A big senior class, led by offensive lineman Joey Ramos, is ready to crash the 5A party. Video: Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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Phoenix Brophy Prep Broncos like flying under the radar. “We love proving people wrong,” said junior Marques White. Video: Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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The Ahwatukee rivalry could be the best it has ever been with Desert Vista looking to beat Mountain Pointe for the first time since 2011. Video: Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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After being banned from the 2016 high school football playoffs, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep says it has something to prove in 2017. Video: Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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Centennial brings back an experienced offensive line that will star as its backbone this season. Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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Scottsdale Saguaro has to build up an offensive line depleted by graduation but the Sabercats are still stacked with talent. Video: Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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Hamilton still is engulfed in the hazing case, while Chandler gets ready to climb nationally
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High academic school in its first year for football aspires to be the Stanford of the Chandler Unified School District
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The new AIA executive director addresses biggest needs, challenges in Arizona high school sports.
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When high school junior Troy Delgado was homeless, there were days that school meals were the only ones he could rely on. Now, he’s planning to go to college.
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Corbin Smith, the son of former Arizona football coach Larry Smith, has brought in assistants whom he feels will help McClintock get back to respectability on the football field
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With Rich Wellbrock at the helm, the Chandler Basha football program is being reconstructed with a quicker pace.
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A closer look at the 2017 Chandler Wolves. Video: azcentral sports
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Spring football is time for Chandler’s talented additions to mesh with defending state champs. Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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Zidane Thomas leads title contenders into new season.
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McClintock coach Corbin Smith talks about having his players locked in during spring football as the new coaches try to bring back the school’s lost football glory on Wednesday. Richard Obert/azcentral sports
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Deer Valley looks big and bold in 2017
Brophy football wants to finish strong in 2017
Mountain Pointe, Desert Vista ramping it up
Notre Dame Prep football ready for season of renewal
Centennial revved up for another title run
Saguaro football begins its ‘drive for five’
Hamilton, Chandler open football practice under different spotlights
Arizona College Prep football laying the foundation
David Hines tackles high school sports issues
High school athlete overcomes homelessness to be three-sport standout
McClintock HS Football, Bringing back tradition
Chandler Basha football players adjusting to new coach
Chandler football, the team looks locked and loaded
Chandler football ready for another title run
Centennial preparing for another big football season
McClintock’s Smith: ‘What matters to me is the history of this school’
This is the go-to place for region previews for the 2017 Arizona high school football season.
This will be updated frequently, breaking down two regions at a time, counting down to the start of the season.
Newest previews will appear at the top of this list.
5A Northeast Valley
The teams: Phoenix Arcadia, Scottsdale Chaparral, Scottsdale Notre Dame, Phoenix North Canyon, Paradise Valley.
The favorite: Notre Dame. Locked and loaded with experience up and down roster.
The challenger: Chaparral. Make or break year for the Firebirds after a rare losing season.
The dark horse: North Canyon. Track coach Airabin Justin takes over program with good skill athletes.
The players: Solomon Enis, North Canyon, WR, 6-4, 200, Sr.; Tre O’Guinn, North Canyon, SS/LB, 6-1, 195, Sr.; Jack Miller, Chaparral, QB, 6-3, 205, So.; Tommy Christakos, Chaparral, WR/K, 6-3, 185, So.; Conlan Carey, Chaparral, RB, 5-11, 195, Sr.; Luke Ashworth, Arcadia, QB, 6-3, 190, Sr.; Marq Wilkerson, Arcadia, WR/CB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; T.J. Feulner, Arcadia, OL/DL, 6-2, 240, Sr.; Jake Smith, Notre Dame, RB, 6-1, 185, Jr.; Cole Fisher, Notre Dame, RB, 5-11, 195, Sr.; Ricky Manning, Notre Dame, FS, 6-2, 180, Sr.; Ben Finley, Paradise Valley, QB, 6-0, 160, So.; Max Seifer, Paradise Valley, LB, 6-0, 205, Sr.
