Bordow: There are story lines everywhere, from Scottsdale Notre Dame sitting out spring ball to Chandler Hamilton’s trying times to one of the more interesting coaching changes in years. Video: azcentral sports
Spring football often is fairly quiet. There are no pads or helmets, the coaches can only learn so much and everyone looks forward to the first true practice in August.
This year is an exception. There are story lines everywhere, from Scottsdale Notre Dame sitting out spring ball to Chandler Hamilton’s trying times to one of the more interesting coaching changes in years.
A few schools already have begun practicing. Some will start next week and the rest on May 1.
Here are five stories we’ll follow with interest.
Chandler Hamilton will begin spring ball Monday still reeling from the hazing scandal that resulted in the arrests of six players, the re-assignment of Coach Steve Belles and the subsequent transfers of several key athletes. It’s uncertain whether Belles, who has won five state championships at the school since 2006, will return as head coach.
Perhaps Assistant Principal Dick Baniszewski, who will run spring ball in Belles’ absence, and team leaders like quarterback Tyler Shough can re-focus Hamilton’s players, if only for a short time. In that sense, the three weeks of practice may do more good for Hamilton than any team in the state.
On the sidelines
Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep canceled spring ball as part of a self-imposed penalty during the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s investigation regarding its summer football “class.” That can’t be easy on players who would have been seen by college coaches through the spring evaluation period.
But the promotion of freshman coach George Prelock to head varsity coach should help Notre Dame mitigate the effects of not having an additional three weeks of practice. Prelock has been in the program since 2004 and many of next year’s seniors played for him as freshmen. Notre Dame will still be behind when fall practice begins, but given the return of several key players, including running back Cole Fisher, and Prelock’s knowledge of the program, the private Catholic school could have a better-than-expected 2017 season.
More than 40 coaching changes were made in the offseason but none were as potentially intriguing as Chandler Basha hiring coach Rich Wellbrock away from Goodyear Desert Edge.
Basha has been an underachieving program; it hasn’t won more than eight games since 2011.
It’s also been a soft program; it gave up 44.5 points per game last year. Now here comes Wellbrock, the loud-talking, sweater-vest wearing coach who led Desert Edge to the 2015 Division III state championship and was 73-14 in his seven years at the school.
Wellbrock’s Desert Edge teams ran the ball and were physical on defense. If he can implement that same kind of attack and attitude at Basha look out.
Keeping it going
Phoenix North Canyon went 6-4 last year after winning four games its previous four seasons combined. But it enters spring ball without tackle Austin Jackson, who signed with USC, and coach Jose Lucero, who replaced Wellbrock at Desert Edge.
North Canyon made a wise choice with the hiring of Airabin Justin, who has been a longtime assistant in the Valley and also has college and NFL experience.
Justin’s main task this spring: Design an offense that will get the ball in the hands of wide receiver Solomon Enis as much as possible. Enis, who caught 64 passes for 1,144 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, will be one of the top players in the state.
Mesa coaching turnover
Once upon a time Mesa schools were led by longtime coaches like Jerry Loper and Jesse Parker. But as the population shifted east and south and socio-economic factors hurt the football programs coaches have come and gone like feathers in a wind.
Remarkably, Mesa Skyline’s Angelo Paffumi is the longest-tenured Mesa coach and he’s been on the job just five years. This year, Mesa Westwood (Kyle Ide), Mesa Red Mountain (Mike Peterson) and Mesa Dobson (Pete Wahlheim) all have new coaches while Mesa Mountain View’s Mike Fell is in his second year.
Red Mountain is positioned to have a successful season with the return of tailback Lance Lawson and quarterback Austin Duffy. But can Ide and Wahlheim provide some stability – and success – to Westwood and Dobson, respectively?
Spring ball will begin to answer that question – and others.