Pinnacle proving to be about more than Spencer Rattler

It’s not just the Spencer Rattler Show playing to rave reviews at Phoenix Pinnacle High School.

The star needs helps.

And he is getting it from Kaleb Covington and Amelec Juntunen, who have taken on new roles to help make this potentially the greatest football season in school history.

Covington moved from featured running back to wide receiver before the season began. Juntunen went from running back to linebacker.

Both are seniors. While Juntunen finally got a Division I offer and accepted it from Northern Arizona, Covington still waits for one.

“Kaleb is a complete dog,” said Rattler, the Oklahoma commit, who is ranked as the top 2019 high school quarterback in the nation. “He is one of the most athletic kids I’ve seen and should have many offers.

“He’s a killer for us on the offensive side.”

And the do-anything Juntunen?

“Amelec is super explosive on both sides of the ball,” Rattler said. “He makes plays all over the field and is a big factor for our team.”

Together, they’ll help lead Pinnacle (6-1) at home Friday night to try to give the only unbeaten team left in 6A, Peoria Liberty (7-0), its first loss.

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Kaleb Covington and Amelec Juntunen talk about the 6-1 start to their 2018 football season.
Mark Henle, The Republic

“We knew we had to look at the rest of our team,” Covington said about making the position switch.

It was part of a domino effect after the Hatten twins — receivers Hayden and Hogan — transferred to Scottsdale Saguaro. And a lot of it had to do with the emergence of junior tailback Matt Goodlow.

“I think Kaleb was concerned at first because he has always been a running back but I know he is happy with the move now,” coach Dana Zupke said. “We moved him because he is a playmaker and Spencer has the ability to get him the ball anywhere.  The most impressive thing about Kaleb is his ability to make full speed cuts.  He just makes people  look silly at times.”

In the season opener, a 59-33 win over Gilbert Perry, Covington had  four catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.

The next game, during a 56-34 win over Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Covington had to return to tailback after Goodlow suffered a season-ending injury. He ran five times for 66 yards.

Juntunen, who stood out in the opener on defense with 11 solo tackles (14 total), also chipped in at running back against Mountain Pointe, running for 43 yards and two TDs on six carries.

“We knew right when Matt got hurt, we were playing a very good team, and we knew what we needed to do to win that game,” Juntunen.

In that same game, Rattler went out late in the first quarter with an ankle sprain. There was no need to return and risk further injury with junior quarterback J.D. Johnson completing 14 of 17 for 250 yards and three TDs.

Rattler missed all of the next game, before returning. He is less than 100 yards away from becoming the first quarterback in Arizona high school history to throw for more than 11,000 yards in a varsity career.

Goodlow had 28 carries in the first two games.

Rattler leads the team in carries with 38. Juntunen leads in rushing yards with 277 on 22 carries. Juntunen, who is from Haiti and was adopted when he was 5, leads the team with 64 tackles.

“Amelec embraces whatever role we ask him to play,” Zupke said. “We’ve always known he could be an impact player on both sides but he lacked confidence early on. This year he is playing very confident and it shows on the field.”

Covington has run for 258 yards on 32 carries. He also has 26 catches for 616 yards and five TDs with Rattler and Johnson spreading the wealth, finding Marcus Libman 31 times for 552 yards and eight TDs and Quinton Powell 18 times for 367 yards and five TDs.

With such depth, speed and athleticism, there are rumblings that this is the best team coach Dana Zupke has had.

“I think we have a very special team this year,” Covington said. “I think we can do some good things.”

Championships come with sacrifice, not just elite players.

Last year, with Rattler and Nico Mannion teaming up in the backcourt, Pinnacle won its first state basketball championship.

Football still is waiting for its first championship.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.

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