The remainder of returning starters expected to play key roles for the Broncos are all seniors, except for lone junior, Adam Nunez, a 240 lb. defensive tackle. Mike Tree, a 235 lb. senior, is a second-team All State pick last year and fits in at the other tackle slot on the defensive line. Other senior returners include Seyi Adebayo (DE), Ryan Suniga (WR), Garrett Veldman (OG), and Brandon Behrens (OT).
Molander also lists a group of tentative starters for this year: seniors Phil Kennedy (LG), Tim Auran (TB), and Jason Abbott (FS) and juniors Max Eller (WR), Hank Jenkins (C), Peter Kelly (FB)… and several newcomers with high expectations: seniors Beau Maggi (QB), Sam Quinif (QB) and juniors Max Leonesio (TB) and Ross Luther (CB).
Buckey Union HS
The Hawks went 9-3 in the 2007 campaign, finished first in the 4II Skyline Region, and head coach, Bobby Barnes, was named Coach of the Year… but this year’s team may have its challenges just getting on track early enough.
“We’re very inexperienced,” says Barnes. “But as the season goes on, the team will get better and better.”
Barnes does admit that this year’s edition is a “very fast team” – and it has some key returning seniors to provide the foundation for growth this season. They include Ryan Taborn, a Region 1st Team pick last year and the team’s leading rusher; Tyler McArthur, a 3-year starter that plays middle linebacker and center on offense; Beto Jejarano, a 280 lb. offensive lineman (G) that Barnes feels could be one of the best linemen in 4A II ball; and Terense Wilson, a 6-4 wide receiver with great hands that was second in the league in receiving last year.
The players that Barnes picks among those to watch for in 2008 are a trio of junior wide receivers: Randy Hale, David Banks, and Derrick Jefferson. On defense, Hale and Banks also contribute at defensive back and Jefferson is a safety.
Corona del Sol HS
The Aztecs also ran up a 9-3 record, but in the 5A I Central I Region. And head coach, Gary Venturo, sees little fall-off from the success this year.
“We should have a good team,” says Venturo. “We have skilled players and our team speed is better (this year).”
Venturo will have a core of returning starters that will play key roles for this Aztecs this year, including 10 seniors and three juniors.
The seniors include: Evan Althiede (RB/LB), Vincent Ronanno (C/LB), Zeric Butters (OL/DL), Tyler Giannonatti (OL/LB), Ryan Nolan (Rec/DB), Kirby Pellant (Rec/RB/DB/K), Brandon Stern (Rec/DB), Brandon Tunstall (Rec/DB), Greg Brandon (OL/DL), and Zachary Sitton (RB/DB). The trio of juniors include Kyle Benson and Alan Stitt, both playing running back and defensive back, and quarterback Chase Cartwright, who also lines up at defensive back.
The spotlight this year will likely be on Cartwright, who rushed for over 1,200 yards last year as a sophomore, and Pellant, who does a little bit of everything. Last year, Pellant booted two winning field goals and has a strong leg that puts kick-offs into the end zone. He also made his mark as a solid receiver and running back on offense, and was an anchor for a dependable secondary on defense. And Althiede and Giannonatti bear watching; both were first-team conference picks.
Deer Valley HS
The Skyhawks are another example of a team that won a region championship in 2007, but are looking ahead to this year as an opportunity to get even better.
“We have a strong core of returners and great additions from our underclassmen,” says head coach, Sven Christianson. “We’re looking forward to a great year and a deeper run into the play-offs.”
The Skyhawks posted a 7-3 mark last year in the 5A II Northwest Region. Their hopes for improving on that record in 2008 turn on a handful of returning starters that Christianson has singled out:
Pearce Swerdfeger is the returning quarterback, selected last year as the region’s 1st Team quarterback. His coach says that his knowledge of the offense, the game of football, and the vision of the field have improved dramatically. On the receving end of Swerdfeger’s passes is Billy Lutz, who also plays defensive back. He has great hands, runs great routes, and makes plays, says Christianson, who feels he will be a threat both running and catching the ball.
Jumanne Robertson is a returning rotator at the corner position who, according to the coaching staff, is the strongest and fastest player on the squad, pound for pound. Christianson adds that, “His ability to close on the football is unmatched and, when he get there, he will deliver a blow.”
And, finally, add a couple of linebackers to list. Johnny Morrison, at 205 lbs., was selected 1st Team All Region at linebacker last year, and also plays at the offensive guard spot. Jared Beebe, 215 lbs., is the other half of the linebacking tandem, and also is available to play running back. Christianson says that, together, the two “are a force on the defensive side of the ball.”
Higley head coach, Jim Beall, leaves little doubt what his expectations are for 2008. He lists with one word his outlook for this year as “State.”
The Knights finished second in the 4A II East Sky Regin last years, posting a 10-3 record. A strong cadre of returning seniors that started last year gives Beall reason for optimism.
They include: R.J. Arriga (DE/DT), J.P. Beall (QB/DB), Chris Campbell (RB), Colter Conway (OL), Matt Ross (DB/R), Jace Smith (RB/LB), Joey Speitz (LB/RB), Paul Castro (DB/R), Blake Schneider (OL/DL), and Nic Reeder (OL/DL).
Beall is particularly high on Arriga. “He’s a great athlete,” says the head coach, “and will make a great difference for our team on both offense and defense.”
Mountain Ridge HS
The Mountain Lions finished second last year in the 5A II Desert Valley Region, which head coach Bobby Green calls a “very tough region, with some school putting in a lot of time in the off-season and improving on both sides of the ball.”
Green is counting on experience this year to be able to improve on last year’s 7-4 mark. “We have had some great senior leadership and will be relying heavily on their abilities,” he explains. “Many of the players have been on varsity since their sophomore season and have some good experience. The team has a goal of being able to turn some heads while making a run at the playoffs.”
Returning starters for Mountain Ridge that are expected to play key roles in the team’s success this year include a group of seniors that bring experience on both sides of the ball.
At the top of the list has to be the Lions’ returning signal-caller, Kevin Yost. Green says the 6-2, 205 lb. team leader “makes great reads and has a goal to lead the team deep into the playoffs.” At the other end of Yost’s passes will be wide receiver, Cody Wollschlager, a two-way player that has made some impressive catches. As a safety, Wollschlager wants to help the defense to their goal of breaking the school record for fewest points allowed.
A trio of veteran linebackers rounds out Green’s list. They include 6-1, 214 lb. Brad Cunningham, who is part of a defensive core that has been playing together since their sophomore year… 6-0, 205 lb. Michael Chocholousek, the second cog in that experienced linebacking group… and 5-11, 200 lb. Bret Hager, the final piece to the trio, who is also expected to get some playing time this year on offense at running back.