Records are made to be broken, but isn't using a sledgehammer to do so a tad extreme?
The demolishing of state marks has gone to a new level this season, as football players from around the East Valley have consistently added their names to the annals of history.
On October 21, Desert Ridge running back Joey Counts ran for 411 yards in a win over North Canyon, breaking the previous big school rushing total.
Two weeks later, Saguaro running back D.J. Foster ran the ball for 508 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first round of the Division III playoffs against Peoria Sunrise Mountain, setting the single-game state rushing record, tying the touchdown mark and setting a career touchdown record. Last week against Queen Creek he set the single-season touchdown record (53) with two more games likely to be played.
Scottsdale Prep wide receiver Matt Munsil set 8-man football records with 19 catches and 279 yards in a 68-48 loss to St. David in the Division VI quarterfinals.
Quarterbacks are in on the action, too. Chaparral's Connor Brewer has the big-school career touchdown record with 97 and counting, and Scottsdale Prep's Aidan Wright set 8-man single-game (535) and season (3,020) yardage and single-season touchdown (50) records. Seton Catholic quarterback Ryan Bresnahan has also thrown 50 touchdown passes this year, which is six away from setting a state record as the Sentinels prepare to play in the Division IV semifinals.
With more prolific offenses, a bigger talent gap and computer scheduling all factors, a perfect storm has been brewed for great individual performances.
"You never know when that one special night is coming," Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. "At a certain point, how can you not become a fan?"
Some coaches believe it's players that are the impetus behind these records. Saguaro coach John Sanders believes this is a special group on the gridiron.
"This is just an unusually impressive year for Arizona athletes," he said.
Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle sees it a different way. He believes the ability to set state records has always been there. It just depends on how hard a coach tries to let his player do so.
"If I wanted Davonte (Neal) to have 60 touchdowns (this season), he could have it," Ragle said. "There are several coaches that run powerhouse programs, and on Friday nights, they can choose for their kid to set a record, but they choose not to. Ultimately, it's the coach's choice on whether they set a single-game record."
In Counts' big day, he had 11 carries for 328 rushing yards at the half, and then carried the ball eight straight times for 83 yards to open the second half and set the record. He didn't play after the first offensive series of the third quarter in an easy victory.
"Joey just caught lightning in a bottle," Hathcock said. "It's a delicate balance. We honestly could have left him in the whole game and he could have had 650 yards. But why?"
Foster played into the fourth quarter against Sunrise Mountain. He scored his last touchdown on a 40-yard touchdown run with about seven minutes remaining and the Sabercats ahead 67-48.
He's the first player in Arizona history to ever rush for more than 500 yards in a game.
"I had no idea until the game was over that he had over 500 yards rushing," Sanders said. "That was crazy. And I knew he had scored a lot, but I didn't know he had 10 touchdowns."
When state records come in the flow of action, everyone can enjoy it. But when they are done intentionally, it rubs people the wrong way. Show Low quarterback Rathen Ricedorff set a single-game record with nine touchdown passes against Chinle in 2009. However, the team had a 53-0 lead at the half and he threw a touchdown pass as late as the fourth quarter to set the record.
"When you get a record like that, it's a mockery," Hathcock said.
With blowouts so common, maybe there should be footnotes gathered to explain the difference between authentic and manufactured state records. However, as the years pass, few remember the circumstances around the accomplishments.
"Here's the bottom line: Stats are just stats," Ragle said. "They're subjective. They can be made and twisted any which way you want."
But there's no denying the thrill in seeing a player creeping up to the record in real time. Hathcock not only coached Counts during his record-breaking game, but also quarterback Kevin Pantastico when he threw for a state-record 595 yards against Red Mountain in 2008.
"You realize as a coach that you're not the greatest, that the kid is special," Hathcock said. "You really become a fan at that point. It's like, ‘Oh my gosh, did he really just do that?'"