Two East Valley quarterbacks dominated the headlines this summer.
Desert Mountain’s Kyle Allen so wowed coaches and scouts with his ability that he was named the top signal-caller in the country by Scout.com. Allen had his choice of colleges and chose Texas A&M.
Saguaro’s Luke Rubenzer made the national Elite-11 finals and finished as one of the top-8 quarterbacks at the prestigious camp. He made his verbal commitment to California.
Josh Eckley, meanwhile, stayed home in relative anonymity. The Marcos de Niza standout does not have the money to travel to different events in the offseason and somewhat dropped off the radar.
Two games into his senior season, though, he’s more front-and-center than ever.
Eckley had a very good junior campaign, completing 129-of-205 passes for 2,601 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions to help lead the Padres to the Division II semifinals. He added 562 rushing yards, as his dual-threat abilities gave defenses headaches.
The expectations were toned down for Marcos de Niza in 2013 after it lost Priest Willis, Mauriece Lee and Paul Elvira to graduation and Dominique Fenstermacher and Kamron Johnson to transfer.
But after Friday night, Marcos de Niza has thrust itself right back into title contention.
Eckley threw for 336 yards and six touchdowns, ran for 100 yards and another score as the No. 6 Padres knocked off No. 1 Chaparral, 56-45.
In his first two games, Eckley has thrown for 553 yards, ran for 240 and produced 12 total touchdowns. Marcos de Niza has a whole new cast of skill players around him, but the offense has put up 56 points in each of its first two games.
Eckley is still without a scholarship offer, but once his senior game tape gets out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his stock increase.
The Padres have some wrinkles to iron out defensively, as they allowed 53 points to Horizon in the opener before giving up 45 to the Firebirds, but winning both games is a great start for a team which had myriad question marks entering the year.
Marcos de Niza might not have the same highly-visible individual players as a year ago, but the new cast is proving to be just as effective.
And the biggest star it had coming back is shining brighter than ever.
Chandler wide receiver Dionte Sykes made his season debut against Sierra Vista Buena after missing the opener with a broken hand. He had a pair of touchdown passes as the Wolves cruised to a 65-13 win over the Colts.
Hamilton wide receiver Elijah Williams suffered a concussion against Brophy. Coach Steve Belles said he believes it’s minor but needs to await the test results.
Dobson starting quarterback Josh Jaramillo did not play against Poston Butte after suffering an injury during the week.
Chaparral linebacker Joe Nauert missed all but one play against Marcos de Niza because of a back injury.
Skyline starting two-way lineman Manny Ramirez seriously injured his tibia and fibula against Yuma Cibola. He was taken off in an ambulance after a 30-minute delay.
It’s been in the works for awhile, but Queen Creek will play its first official game on Friday against Show Low without Joe Germaine as the head coach. An increase in work responsibilities has forced Germaine to relinquish his head coaching duties and become an assistant. Travis Schureman has taken over and the Bulldogs will get a tough test right away against Show Low.
Avondale Westview and Red Mountain will face off in an intriguing Division I clash, as do Pinnacle and Hamilton. Highland had high expectations before the season but has started slowly. It faces Mountain View on Thursday in a key game for both sides. Mesa schools Westwood and Skyline are both 2-0 and will look to stay perfect on Thursday. The Warriors play at Mesa while the Coyotes host Corona del Sol.
Centennial-Brophy, Mesquite-Marana Mountain View and McClintock-Tempe are other games to watch.
Chandler puts a cap on the week with its Saturday showdown against national power Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. The Wolves have played great in the first two weeks. A competitive showing here would really open some eyes.
Dominic Orona, McClintock quarterback: The Chargers improved to 2-0 on the season behind the play of Orona. He’s a converted wide receiver in just his second career game as the team’s signal-caller, but that didn’t stop him from throwing for a school-record 345 yards and four touchdowns. He added 200 rushing yards and three scores as well as an interception return for a touchdown. The eight individual scores were also a school record.
Campo Verde: The Coyotes feasted on a couple easy opponents in the first two weeks of the year but faced an uptick in competition in Week 3. Once again, Campo Verde proved it was more than up to the challenge. Luke Pineda had 241 passing yards and three touchdowns and added 87 rushing yards in a 37-13 victory over Phoenix Thunderbird. Campo Verde is getting contributions from everywhere, and if it wins next week against Gilbert, will be 4-0 heading into a pair of big tests against Highland and Marcos de Niza.
Hamilton defense: On a night where offensive explosions were the norm, the Huskies again showed how dominant they are on the other side of the ball. Brophy could only muster nine points and just over two yards per carry in Hamilton’s 26-9 victory. Garrett Rand and Caleb Peart had two sacks apiece while Qualen Cunningham recovered two fumbles. It’s the first of what should be dominant outings on a weekly basis for the Huskies’ vaunted unit.
Basha: The Bears were riding high after an easy win over Henderson (Nev.) Green Valley a week ago but had no answer for Centennial. The Coyotes jumped out to an 18-0 halftime lead, and while Basha did pull to within a possession late in the game, it was too little, too late. Centennial running back Dedrick Young had 19 carries for 233 yards and four scores, and if the Bears fail to wrap up on attempted tackles they will have trouble stopping elite opponents all year.
Chaparral defense: The Firebirds’ offense did its thing once again on Friday, scoring 45 points. The defense, though, gave up 56 in a loss to Marcos de Niza. The Padres put up 538 yards of total offense and quarterback Josh Eckley gouged Chaparral with his arm and legs. The Firebirds have talent but clearly weaknesses were exploited. Those must be fixed if the team wants to win a title.