Casteel surprised with two wins over Mountain Pointe on its way through the Nike 7 on 7 passing tournament in Scottsdale on Saturday. Richard Obert/azcentral sports

Queen Creek Casteel won’t have its first graduating class until 2019. But on Saturday, the newest kids on the Chandler district block showed up big in the 32-team Nike 7 on 7 passing tournament at Scottsdale Sports Complex.

The Colts beat Phoenix Mountain Pointe in pool play and again in the quarterfinals, before having Chandler Hamilton on the ropes.

Hamilton pulled out a one-point win on Tyler Shough’s deep pass to Tim Lockhart for a touchdown and a two-point pass to running back Jawhar Jordan in Hamilton’s final possession.

Chandler, the defending 6A champion, then beat Hamilton 32-27 for the championship.

Granted, there was no pass rush and Mountain Pointe has earned its reputation as a state power under coach Norris Vaughan by running the football and pressuring quarterbacks into interceptions.

But it was an impressive day for Casteel, which will play one more year in the 3A Conference, before a projected placement in 5A with about 2,500 students by the 2018-19 school year.

Quarterback Gunner Cruz, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, showed poise and touch on his passes. And the defense looked good on coverage.

“It doesn’t surprise me to come out and compete the way we did today, especially the way they’ve been working in the weight room,” Casteel coach Spencer Stowers said. “We just need to close out. That’s what we’re working on.”

Stowers believes Cruz’s recruiting could begin to blow up later in the summer. College coaches have come through to see him.

“His size, how smart he is, his poise, they like that,” Stowers said.

Casteel is the early favorite to win 3A next season and maybe run the table.

More takeaways

–No surprise there were three Chandler Unified School District schools – Casteel, Chandler and Hamilton – in the final four. And that was without Gilbert Perry and All-Arizona quarterback Brock Purdy in the field. Perry coach Preston Jones says he doesn’t believe in 7 on 7 tournaments.

–Chandler scored on every single possession but one on the day, and 2019 quarterback Jacob Conover did not throw an interception.

–It was cool to see coach Bryan Begay bring about a dozen of his Kayenta Monument Valley football players from the reservation for this tournament.

–It’s hard to believe Montana is the only Division I college to offer Mesa Red Mountain 2018 dynamo Lance Lawson. He was one of the more noticeable players on the field, both on offense and defense with his quickness, moves and instincts. His interception of a Spencer Rattler pass helped key Red Mountain’s quarterfinal victory over Phoenix Pinnacle.

–Rattler keeps showing off leadership abilities and an incredibly quick release as he continues to rise among the nation’s best 2019 quarterbacks.

–Phoenix North Canyon may have to wait until midway through its season before the offense really takes off. That’s if 2019 quarterback Louis Contreras, 6-3, 188, has to sit out the first five games because of his transfer from Goodyear Millennium. Contreras showed off a strong, accurate arm, making good decisions. 

–North Canyon 2018 wide receiver Solomon Enis, who is 6-4 and weighs 200 pounds, looked liked the state’s No.1-rated 2018 prospect with his catches over the middle and over defenders at times. He says he has received an invitation to The Opening this summer in Oregon. Those spots are coveted and reserved for the best seniors-to-be in the nation.

North Canyon has a new coach, who just won a state championship in track. Airabin Justin, a defensive back in college, is turning North Canyon into more of a passing team than last year when it went 6-4 in 5A under coach Jose Lucero, who left after one year to lead Goodyear Desert Edge’s program.

“I think we’ll be better,” Enis said. “Last year, we had more talent. But this year we’re working harder for sure.”

–Chandler overpowered Scottsdale Saguaro 35-13 in a quarterfinal. These were the two highest nationally ranked teams from Arizona last football season. Saguaro won the 4A title last season when it went 14-0, finding no competition at its level from Arizona.


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State’s biggest pool of QBs

Two quarterbacks have offers from Alabama. Another, the youngest of the batch, got one from Ohio State.

And yet another picked up seven offers last week.

This 2017 high school football season will be the year of the quarterback, maybe more than any time in Arizona preps history.

And, on Saturday at the biggest 7 on 7 passing tournament in the Valley, 32 teams will be battling it out – with maybe a few future quarterbacks who will be playing on Sundays – on display in the Nike event at the Scottsdale Sports Complex.

“Probably the best group of QB talent at a 7’s in Arizona ever,” Chandler Basha coach Rick Wellbrock noted in a text message.

Who can argue?

MORE: Arizona’s top high school football prospects 2018

When was the last time two Arizona high school quarterback received spring scholarship offers from Alabama in the same year?

Chandler Hamilton 2018 prospect Tyler Shough picked up an Alabama offer during spring ball. A little later, Phoenix Pinnacle 2019 prospect Spencer Rattler picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide the same week he received an offer from Notre Dame.

Scottsdale Chaparral 2020 prospect Jack Miller recently picked up Ohio State, North Carolina and Ole Miss offers, giving him nine already. He picked up Arizona and Arizona State offers only an hour apart early in the spring football period.

Then there is Gilbert 2018 prospect Jack Plummer picking up seven offers in a week. Included was South Carolina and Cincinnati, said his personal quarterback coach Mike Giovando. Plummer is in Indiana and Purdue on unofficial visits before returning home to play in the Nike tourney, then he heads back out on the road to visit South Carolina on Monday.

“It’s been a big spring for guys getting offers,” Giovando said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Shough’s recruiting has been both shocking and off the charts this spring. What began with a few small Division I offers quickly escalated after he picked up an offer from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

Shortly after that, Alabama offered. Now he is up to 25 offers.

MORE: Top Arizona high school football prospects, Class of 2019

“I think when you get one big-time school come in on you, others take notice and don’t want to not be invited to the party,” said Giovando, who also works with Rattler, Scottsdale Saguaro 2018 prospect Max Massingale and Phoenix Mountain Pointe 2019 prospect Nick Wallerstedt, both of whom will be flinging it Saturday in Scottsdale. “Good for (Shough).”

The 7 on 7 games will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Scottsdale Sports Complex. This is the fifth year for the Nike tourney, and the biggest turnout so far. Some schools are bringing two teams.

Teams will be divided into eight pools:

A: Basha 1, Saguaro, Gilbert Mesquite 2, Kayenta Monument Valley. B: Chandler, Goodyear Desert Edge, Hamilton 2, Phoenix North Canyon. C: Chaparral, Mesquite 1, Basha 2, Palo Verde. D: Hamilton 1, Phoenix Horizon, Pinnacle 2, Eloy Santa Cruz. E: Mountain Pointe, Queen Creek Casteel, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Phoenix Valley Lutheran. F: Mesa Mountain View, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Avondale Westview, Buckeye Verrado. G: Pinnacle 1, Gilbert Higley, Goodyear Millennium, Tempe McClintock. H: Glendale Mountain Ridge, Gilbert, Mesa Red Mountain, Prescott.

Games run from 8 a.m. through about 10:30 a.m. The championship game is slated for 1:30 p.m.

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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