It’s mid-season: which teams need to CHECKOFF To Another Game Plan?

It’s not even the halfway point in the high school football
season, and no team wants to consider itself among the have-nots. Every team
believes they will still be playing in late November, early December. The
reality is that the separation between the contenders and pretenders has
already begun to occur by the third game, maybe even sooner. While one team
creates a sense of pending doom with an unexpected loss, another team is creating
an air of excitement with moments made for an end-of-the year DVD.

The implementation of the Power Point system three years ago for Class 4A and
5A schools may still allow some schools to recover from some early defeats, but
only if their schedule is filled with teams that are winning. And you still have
to generally win more than you lose to qualify for the postseason, though there
have been a few exceptions.

So here is a breakdown of who has made an impact, and who we have begun to

Class 5A-Division I

The Contenders

Brophy Prep
– the Broncos finally broke through last season and captured their
first 5A title in football, stunning defending champ Hamilton with a last-minute
touchdown drive. Brophy already suffered a loss in its first three games, but
last year’s experience will help them as the postseason approaches. Quarterback
Bryan Berens, who started the second half of the 2005 season and threw the
winning TD pass in last year’s title game, holds one key. Receiver Chase Taylor
provides a favorite target, but the other key is whether Brophy has a rushing
game to keep opponents honest.

Chandler – The Wolves are
another reason why the power base of prep football has begun to shift toward this
East Valley city. The Wolves have been better
known as a girls’ basketball powerhouse in the late 1990s, and have always had
state-caliber state track teams. Football may have finally caught up. Quarterback
Kyle Hess gives the Wolves a solid leader who can dictate change in a game.
Running back Steven Jackson, if he stays healthy, is a tear. The team’s biggest
player may also be its best. Cameron Jordan, at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, has
got the size. And – most notably – he’s got the pedigree to play big-time
football; his father, Steve, was a six-time Pro Bowler as a tight end with the
Minnesota Vikings.

Mountain View
– There is no postseason without the Toros. Plain and simple. It’s just the way
things are. One of the biggest schools in 5A, Mountain View is making opponents see double
this season with twins Ridge (running back) and Riley (quarterback) Nielsen.
They also have a receiver named Greg Heap, the younger brother of Todd, who is
starting with the NFL Baltimore Ravens.

Gilbert – Coach Jesse Parker ruled 5A when he coached at Mountain View, and now he
looks to do the same in his third year at Gilbert. Receiver Kyle Newhall-Caballero
had already passed for nearly 1,000 yards after just three games. The Tigers
also can run thanks to Joe Zakhar, but defense wins championships, and Parker
can count on defensive end David Woods and safety Bryan McDaniel.

– can’t forget what is going on downstate. The Lancers possess a
Division I stud in 6- foot-4, 300-pound senior lineman Kris O’Dowd. But it
doesn’t stop there. Quarterback Mark Fritz has an arm to find receiver Matt
Ransom and tight end Mark Schneider.

Class 5A-Division I

The Pretenders

– although the Knights opened at 3-0, their opponents were a collective
3-6. The loss of quarterback Phillip Losada to a knee injury during the summer will
show up against Desert Valley Region foes. Mountain Ridge – The coaching
transition from Steve Belles to former defensive coordinator Bobby Green may
have gone well, but the Mountain Lion opened the season with three straight
losses. Mountain Pointe – the defending Central Region champs have a new coach,
Phil Abbadessa, and a solid defense led by linebacker
Chris Allbright. But the Pride will have trouble matching up with Corona del
Sol and Basha in region clashes.
Dobson – Though one of the larger 5A schools, the Mustangs can’t seem
to use their numbers to their advantage in football. Backs Scott Knelsel and Kadeem
Holoman make them interesting to watch.

Class 5A-Division I
The Contenders

Centennial – The Coyotes
opened at 3-0 and don’t appear to be stopping. Quarterback Scott Burgett has a
bevy of talented receivers, including Shawn Reed and Alston Umuolo, plus back
Jeffrey Hughes. Lineman Tom Ramsey paces the defense.

North Canyon – the defending 5A-II state
champs lost some valuable players to graduation, but expect the Rattlers to
make noise again in the postseason led by seniors Brandon Harris, Brady Shinek
and John Mahr.

Sunnyside – With 10 of its 16
starters back on defense, the Blue Devils gave up just two field goals in its
first three games. Sunnyside also benefits from playing in the same region with
Salpointe. Keep an eye on running backs Javon Stevenson and Sammy Olivas behind
quarterback Jared Hiller.

