It’s a hard job, but we decided it had to be done:
Take every East Valley varsity high school male athlete who’s flexed muscles at one time (or more) since August, stir them all into one large bowl, and use a colander to sift through and leave behind a freakishly-good five.
A field of thousands has been whittled into one hand’s worth of finalists for our Tribune Male Athlete of the Year, a transcendent group of young men both athletically and competitively.
They’ve succeeded and taken others with them down rewarding roads during the 2011-12 school year.
Cast your vote at varsity.evtrib.com and do it quickly. Come next week, only one will win.
Devon Allen, Brophy football/track
When the ball touched his hands, the crowd would wait with baited breath for Devon Allen to do something magnificent. As a junior last fall, the wide receiver/kick returner was one of the top big-play threats in the state because of his speed and agility. Allen finished with 44 catches for 844 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense and averaged 13.4 yards per punt return and 33.5 yards per kick return. The Broncos went 11-1 but were upset in the Division I quarterfinals, although that wasn’t the last we heard from Allen. He then shifted his focus to track, where he set state records in both the 110-meter high hurdles (13.52 seconds) and the 300-meter hurdles (36.36), marks that have him among the elite in the country. Allen also ran the 11th-fastest 200-meter dash in the nation this year in 20.75 seconds. He won state titles in the hurdle events and finished second in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Allen is a highly sought recruit in both football and has Olympic aspirations in track.
Dylan Cozens, Chaparral football/baseball
Squarely in the spotlight after his controversial departure from Desert Mountain and subsequent eligibility issues, Cozens’ future still seemed firm. After helping the Firebirds win a third consecutive football state championship with 48 tackles and 8 1/2 sacks, the 6-foot-4 defensive end committed to the University of Arizona. But after initially being ruled ineligible for baseball last year by the AIA, the course changed. Deemed eligible from the start of this season, Cozens crushed the ball. The outfielder led the state with 19 home runs (following changes to rules concerning composite bats) and drove in 51 runs while hitting .520. He finished high school by hitting the game-winning home run in the 7th inning to win the Div. I state championship. A couple weeks later, he was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Phillies, signed, and began his minor-league journey toward MLB earlier this week.
D.J. Foster, Saguaro football
Foster has always been cognisant of his life beyond football, which he learned quickly from his late sister, Jennifer, and her passing from an accidental overdose of prescription medication only reinforced that to D.J. His talents, however, have not gone to waste. The Tribune Player of Year and Ed Doherty award winner rushed for 3,058 yards and set a new Arizona record with 60 total TDs in a season. That included single-game state records with 508 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns against Peoria Sunrise Mountain in the first round of the Division III playoffs, as Saguaro eventually won a second consecutive state championship. He’s already begun work at Arizona State with a legitimate chance at seeing the ball in a variety of ways as a freshman.
Cody Martin, Gilbert basketball/volleyball
How many times has a student-athlete found himself/herself headed in one direction athletically and had a change of mind after one high school season? Probably not often. Then again, there aren’t too many who’ve had a volleyball season comparable to Cody Martin. The Tribune Player of the Year finished the volleyball season (and his high school career) with a team-best 377 kills, 49 blocks and 381 assists, including a season-high 31 kills in the Division I state championship match victory against Brophy. This spring was an encore — and then some — to his significant role as a starting guard for Gilbert basketball’s unexpected 21-7 season and Division I state quarterfinals appearance in basketball. He couldn’t give up a sport he first tried as a freshman, and though originally headed to play hoops at Mesa Community College, he will instead join Tigers’ teammate Ty Hutchins at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Avery Moss, Corona del Sol football/basketball
Avery Moss didn’t start playing football until high school, but that didn’t stop him from excelling as a senior. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound star defensive end finished the year with 59 tackles and five sacks for the Aztecs. His athletic ability caught the eye of numerous college programs and he accepted a full-ride offer to play for Nebraska. Moss could have focused on preparing for college after the football season, but he resumed playing basketball — the sport he grew up loving. Moss punctuated a fantastic senior season with 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks in the Division I championship game victory over Cesar Chavez. He finished the year averaging 10.9 points and 10.6 rebounds, making him the rare athlete who was dominant in two sports.
Ben Andrew, Mesa wrestling; Michael Arredondo, Desert Vista football; Danny Arrubla, Hamilton soccer; Dalton Brady, Chandler wrestling; David Graham, Highland cross country/track; Alex Lawson, Corona del Sol tennis; Riggs Lennon, Brophy soccer; Mark Matiski, Chaparral cross country/soccer/track; Adam Pavlenko, Marcos de Niza football/track; Calaen Robinson, Corona del Sol basketball; Hunter Rodriguez, Desert Vista football/baseball; Payton Sorenson, Mountain View swimming.