Is it too early to figure out 2011?
About 36 hours have passed since the longest high school football season in Arizona concluded (Remember when Hamilton played Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in Flagstaff in mid-August? Neither do we.).
The final champion was crowned a few ticks before midnight on Monday, and all the hulabaloo created by TV switching the Class 5A championship games backfired because the Hamilton-Desert Ridge game was far more watchable and interesting than Chaparral-Centennial.
Nonetheless, the Huskies have a dynasty and Chaparral is on the verge.
Everyone knows those two will be good again. Really good. The Huskies always are, and Chaparral returns its best player (Davonte Neal), quarterback (Connor Brewer), running backs (Lucas Petrullo and Zach Skeen) and another half-dozen guys who were factors in their second consecutive championship.
Maybe they’ll even play each other next season.
Since only eight months stand between now and the start of football camp, let’s consult the Ouija Board for a glimpse at who else could be playing 11 months and 51 weeks from now under the new division realignments:
Desert Ridge: Other than receiver/defensive back Paris Clark, the key guys all return (Jordan Becerra, Joey Counts, Parker Rasmussen Anthony Hvorka, Kevin Walters). How the Jaguars shape the offense next year with Jordan Becerra’s success at quarterback running vs. Parker Rasmussen throwing will be key. So, too, will trying to replace a chunk of the offensive line and Sam Papa and Ryan Hathcock defensively.
Desert Vista: Desert Ridge’s junior class is outstanding, but Jeremy Hathcock raved about Desert Vista’s junior class after the semifinal game. He’s right. Replacing the on-field and leadership of Mike Ingrassia and Sean Coffinger will be guys like Mike Arredondo, Shaw Loomer, Hunter Rodriguez and Dominic Kereluk. Those three will have a big hand in carrying on 2010’s renaissance, not to mention more than half of the defensive starters will return.
Brophy: If the Broncos weren’t down to their fourth quarterback and had a kicking game, they probably beat Mountain Pointe in the quarterfinals. Tyler Bruggman should be fully healthy by summer, and the Broncos’ defense loaded with sophomores and juniors made significant improvement in the second half of the season. Fred Gammage and speedster Devon Allen return, and Marche Dennard has a chance to surpass the excellent season his brother (Josh) earned at running back. A mostly new offensive line is the biggest question mark.
St. Mary’s: With enrollment numbers and financial aid funding continuing to plummet, the crop of kids continues to shrink in this once-proud program. The Knights are in a favorable sectional with all the Phoenix metro schools (and a good Avondale Westview team) and this year’s group of sophomores and juniors has taken plenty of lumps. This could be the best and last year to make a run into the playoffs.
‘Ballers beware: Notre Dame, Williams Field, Basha, Mountain Pointe.
It’s awards time, so coaches and/or region representatives should send us a full copy of the all-region and all-state teams ASAP from the Class 4A and 5A regions, as well as the 2A Central, to email@example.com.
Outside of those, the coaching carousel is already in full swing. So far, five East Valley schools are looking for a new direction: Mountain View, Mesquite, Corona del Sol, Higley and McClintock.
Corona will probably be the first to name someone — probably by the end of this week — while the others won’t take too long either because schools want coaches and a staff in place early in 2011 to get moving in the new direction. Also, most districts have early or mid-January board meetings scheduled. So approving new hires could be squeezed in if done on time.
We’ll keep up on all the rumors, gossip, innuendo and, eventually, the facts as the calendar changes.
Old adages that still apply: Chaparral’s offense blew through the first 13 games of the season, but when it stalled, the Firebirds’ best asset this season, defense, came through in the clutch again. Hamilton didn’t pile up the points the way many thought it would (also a credit to Desert Ridge’s defense). But the Huskies’ biggest strength the last six weeks (its defense) cracked without crumbling in the game’s final drive. Even Saguaro’s oft-flimsy defense helped save its season late against Tucson Canyon del Oro in the 4A-I championship game. You can re-invent the wheel on offense all you want, but until you stop the other team ...
The AIA: Maybe the Cardinals deserve some of this credit, too, but for all the flack the governing body received about the championships on a Monday, game times changing and wanting to play on a Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium, it was a pleasure to see the University of Phoenix Stadium roof open. It was unusually warm and that helped the cause, but no jacket was required on the field at 11:30 p.m.
Fourth-down charts: This Insider isn’t a fan of scrutinizing play-calling, but there were a litany of questionable moves at key moments in these playoffs. The most glaring (because of the result) was Desert Ridge’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-3 with a pass late in the first half that Hamilton intercepted and returned for a touchdown (methinks the ball was supposed to have been thrown quicker than it was). Chaparral went for it on fourth-and-2 near midfield but tried a fake punt instead of running a normal play, and Peoria Centennial snuffed it out (though no harm done in the end). Aggressiveness is good, it’s what Jeremy Hathcock (Desert Ridge) and Charlie Ragle (Chaparral) have in their blood. Until, as Chandler coach Jim Ewan said no fewer than three times on Monday night, coaches outthink themselves.