent them.  Missouri Valley had Kellis grad Francisco Rangel helping the safeties and his counterpart, Anvil Sinsabaugh of MSU-Northern (a Skyline alum) coached the wide receivers.  The two smaller Arizona schools were present with Aaron Bentley from Arizona Christian in the trenches with the offensive linemen and Brandon Payne, part of Ottawa's new staff, working with the cornerbacks.  Finally, quarterback guru Mike Giovando (from Elev8 QB Academy) spent time with the signal callers.

I took in the second evening of the camp on Sunday (with a temperature of 106 at 5 p.m.).  It started with agility drill stations.  Everything was run on a tight, regimented schedule with players being told of the time remaining at each station.

Fortunately, one of the stations was a water break tent run by Martinez's wife, who made sure the two large Gatorade coolers were filled with ice cold water.

Then, the players were separated out into position groups with running backs working on their ability to change direction and speed rapidly along with catching passes thrown by coaches.  The offensive and defensive linemen were in one end zone working on their technique and footwork.  On the other half of the field, the 12 quarterbacks threw passes to wide receivers while linebackers, corners, and safeties lined up in man coverage for pass reps.

"I help them create separation at the wide receiver position," Sinsabuagh said.  "They learn the techniques to make sharper cuts and get out of their breaks faster."

Later, the coaches held a draft at midfield and separated the players out into four teams for 7-on-7 play.  Each of the teams were run by two of the coaches.

If you haven't guessed already, this is the part of the camp that the coaches like best.  It's a chance for them to call plays, help position players, and simply put on their caps and whistles and be a coach.

"The biggest benefit for the kids is being able to get coached by different organizations," Moore said.  "Also, it's a chance to be around coaches outside of recruiting.  This is our natural habitat."

A football showcase camp like this can be a chance for a recruit to compete against his peers and catch the attention of college coaches.  Many camps have under the radar players that make a name for themselves with a strong performance.

An important factor when selecting a camp is to do one with college coaches present.  While they may not necessarily be the ultimate decision makers, they can start the ball rolling if there is interest in the school.  It is also worthwhile to consider your skill set, height, and weight when deciding whether or not to go to an FBS camp.  Some camps can be expensive and have hundreds of athletes participating.  The Arizona Showcase was nominally priced ($65 for the two days) and was limited to 100 campers.

There were some one-on-one drills between linemen and I watched Queen Creek's Duncan Andrews get past the OL trying to stop him from getting by.  Andrews, who also plays tight end for the Bulldogs, is 6-6 and worked on his pass blocking, kick steps, and pass rush moves at the camp.

"It was pretty intense," Andrews said.  "It was a highly competitive camp and it was really fun."

So what did he learn?

"I learned what a lot of coaches look for in their athletes," Andrews said.  "Also, what they can give out in scholarships."

After the 7-on-7 games, the players all grouped together and each of the six colleges in attendance had a chance to go up in front of them and give a short recruiting pitch on their school.  Other topics discussed included the "Grandma Rule" when it comes to social media, the emphasis on academics ranking highest in importance, and the consideration that everybody is not going to go D-I.

For Division III schools like Howard Payne, being at a camp like this is exposure for themselves to these Arizona players not familiar with the college.  I asked Moore, who came to HPU from Redlands (another D-III school) how the recruiting process works after a camp like this.

It starts with the student-athlete applying to the school (which is free).  Next the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is completed and reviewed to determine how much the school can award in need-based money.  Remember, Division III schools cannot give out athletic scholarships.  Next, the school checks out the student's grades and test scores (SAT/ACT).  If those academic levels are met, the player's film is evaluated with position coaches, coordinators, and the head coach.  Finally, the school tries to bring the player to their campus.  Every year, many Arizona high school players move on to the next level with a Division II, III, or NAIA program.  For a look at the Class of 2017 signees, click HERE.

Finally, awards were handed out based on the position coaches' evaluations over the two days.  Each of the eight positions were recognized as well as a Camp MVP.

Nick Arvay of Casteel was named the top quarterback.  In his freshman year, he was the backup for the Colts and also played QB for the JV team.  Casteel, a Chandler District School, had its first varsity season in 2016 with just freshmen and sophomores and went 9-2 in 3A.  The Colts are among the favorites for this year, despite having no seniors.  It is expected that Casteel will jump up to 5A in 2018.

Titarro Jones is ready to be the No. 1 running back at Santa Cruz Valley.  He took the RB honors at the camp.  Last year, Jones had 754 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Dust Devils finished 11-1 and rushed for 317 yards per game.

Kemo Akins is a slotback who is just 5-5 and 145 pounds.  That didn't stop the Maricopa player from the wide receiver award.

The top linemen had nice size with Isaiah Buendia of Coronado (6-4, 315) earning the OL award and King Kyler Fanene of Shadow Ridge (6-0, 320) taking top honors on the defensive side.  Fanene mainly played center for the Stallions.

Kaylan Elzy has played running back since his freshman year, but competed with the linebackers in this camp and won that group.  He is 6-foot and 198 pounds and showed outstanding cover skills.

Treyvon Williams has an offer from Arizona Christian already.  He will be a four-year starter at Desert Edge and was the best of the corners.  In addition to his 51 tackles last season, he also returned kickoffs and punts. 

"All the hard work pays off at some point in time," Williams said.  "All my coaches tell me to keep grinding."

Williams said the camp helped him work on getting his hips better to make more plays on the ball.  He is looking forward to the Scorpions' season opener at Centennial on Aug. 18 to see how he stacks up against the Coyotes' Dominique Hampton, who plays the same position.

Another Coronado player, Josh Fong, was the top safety.  Fong is 5-7 and 142 pounds, but showed a lot of speed in the agility drills.

MVP honors went to Ilm Manning, a defensive end from Apollo.  Manning is 6-4, and 240 pounds.  He also plays left tackle for the Hawks and was a Second Team All 5A-Metro Region performer at both OT and DE.  This spring, he threw the shot put and discus during track season.  At the GUHSD Championships in April, he won the shot put.  On the football field, Manning had 4.5 sacks as a junior.

The networking aspect was present as the skies darkened at the end of the camp.  Players went up to the coaches and exchanged information.  Building relationships is the start of the process.  Martinez said a total of 16 scholarship offers have gone to kids that attended this camp the past two years.  They weren't necessarily on the spot, but eventually as the coaches followed the athlete through his senior season.

So, the biggest consideration when it comes to a spring practice, a camp, or a varsity game this fall?

"You can't take any reps off," Martinez said.  "You don't know who's watching and how it could benefit you."

ARIZONA SHOWCASE AWARD WINNERS
Pos. Player School Year
QB  Nick Arvay  Casteel  Sophomore
RB  Titarro Jones  Santa Cruz Valley  Senior
WR  Kemo Akins  Maricopa  Senior
OL  Isaiah Buendia  Coronado  Senior
DL  King Kyler Fanene  Shadow Ridge  Senior
LB  Kaylan Elzy  Moon Valley  Junior
CB  Treyvon Williams  Desert Edge  Senior
S  Josh Fong  Coronado  Junior
MVP  Ilm Manning (DE)  Apollo  Senior


PHOTO CAPTIONS:  TOP - Adams State Defensive Line coach Colin Fuller explains the proper positioning to athletes at the Arizona Showcase Camp last Sunday at Coronado HS.  Fuller was one of eight coaches at the two-day event.  ABOVE - Kaylan Elzy (right) is in tight coverage against a receiver during passing drills.  Elzy, a junior at Moon Valley, was named the top linebacker at the camp.

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