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Peoria Centennial running back Zidane Thomas has lofty goals for 2017.

Zidane Thomas has big goals that he feels are attainable.

He wants to finish the deal and win the 5A state championship, something that Gilbert Williams Field prevented in last year’s final.

Personally, his goal is simple:

“Try to get close to 3,000 yards (rushing),” he said.

Thomas is capable.

Peoria Centennial returns four of its five starting offensive linemen. And coach Richard Taylor calls Thomas the best running back he has coached. And that speaks volumes because Taylor has had some of the state’s best running backs – the Hughes brothers and Timmy House come to mind – come through Centennial in the last 15 years.

Thomas, 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, looked stronger and faster during Centennial’s spring football practice on Tuesday, coming off a junior season in which he ran for 2,329 yards and 22 touchdowns, leading the Coyotes to a 12-2 record.

“I feel like now, I’ll be a senior and it’s my turn to step up and lead,” Thomas said.

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Thomas has a lot of help around him. Quarterback Ruben Beltran and running back Alex Escobar return along with four-fifths of what was a young offensive line last season.

Centennial has good, young receivers and a tight end, 6-4, 220-pound Jacob Franklin, who lives in the weight room.

Franklin, the son of former Peoria All-Arizona linebacker Aaron Franklin, suffered a hand injury in last year’s season opener against Goodyear Desert Edge. He wasn’t able to return until the second round of the playoffs. Now he’s in catch-up mode for college recruiters.

But he’ll be a force on both sides of the ball, not only at tight end but at defensive end/outside linebacker.

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Zidane Thomas leads title contenders into new season.

The defense is young but very athletic, with possibly a sophomore playing in the secondary. That is Jaydin Young, the brother of Nebraska linebacker Dedrick Young.

“He tells me always listen to the coach,” Young said of the advice big brother gives him. “I try to be myself. At school, I get a lot of, ‘Dedrick this, Dedrick that.’ I try to be myself.”

Taylor feels this current freshman class is as talented as the freshmen who came through four years ago. That group was led by defensive end/tight end Andrew Nichols, who is part of this year’s graduating class.

Leading the current freshmen is all-everything D’Angelo Garcia, who is 6-3, 210 pounds. Taylor said he will start out at middle linebacker. If he doesn’t play there, he will move to defensive end/outside linebacker.

Taylor believes outside linebacker/running back Jordan Ware will be next season’s version of John Rincon, who was a game-changer on the state championship team from two years ago.

“That kid has always been a running back, but he’s such a good linebacker,” Taylor said. “He started playing linebacker when he was a sophomore.”

This team should come together by the time it has to host Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas on Sept. 29.

“We’ll just do our best and learn,” Ware said.

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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.