The intrigue: For the second year in a row, North Canyon has the state’s top prospect; wide receiver Solomon Enis is ranked No. 1 by azcentral sports in the 2018 class. Last year, North Canyon offensive lineman Austin Jackson (now at USC) was No. 1 in the 2017 class. … Chaparral will sweat it out to see if sophomore quarterback Jack Miller will be eligible to start the season as he goes through his hardship appeal with the AIA on Aug. 15. … New Arcadia coach Tony Stillings will look to push the pace with a new staff and new offensive system. … New Notre Dame coach George Prelock knows the loaded senior class well; he coached them on NDP’s freshman team three years ago. … Paradise Valley quarterback Ben Finley, brother of Ryan Finley (arguably the greatest QB in PV history), started on varsity as a freshman.
The teams: Peoria Centennial, Peoria Liberty, Surprise Shadow Ridge, Phoenix Sierra Linda, Surpise Willow Canyon.
The favorite: Centennial. Experienced O-line, great run game, lock-down defense.
The challenger: Liberty. Changes, but just as talented as last year.
The dark horse: Willow Canyon. Can run the ball but will need to stop the run with new linebackers.
The players: Zach Enhelder, Willow Canyon, TE, 6-4, 230, Jr.; Jalen Schaefer, Willow Canyon, DE, 6-3, 230, Jr.; Andrew Simek, Shadow Ridge, OL, 6-6, 290, Jr.; Ryan Bendle, Liberty, QB, 6-0, 180, Sr.; Jace Johnson, Liberty, WR, 6-0, 175, Sr.; Ryan Puskas, Liberty, S, 6-3, 210, Jr.; Zidane Thomas, Centennial, RB, 5-11, 205, Sr.; Trevor Renfro, Centennial, OL, 6-3, 268, Sr.; Dominique Hampton, Centennial, DB, 6-2, 191, Sr.
The intrigue: Centennial returns most of its offensive line from last year’s team that reached the 5A final. RB Zidane Thomas will sweat it out Aug. 15 when his hardship is heard by the AIA; the 2,000-yard back is hoping the one-week stay in Florida in the winter won’t cost him half the season. … Ryan Bendle has made the move from slot receiver to quarterback at Liberty, but he played QB to start his prep career. … Willow Canyon will rely on a ground game, led by senior running back Dominic Cardoza. … Sierra Linda, 0-10 last year, has never had a winning season since it began playing varsity football in 2010. … Shadow Ridge’s last winning season came in 2012 when it went 7-4 and lost to Desert Edge in the first round of the playoffs. …
5A Desert West
The teams: Avondale Agua Fria, Glendale Deer Valley, Goodyear Desert Edge, Phoenix Barry Goldwater, Lake Havasu, Buckeye Verrado.
The favorite: Desert Edge. Coach Jose Lucero will keep program strong.
The challenger: Deer Valley. Big front line, strong defense, electric back.
The dark horse: Verrado. Ready to take next big step.
The players: Joey Ramos, Deer Valley, OL, 6-5, 295, Sr.; Xavier Robinson-Delgado, Deer Valley, OL, 6-5, 310, Sr.; Brandon McCrea, Deer Valley, OL, 6-3, 275, Sr.; Dez Melton, Deer Valley, RB, 6-4, 215, Jr.; Max Wilhite, Desert Edge, C, 6-4, 295, Sr.; Nassir Simms, Desert Edge, DL, 6-3, 285, Jr.; Austin Young, Desert Edge, OL, 6-4, 305, Sr; Tyson Jones, Desert Edge, OL, 6-5, 260, Sr.; Treyvon Williams, Desert Edge, DB/WR, 5-11, 175, Sr.; Milton Rogers, Desert Edge, 5-10, 215, Jr.; Ja’tai Jenkins, Verrado, RB, 5-10, 190, Sr.; Titan Widjaja, Verrado, QB, 6-0, 165, Jr.; Sean Anderson, Verrado, OL, 6-7, 295, Sr.; Jimmy Richardson, Verrado, WR, 5-10, 155, Jr.; Wyatt Jordan, Goldwater, RB/LB, 5-8, 165, Sr.; Ben Smith, Goldwater, QB/DB, 6-0, 160, Sr.; Tofiga Liaga, Goldwater, DE, 6-3, 240, Sr.; Nick Thyfault, Agua Fria, LB, 6-0, 215, Sr.; Steven Kornowski, Lake Havasu, WR, 6-2, 165, Sr.;
The intrigue: This is arguably the strongest football region in 5A. … Deer Valley still needs to find a quarterback who can keep defenses off balance, but this might be best team in the Eric Bolus era. … Deer Valley went 5-1 to finish the season after moving wide receiver Dez Melton to tailback. … Desert Edge offensive lineman Tyson Jones has the second-long all-time shot put in Arizona preps. … Tom Ward was elevated from defensive coordinator to head coach at Verrado, which spoiled Desert Edge’s perfect regular season with an overtime win in the final week of the regular season when no TDs were scored. … Doug Provenzano, a former Brophy Prep defensive assistant coach, is the new head coach at Barry Goldwater. … Lake Havasu’s three region losses last year came against the big three of Desert Edge, Deer Valley and Verrado. … Jose Lucero returns to take over the Desert Edge program from Rich Wellbrock, who is now the head coach at Chandler Basha. Lucero was offensive coordinator of Desert Edge’s state championship team two years ago.
