Football is a team game.
Running backs can't get yards without blockers, and quarterbacks can't put up big numbers without capable receivers.
However, some players do have the special ability to take over games.
There's one month left before the season begins, but here are five picks for East Valley players who will have the biggest influence on their teams this season:
Sam Papa, Desert Ridge linebacker/wide receiver
Before a season-ending hip injury in mid-October last year, Papa was putting together a breakout season. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder led the team in tackles with 82 and hauled in 38 receptions for 702 yards on offense. The pass-happy Jaguars will once again rely on Papa to catch the ball, but he will make the biggest impact on defense. Desert Ridge has traditionally had trouble slowing down opposing offenses, and a playmaker like Papa in the middle will be essential in reversing that trend. Papa is back to 100 percent health, so expect big numbers in his final high school season.
Todd Peat, Corona del Sol offensive/defensive lineman
The massive senior is one of the top-rated prospects in the state, and his ability to get into the backfield makes everyone else on the Corona del Sol defense better. He missed four games with a knee injury last season, and his season numbers of 31 tackles and two sacks weren't particularly noteworthy. But there is undeniable talent there, and a dominant defensive lineman can cause big problems for opposing offenses. If Peat gets hurt again this year, it could be a long season for Corona. If he stays healthy, the team could surprise some people.
Teddy Ruben, Saguaro quarterback
Teddy's older brother, Tim Ruben, showed just how devastating a dual quarterback can be running the spread offense when he led the Sabercats to a pair of state titles. Teddy showed potential last year when he helped lead Saguaro to the semifinals, throwing and running for more than 1,000 yards. There are a lot of playmakers around him, but as the only true quarterback on the roster, Ruben will be counted on heavily. If he can keep teams honest with his arm, Saguaro has a shot to make it four state titles in the past five years.
Kelvin Fisher, Higley running back/cornerback
There's little doubting Fisher's talent, but it remains to be seen if he can lift the Knights up from a disappointing 2009 campaign. Fisher battled injuries last season and split carries in the backfield. He is so good at cornerback that teams rarely challenged him there. But Fisher is too talented to be held in check for very long. He is being coveted by several Division I colleges, and can make it a quick turnaround for Higley. Look for Fisher to become a dominant running back on offense and a ballhawk in the secondary.
Brett Hundley, Chandler quarterback
It's been a whirlwind summer for Hundley, who has participated in several camps and been mentioned in the same breath with some of the country's best signal callers. He currently has pared his collegiate destination down to two, and will likely play at either UCLA or Washington next year. But there is still some business at hand here in his final high school season. Hundley, who threw for 1,517 yards, ran for 1,208 more and totaled 28 touchdowns last season, will look to lift the Wolves to a state championship. Hundley is a special player at a premium position, and when he performs well Chandler will be able to play with anybody. No other player in the state can match his set of skills at the quarterback position. While he has loads of potential, Hundley is still raw. If he becomes consistently dominant, the Wolves will be giving Hamilton a run for its money as the state's best team.
Anthony Shivers, Marcos de Niza running back; Connor Brewer, Chaparral quarterback; Davonte Neal, Chaparral cornerback/wide receiver; D.J. Foster, Saguaro cornerback/wide receiver; Tony Vaitafa, Mesa linebacker.