A day after his night to forget, senior quarterback Cole Pembroke went to the Phoenix Desert Vista coaches and floated the idea of staying on defense exclusively.
Following a Saturday deliberation, the staff agreed, and junior Cody Sokol will make his first high school start at quarterback on Friday in the school’s home opener against Mesa.
Sokol and the incumbent Pembroke split time last week in a 28-7 loss against Gilbert, with Sokol coming into the game in the latter stages.
The senior Pembroke was one of five two-way starters for the Thunder. He’ll remain a starter at safety, see some action on special teams and could see a couple of snaps on offense to take advantage of his speed. He’ll also remain the backup quarterback.
“To me, that’s a noble kid with a lot of character,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. “Many kids and parents don’t put the team first, but he’s never not done that. That’s why I love the kid.”
Hinds hadn’t thought of changing quarterbacks, even after the rough night offensively against the Tigers, and said Sokol will get time to grow as a starter, which avoids any possible quarterback controversy in the near future.
Pembroke was 2 of 8 and had two interceptions against Gilbert. Sokol was 4 of 8 for 52 yards and directed the team’s lone touchdown drive late.
The Thunder also received good news when running back Marcus Washington, a Division I college prospect who figures to be a key component of the offense this season, was cleared by doctors and returned to practice this week. Washington had summer surgery to repair a stress fracture, in which a rod was inserted into his leg. Hinds said he could see limited action against Mesa as he eases back into football conditioning.
Safety Jake Van Raaphorst will be a game-time decision after suffering a concussion last week.
In November of last year, Apache Junction coach Rich Milligan decided to scrap the I-formation offense and go to an option attack for 2008.
Two games in, the results couldn’t be better.
The Prospectors are 2-0, amassing 868 yards and 16 touchdowns on 90 carries in the two contests.
While running back Shane McCullen had been the primary weapon the past two years — and he does still lead the team in rushing — five other players have rushed for more than 75 yards this season and all six are averaging at least 7.92 yards per carry.
Milligan got the idea for the offense after watching some tapes of Paul Johnson coaching at Navy. He looked around the Internet for additional help and called other coaches.
Johnson’s Navy teams were able to compete with higher-profile programs in part because of the option attack, much like Apache Junction is trying to do in the same region as Scottsdale Saguaro and Scottsdale Chaparral.
“(Navy) didn’t go out and recruit the same caliber of athlete, but they were able to be successful,” Milligan said. “It was kind of a perfect fit (for Apache Junction).”
Gilbert Mesquite again will start junior Steven Hansen at quarterback when the Wildcats host Mesa Westwood tonight. Hansen got the opening nod as senior Matt Westergard is still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in preseason workouts.
Hansen rushed for 112 yards and passed for 85 in his debut in the Wildcats’ loss to Scottsdale Desert Mountain last week.
A pair of seniors idled the first couple weeks will make their 2008 debuts this evening for Gilbert Highland when the Hawks visit Phoenix Central. Offensive lineman Sefita Vaki, who played center last season, has regained eligibility and will start at tackle.
Tailback Eli West, who missed the first two games for unspecified reasons, gets his first look in the backfield.
“With Vaki back we have more depth and may not have guys going both ways as much,” Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said.
Mesa Red Mountain coach Jim Jones isn’t pushing the panic button for a couple of reasons despite the Mountain Lions’ 37-12 thumping at the hands of Tempe Corona del Sol.
“First of all, it was our first game, and Corona had already played one game,” Jones said. “That said, Corona is a very good football team. They’re legitimate. We will do some shuffling. There’s a lot of work ahead.”
Jones said Thursday the team has done a little shuffling but spent more time pushing the linemen in practice to get better results.
The Wolves’ 55-7 romp over Glendale Ironwood was a pretty good effort. How good?
“It was the best first game in my eight years here,” Chandler coach Jim Ewan said. “Ironwood had one first down in the first half because of a penalty on us. And other than one botched PAT (point after touchdown) it was pretty close to perfect.”
Chandler rushed for just shy of 200 yards (196) and passed for 237 with junior Kyle Yount throwing for 212 in his first varsity start and adding 30 yards rushing.
If 2-0 Chandler Seton Catholic is to surpass its win total from last season tonight, it will do so without leading tackler Mitch Hershkowitz. The senior linebacker suffered a deep cut on his right hand in the season opener and required 15 stitches. The stitches were removed last Friday, but the cut reopened during the Sentinels’ victory over Glendale Copper Canyon.
Hershkowitz, who has 21 tackles and has also carried the ball 11 times for 115 yards, didn’t practice this week and won’t until his hand has healed.
In other injury news, Phoenix Arcadia will be without starting defensive tackle Casey Rockwood for two weeks due to a broken left hand.
Phoenix Mountain Pointe running back De’Andre Currie was named this week’s Cardinals high school player of the week. Currie rushed for 231 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns in a 24-19 win against Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Scottsdale Chaparral’s Charlie Ragle was named coach of the week following the Firebirds’ 23-20 win over Cienega, in which Chaparral capped a wild comeback with a 56-yard drive in 27 seconds, capped by a game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass.
Staff writers Kyle Odegard, Les Willsey and Matt Paulson contributed to this report.
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