Marcos de Niza – The
Padres jumped out to a surprising 3-0 start. Last year they made the playoffs despite
finishing 3-7 overall. The reason? They play mostly 5A-DI schools as a member
of the Central Region. Harrison Evans literally runs the offense, but quarterback
David Viel provides a passing balance. Defense will determine its future thanks
to eight returning starters led by Shaun Deisler.

Ironwood – Five Division I prospects should carry the Eagles far.
Defensive end William Yancy is ranked the fourth best senior prospect by The others to watch include receivers Eric Hagg and Leonard Jackson,
and kicker Alex Zendejas.

Class 5A-Division II

The Pretenders

Phoenix North High – the Mustangs were
a playoff team a year ago, but a new coach (Dylan Winemiller) and a subpar
Metro Region will leave North ripe for the picking. North opened at 0-3.

Deer Valley – Tyler Hosler is a three-year
starter at quarterback, but the Skyhawks may prove to be nothing more than a
darkhorse candidate despite standouts Zach Hernandez at linebacker, receiver
Spencer Albertson and safety Jonathon Ott.

Paradise Valley – The Trojans play in the tough
Desert Valley
Region with 5A-DI powers like Brophy Prep and St. Mary’s. However, a
well-stocked backfield of Mike Williams, Jacob Igono and Charles Hubbard may
have something to say before it’s over.

Sandra Day O’Connor – As
much as you would like to pull for one of the newer schools on the west side, the
Eagles rely too much on juniors to take them deep into the postseason,
including quarterback Bubba Eisenhauer, and linebackers Elliott Ness and Robert

Class 4A-Division I

The Contenders

Scottsdale Chaparral – The Firebirds
seem destined to end up playing at the Cardinals’ new digs in Glendale. Running back Ross Kamela already
had nearly 500 yards gained after just three games, while quarterback Casey
Lytle had 12 TD passes, including six to Vince Coleman.

Agua Fria – An already talented Owls squad only got richer during the
off-season when they inherited Sweden
exchange student J.P. Lanefores, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defensive end.
Quarterback Mitch Wolfe threw for nearly 1,500 yards last year with 15 TDs. Running
back/defensive end Everson Griffen went from a virtual unknown to a top-10
recruit in the nation over the summer.

Tucson Sabino – The Sabercats
return two players from last year’s state runner-up team, but will be the
biggest threat from the south. Running back Justin Randall and quarterback
Chris Lundgren run the show.

Scottsdale Saguaro – The Sabercats
have a stingy defense led by Max Talbach, who had four interceptions to start the season, plus linemen John Sobczuk, Chris Merrill, Derek Bisgard and Corey
Offensively, quarterback T.J. Rauch and
receiver Shane Anderson are an effective duo.

Class 4A-Division I
The Pretenders

Millenium – the loss of 28
seniors to graduation last year may be too much to ask the Tigers to overcome.

Moon Valley– Linebacker Matt
Arthur is back after a knee injury sidelined him for his junior year, but will he and quarterback Joe Pierses be enough?

Tempe McClintock – The Chargers
always seem to find talent, but they may not have enough at the skill positions to go very far.

Class 4A-Division II

The Contenders

Buckeye – the Hawks returns
13 starters and 10 players with experience on defense led by Clint Gladden, who had 17 sacks last year.

Prescott Bradshaw Mountain – quarterback Kegan Chilton and running back Levi Moore are part of the reason Bradshaw
Mountain wants to make it back to the playoffs despite the graduation of 2,200-yard rusher Adam Beauchamp.

Cottonwood Mingus – The Marauders
lost in the championship game last season to Tucson Palo Verde and vow to return with quarterback Brian Libby, linebacker Travis Wokasch and fullback John Miskiel.

Arcadia – the Titans expect to make it
back to the state semifinals, nd maybe even beyond this time. Running back
Chip Sivak had averaged nearly 100 yards in the first three games.

Cactus Shadows
quarterback Phillip Aholt may be the only reason for the Falcons to reach the postseason
and , beyond, but he’s a good one. He had already thrown 10 TD passes for 755
yards after only three games.

Class 4A-Division II

The Pretenders

Tucson Palo Verde – the defending
state champs have a major rebuilding job.

Glendale – an 0-3 start is not a good
sign even with players like quarterback Michael Chavez and tight end/defensive
lineman Craig Lacey.

Higley – a population boom in Gilbert
has prompted a rise at Higley, but the Knights may not be ready for prime time
just yet despite lineman Tank Ethington and quarterback Kenny Guthrie.