The teams: Glendale Apollo, Glendale Ironwood, Glendale Raymond S. Kellis, Maricopa, Tempe McClintock, Phoenix Sunnyslope.
The favorite: Sunnyslope. Strong, fast, experienced defense.
The challenger: Apollo. Strong core returns.
The dark horse: Kellis. Riding momentum after breakthrough season.
The players: Aaron Turrey, Sunnyslope, DB/WR, 5-11, 170, Sr.; Bub Dixon, Sunnyslope, DL/LB, 6-1, 240, Jr.; Jordan Gray, Sunnyslope, LB, 6-2, 180, Jr.; Jaran Whitfield, Sunnyslope, DB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; Ilm Manning, Apollo, OL/DE, 6-4, 255, Sr.; Kaleb Seumanutafa, Apollo, OL/DT, 6-3, 290, Sr.; Ali Mohamed, Apollo, RB/DB, 5-10, 170, Jr.; Grant Wojnarowski, Ironwood, OL, 6-4, 325, Sr.; Gavin Sears, Ironwood, OL, 6-4, 240, Sr.; Jacob Taylor, Ironwood, WR/DB, 6-0, 175, Sr.; Josiah Bailey, Kellis, RB/WR/DB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; Jerone Davison, McClintock, WR/FS, 6-2, 190, Sr.; Tyrese Gibbons, McClintock, RB/DB, 5-9, 175, Sr.; Evans Lindor, McClintock, OL/DL, 6-2, 260, Sr.; Quincy Singleton, McClintock, DE, 6-2, 200, Jr.; Cordell Colter, McClintock, QB, 6-0, 190, Jr.; Kemo Akins, Maricopa, RB/DB, 5-5, 145, Sr.; Cam’ron Sanderson, Maricopa, RB/SS, 5-10, 190, Sr.; Taylor Belcher, Maricopa, OL, 6-4, 230, Sr.
The intrigue: Sunnyslope was driven in the offseason after just missing out on the playoffs with a 7-3 record. … This could be coach Damon Pieri’s best defense since he’s been at Sunnyslope with seven starters back. … Although low on numbers, Apollo has a strong core of seniors and juniors. … Junior QB Frank Sanchez started the last five games for Apollo last year. … Apollo RB Ali Mohamed is expected to have a good season after returning from an injury that caused him to miss all but the season opener. … Ironwood returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. … Ironwood coach Ian Curtis calls team speed his biggest strength … Kellis coach Shawn Copeland has the building blocks in place after going 9-2. … Kellis Athlete Josiah Bailey is one of the more dynamic players in the state. … Corbin Smith hopes to turn around McClintock in his first year as a head coach. … Seven offensive starters and six defensive starters return at McClintock.
The teams: Buckeye, Goodyear Estrella Foothills, Yuma Gila Ridge, Buckeye Youngker, Yuma.
The favorite: Buckeye. Coach Kelley Moore is sitting on a gold mine.
