Neither selection for this year’s high school football Players of the Year took their teams to a state title, or even the title game. But each was unquestionably responsible for the success their teams had – and that’s what ultimately won them the awards.
Both Mark Andrews, the Arizona Republic’s Big Schools Player of the Year, and Alfred Erives, the Small Schools Player of the Year, got their teams as far as the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Both teams, coincidentally, finished with a 9-3 record.
Andrews is a big wide receiver for Division I Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale and, despite not playing the game until he began high school, the junior is already being courted by major college programs including Arizona and Arizona State.
Those suitors – including No. 1 Notre Dame – are all salivating over the possibilities the 6’6″, 225-pound Andrews presents for their programs. While his primary position was as a wide-out, from where he was able to pull in 81 passes for 1,494 yards and 21 touchdowns, he also spent time running out of the backfield.
Oh yeah, he also uses his soccer skills to handle kick-offs. And his leaping ability to pull down the high throws probably can be attributed in part to the fact that he also plays on the Desert Mountain basketball team.
Erives, the other award recipient, also plays basketball. But there’s no question his main contributions to the Arizona Lutheran Academy sports programs was on the football field.
In his final year playing for the small Division V school in southwest Phoenix, the senior running back polished off a career resume that includes over 5,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving.
That dual-threat capability really showed up this year, as Erives ran for 2,418 yards and 26 touchdowns, and then came within 90 yards of a 1,000-yard season on receptions. He caught 38 balls and accounted for 13 TDs as a receiver out of the backfield.
And, when he wasn’t on the field leading the offensive attack, he was helping as a defensive back. Erives was credited with 107 tackles, 68 of those solo, on an impressive stat sheet that also included a couple of sacks and an interception.
Unlike Andrews, Erives hasn’t been flooded with college offers. Such is the plight of good players at small schools. But his coach, Scott Indahl, says he expects his two-way athlete to find a spot on a college roster somewhere.
Indahl loses his Player of the Year to graduation. But Tony Tabor at Desert Mountain will have Andrews back in the fold again next year as the Lions try to go even deeper in the playoffs.
That may not be an unrealistic expectation…Tabor’s quarterback, Kyle Allen, is also a junior this year. It will be another year of Allen-to-Andrews.
Coaches of the Year:
Matt Johnson, who took Tucson’s Ironwood Ridge High School to the Division II state championship, was named the Republic’s Big Schools Coach of the Year. The fourth-year head coach came within a game of an undefeated record, losing a heart-breaker against Salpointe Catholic to close out the regular season.
Rex Bowser, whose team beat Division IV power Blue Ridge High to win the state title, is the Small Schools Coach of the Year. Bowser wrapped up his fifth season at the helm of the Seton Catholic program in Chandler with a 13-1 record.