In my preseason Arizona high school football questionnaire, I emailed coaches asking who on their teams they would go to battle with this season. These are the tough guys, guys who would go through a wall, do whatever it takes for the team.

Many responded, and few if any gave the star player, or the team’s most recruited player, as their guy or guys they’d go into battle with.

Here are the responses from those who answered the question:

Phoenix North Canyon coach Adam Beene: Victor Amaro. “He’s the right kind of crazy.”

Kayenta Monument Valley coach Bryan Begay: Simeon Thinn, senior, linebacker and offensive lineman. “Just a great athlete and leader, Thinn will do anything to help his team win. He has the instincts to be a dominate as a linebacker but he can also impact the game on offense at guard on the offensive line. He never gets tired and never wants to leave the game. He is carving his path as perhaps one of the greatest linebackers MV has ever had.”

Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge coach James Hardy:  Luca Moioli, middle linebacker, wrestler. “1300+ SAT, 30 ACT.  Not flashy or the best athlete – gives you everything he’s got, doesn’t talk much, and just gets the job done wherever he plays.”

Tucson Empire coach George Kelly: Juan Hulgin. “He is a natural leader vocally and leads by example. He is one of our strongest players on the team. He has a positive attitude and great work ethic.”

Douglas coach Hunter Long: “I’d go to war with every single one of my guys. These guys are all warriors and they all bring it day in and day out. But if one person was to lead these guys into battle, that would be Trey Rose (QB). He embodies what it means to be a TRUE leader. He stays calm under pressure, always picking his guys up and is always the one ready to go to work rain or shine.”

Gilbert Campo Verde coach Max Ragsdale: Chad Roderick. “Awesome work ethic, great leader, VERY coachable.”

Phoenix Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke: Adam Verbalaitis. “No one tougher and more determined.”

Gilbert Perry coach Preston Jones: “I would go to war with Cole Sabetta. Unbelievable motor, great leader, tough, selfless, work ethic.  Definition of a Perry football player.”

Paradise Valley football coach Greg Davis: Joevanni Haddad (senior, wide receiver). “Joevanni is a 4-year starter, he has been a leader on this team since the day he set foot on our campus. He not only leads on the field, but off the field as well. His character is unmatched and he is willing to hold others accountable, as well as hold himself accountable as well.”

Tuba City coach Vincent Lee: Seth Brown. The kid is an absolute workhorse, has a great attitude, and will fight until the end.”

Winslow coach Brandon Guzman: Britt Alcott. “Late bloomer, hardest working kid in the spring and summer, will be a two-way starter this upcoming season.

Peoria coach Will Babb: Trey Hendrix. “Why? Watch his Hudl (film). Seriously, the kid is as good as we’ve had.” Micho Cordero. “Three-year starter and 2x state wrestling placer.  Was injured last wrestling season.”

San Tan Valley coach Jeremy Sather: “We have 5 guys on our leadership committee that have had an amazing offseason, leading and encouraging our team — Cutter Kuhl, Justice Gutierrez, Brett Lincoln, Angel Jasso, Darian Hall. Our senior class has also really stepped up their effort and leadership.”

Surprise Valley Vista coach Josh Sekoch: Trenton Foster. “Unafraid of leadership, not impacted by peer pressure, wouldn’t back down from a challenge, loyal.  Second, Jeremiah Flowers, LB, tough, disciplined, tough, tough, angry on field.”

Fountain Hills coach Jason Henslin: Hafeez Momoh. “He makes everyone else around him better. He has been a starter on varsity since his first game as a freshman. He is a relentless player whom opposing teams always have to account for.”

Peoria Liberty coach Mark Smith: Shane Pitts. “Warrior.”

American Leadership Queen Creek coach Rich Edwards: Carter Taylor. “High Character, 100 percent effort all the time, total buy in to program.”

Kingman coach Russ Stryker: Edwin Aguirre (Sr. DE, OT), Powers Corbin (Sr. MLB, FB). “Edwin and Powers are the two players I would go to war with in a second. Both very solid players and excellent leaders.”

Holbrook  coach Chris Starkey: John O’Brien. “Last season, John played 3 different offensive position throughout the year — RB, TE, and then was moved to OL. John has a selflessness about him that makes it easy to trust. John has attended 99% of our summer weights sessions while also competing on the local youth baseball team and summer high school baseball.”

Glendale Prep coach Robert Addicott: “Two — Charlie Addicott, Matthew Hawkins. “Both are tough, responsible young men of character, competitive spirits that never give up.”

Tucson Sabino coach Ryan McBrayer: Daniel McAllister. “Because I’d be afraid to see him running at me if he was on the other side.”

Avondale Westview coach Nicholas Gehrts: “Anthony Rodriguez and Levyn Santillan are both 3-year starters that are what we look for in Westview football players. Both of them are mentally tough and in turn makes them physically tough. They are both very loyal to our program and what team success before their own success.”