The challenger: Estrella Foothills. Former Verrado coach Derek Wahlstrom takes over.
The dark horse: Youngker. Should be able to move the ball on the ground.
The players: Tyler Godfrey, Estrella Foothills, QB/LB, 5-10, 190, Sr.; Nate Manzo, Estrella Foothills, WR/DB, 6-2, 190, Jr.; Joseph Perez, Buckeye, QB/FS, 5-10, 160, Sr.; Jesus Mireles, Buckeye, OL/DL, 6-3, 276, Sr.; Greg Dotstry, Youngker, RB, 5-9, 170, Jr.; Zavier Reeves, Youngker, RB, 5-11, 190, Jr.; Ty Dehart, Gila Ridge, WR, 5-10, 170, Jr.
The intrigue: Buckeye raised enough funds to send 50 players to Hawaii to open the season against Kailua on Aug. 18. … Youngker’s Greg Dotstry and Zavier Reeves both ran for more than 600 yards as sophomores last year. … Gila Ridge went to the boys soccer program to find its next football coach. Successful soccer coach Corey Semler will be asked to try to turn around the football team after going 1-9 last year. … Yuma hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 when it won six games. … Lamar Early left Estrella Foothills after spring ball to take over the Goodyear Millennium program. Derek Wahlstrom left Verrado after building a strong program and will take over at EF.
4A West Valley
The teams: Glendale Cactus, Phoenix Greenway, Phoenix Moon Valley, Peoria, Peoria Sunrise Mountain.
The favorite: Sunrise Mountain. Strong defense and new QB ready to take charge.
The challenger: Cactus. Features one of state’s top running backs.
The dark horse: Peoria. Keeps improving under coach Will Babb.
The names: Damaria Norris, Cactus, RB, 5-10, 195, Sr.; Scott Jones, Cactus, DL, 6-0, 283, Sr.; Mahal Lee, Cactus, QB, 6-2, 195, Sr.; Gavin Chaddock, Sunrise Mountain, LB, 6-2, 225, Sr.; Arrick Dowe, Sunrise Mountain, DB, 5-11, 170, Sr.; Keegan Freid, Sunrise Mountain, QB, 6-2, 170, Jr.; Nate Dobson, Peoria, QB, 6-0, 200, Sr.; Sonatane Zabala, Peoria, RB, 5-9, 165, Sr.; Austin Enteman, Peoria, LB, 5-11, 200, Sr.; Bobby Carlon, Moon Valley, DB, 5-11, 165, Sr.; Tyler Duncan, Greenway, QB, 6-0, 175, Jr.; Parker Reeves, Greenway, RB, 5-10, 190, Sr.;
The intrigue: Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier, who has more than 300 career wins, will be without defensive coordinator Brian Belles (now at Chandler Hamilton) for the first time in 18 years. … Norris is coming off a 2,200 yards, 30 TDs season for Cactus. … Sunrise Mountain is motivated by the 52-49 state quarterfinal loss to Catalina Foothills. … Peoria returns top skill-position guys after winning eight games and losing to Saguaro in state quarterfinals. … Ed Cook is Greenway’s third coach in three years, but there are good parts back. RB Parker Reeves ran for 1,108 yards and 12 TDs for the Demons last season.
The teams: Oro Valley Canyon del Oro, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Nogales, Tucson Salpointe Catholic, Sahuarita Walden Grove.
The favorite: Salpointe Catholic. This may be coach Dennis Bene’s best team since 2013 when the Lancers went 14-0.
The challenger: Catalina Foothills. Coach Jeff Scurran starts over but he knows how to turns things upwards quickly.
The dark horse: Canyon del Oro. Any time there’s a Carey on the roster, there is hope.
