No team in the 4A-II East Sky has enjoyed more success the past two years than Gilbert Higley.
It is 21-6 over that span, and five of those victories have come in the state playoffs.
Don’t think for a second, though, that all that winning has made the Knights complacent. Still in search of their first state championship, they enter this season as hungry as they’ve ever been.
“The past two years we’ve had really good success, and we want that to continue,” senior linebacker Joey Speltz said.
“But last year, to be ranked No. 1 (in the preseason) and to come up that short, it really irritates … us.”
What Speltz was referring to was a 15-14 loss to eventual state champion Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep in the state semifinals. No other team came within 17 points of the Knights in the postseason.
The goal this year is to be Notre Dame’s successor.
To increase his team’s chances of winning four more postseason games, coach Jim Beall is tweaking his M.O. Unlike in the past when Higley’s top three options were run left, run middle, run right, the Knights plan to throw more and will even utilize the spread offense.
“We’re still going to run the football. We’re going to try to be a little more balanced if we can,” Beall said.
Higley isn’t as big as it was last year when its offensive and defensive linemen averaged around 260 pounds, but it is more athletic than it’s ever been, and its biggest asset will be speed.
“I think we have some of the best receivers we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Beall said. “We’ve got some fast receivers and some tall kids. That’s one thing that’s going to help us.”
Beall’s son J.P. will be in charge of delivering the ball to that group, which could be led by Kelvin Fisher, who should be one of the top sophomores in the state. The 5-foot-10, 163-pounder, whose freshman season highlights can be found on YouTube, possesses superior athletic ability and can play almost any skill position on the field.
|Emmanuel Caro Del Castillo||RB/DB||5'6||160||Jr.|