Cottonwood Mingus coach Robert Ortiz: OL/DL Ryan Griffin. “He is a silent leader who leads by example. In today’s society, Ryan is a young man who has never missed a practice, and is always early for everything we do as a football program. Not to mention he is state qualifying wrestler, as well.”

Buckeye Verrado coach Shawn Copeland: Kyle Noble,. “Unbelievable hard worker and extremely tough.  Blake Gamez a very close second.” 

Tucson Sunnyside coach Glenn Posey: “Andrew Gonzalez is my guy to go to war with.   He is all-in, works hard, listens and is very coachable. He’s a typical old-school Sunnyside football player: tough, won’t back down to no one.”

Tucson Rincon University coach Mike Strack: Cooper Harris. “He has been the most dedicated to getting better. He has been the most reliable.”

Mesa Dobson coach Bill Godsil: Damian Duarte. “He is dependable and has motor that does not quit.”

Bagdad coach Dalton Mills: Brady Finnerty. “He is our biggest and most consistent player in big games. Games are won in the trenches and he will be a big reason why.”

Poston Butte coach Dain Thompson: Nick Cocomello. “He has proven this offseason to be a force. I look for him to be an impact player in all three phases of the game, and do it old-school with toughness and grit.”

Phoenix Veritas coach Jason Black: Marko Vuletic, junior, RB/LB. “Tough kid, hard working and a never quit attitude. You ask, he does.”

Phoenix Northwest Christian coach Dave Inness: “I have 2. Cameron Adams because he does it all for us, always ready to make the big play. Cameron Sterner, OL/DL, has a chance to be as good as any lineman to play for Northwest. Both were key guys for us on our run to state.”

Queen Creek Casteel coach Bobby Newcombe: “Preston Oretega is our most dependable, and hardest worker, he thinks he could play for Buddy Stephens at East Mississippi CC (of Netflix’s Last Chance U fame).”

Winkelman Hayden coach John Estrada: RB Jorge Rodriguez, 5-10, 180; QB A.J. Castillo, 5-10, 170. “Both kids leave it all on the field, lead by example, and work extremely hard.”

Apache Junction coach Vance Miller: Gibson Limongello. “Unselfish. Can play any position. Never-quit attitude. He will stand up for everyone on his team.”

Tucson Salpointe coach Dennis Bene: Trent Strong. “A loyal leader who is totally committed to his team, the quiet, smart kid, who can flip the switch to nasty when needed.”

Scottsdale Notre Dame coach George Prelock: “All of my players because they are unselfish and about the team.”

Tucson Palo Verde coach Mike Wells: Demier Nelson. “Mostly because of his leadership, commitment to academics, coachability and his performance on the field.”

Benson coach Chris Determan: Carson Barney. “Never-quit attitude, loves to compete and play physical.”

Phoenix North Pointe Prep coach Damien Logan: “I can’t really single out one guy. Maybe Connor (Christiensen) or Matthew (McGovern), because they know me the best. They’re both really scrappy kids and willing to work on the little things to get better.”

American Leadership Gilbert North coach coach Randy Ricedorff: Taggart Caskey. “He was our most valuable player a year ago. He can play QB, WR, LB, or DB. The ultimate team player who will do what ever is asked with a perfect attitude and effort.” Kade Thorley. “He is getting a number of college looks and has a few offers. He is our center and starting DT. Very high character, great motor, and tremendous work ethic. Kade is a team captain and I would go to war with him any day.”

Glendale coach Rob York: David Jimenez. “Works his tail off, never quits, does his job.”

American Leadership Ironwood coach Travis Epperson: Louie Gonzales. “He never looks for an excuse, he’s always where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there, doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”

Phoenix Alhambra coach Chris Crockett: “Jaden “Chico” Crockett will start at QB and has complete control of the offense, the only non-senior team captain, a three-sport varsity starting athlete (football/basketball/track). Never comes off the field.

Surprise Shadow Ridge coach Bob Chappell: OL/DL Isaiah Mercado. “Three-year starter that plays with great intensity and a nasty streak.”

San Tan Valley Combs coach Travis Miller: Joseph Jensen. “Pure athlete, non-stop motor, playmaker. Can play anywhere on the field. Field general.”

Glendale Copper Canyon coach Sean Freeman: Troy Moreno. “He is a great young man to have by your side. Goes 0 to 100 when he is on the field and a great leader off the field. He had my back when things weren’t going well last year.”

Scottsdale Chaparral coach Brent Barnes: “This whole senior class because they have committed so much to what we are trying to do and really care about each other.”

Buckeye Odyssey Institute coach Jon Castellanos: RB Chris Weaver. “Physically and mentally tough. Always gives 110 percent.”

Gilbert Mesquite coach Scott Hare: Chris Hintze. “Chris has a high motor that never stops. He wants to win and is willing to do whatever he needs to do to help the team. Chris is the type of player that a coach can build around as he is tough and athletic.”

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at

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