The players: Elijah Carey, Canyon del Oro, RB, 5-11, 195, Sr.; Wyatt Dobson, Canyon del Oro, OL/DL, 6-2, 275, Sr.; Chris Kowalcek, Catalina Foothills, QB, 5-9, 185, Sr.; Pouria Mostafia, Catalina Foothills, OL, 6-2, 265, Jr.; Brandon Tamplin, Catalina Foothills, RB/DB, 6-1, 190, Sr.; Bijan Robinson-McCloud, Salpointe, RB, 6-0, 190, So.; Mario Padilla, Salpointe, RB, 5-9, 170, Jr.; Matteo Mele, Salpointe, OL, 6-6, 275, Sr.; Nick Damon, Nogales, NG, 6-0, 300, Sr.; Josue Tapia, Nogales, QB/FS, 6-1, 165, Sr.; Ty Chapman, Walden Grove, WR, 5-11, 175, Sr.;
The intrigue: Seven of the 18 catches Walden Grove’s Chapman had last year went for touchdowns. … Elijah Carey is the brother of former CdO running back Ka’Deem Carey, who was the state’s Player of the Year his junior season. … Catalina Foothills is starting a senior quarterback, Chris Kowalcek, who is making his varsity debut as a starter. …. Catalina Foothills opens at home during the zero week against Scottsdale Saguaro in a rematch of last year’s 4A state final. … Salpointe features arguably the state’s best backfield at any level and the two backs are both underclassmen – Bijan Robinson-McCloud (sophomore) and Mario Padilla (junior). Salpointe gave Saguaro its toughest game last season in the state semifinals. Salpointe lineman Mele has committed to Washington.
The teams: Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, Scottsdale Saguaro, Phoenix Shadow Mountain, Phoenix St. Mary’s, Phoenix Thunderbird.
The favorite: Saguaro. The new motto is ‘Drive for Five.’
The challenger: St. Mary’s. Only region loss was to Saguaro.
The dark horse: Cactus Shadows. Returns solid duo-threat QB.
The players: Andrew Young, Cactus Shadows, QB, 6-0, 180, Sr.; Zach Wilson, Saguaro, WR/DB, 6-0, 202, Sr.; Max Massingale, Saguaro, QB, 5-11, 185, Sr.; Tye Kassen, Saguaro, OL, 6-3, 255, So.; Josiah Bradley, Saguaro, RB/DB, 6-1, 194, Sr.; Ronnie Fagan, Shadow Mountain, RB/S, 6-0, 170, Jr.; Naino Shin, Shadow Mountain, WR/DB, 6-0, 170, Jr.; Logan Konya, Shadow Mountain, DT, 6-2, 275, Jr.; Nick France, St. Mary’s, OL/DL, 6-0, 275, Sr.; Trey Hixon, St. Mary’s, FB/DT, 6-0, 251, Sr.; Frank Palacio, St. Mary’s, OL/DL, 6-1, 205, Sr.; Damian Yanes, St. Mary’s, OL/DL, 5-11, 247, Sr.; Dominik McNutt, Thunderbird, OL/DL, 6-2, 210, Jr.; Joel Golbourne, Thunderbird, WR, 6-2, 175, Jr.; Andy Wittenwyler, Thunderbird, QB, 6-1, 195, Sr.
The intrigue: Saguaro, which has won the past four state championships, has the state’s longest current winning streak at 25. … Saguaro’s last region loss was in 2012 to start the season against Paradise Valley, 32-29, in Jason Mohns’ debut as varsity head coach. … Saguaro plays two tough out-of-state teams early in the season – at Henderson (Nev.) Liberty (Aug. 26) and at home against defending Utah champion Salt Lake City East (Sept. 1), which went 14-0 and is ranked 13th nationally in preseason by USA Today. … Ron Fagan takes over as head coach at Shadow Mountain. … St. Mary’s returns four offensive starters and three defensive starters. The Knights should be stronger up front on both side of the ball. … Thunderbird returns five starters on both sides of the ball, including QB Wittenwyler, coach Brent Wittenwyler’s son. Andy Wittenwyler has started since his sophomore year, throwing 23 TD passes.
The teams: Tucson Amphitheater, Douglas, Tucson Palo Verde, Tucson Pueblo, Rio Rico.
The favorite: Amphitheater. Coach Jorge Mendivil is creating a culture that made late great Vern Friedli proud.
The challenger: Douglas. Good mix of skill and size.
The dark horse: Pueblo. Will try to reload after losing key seniors.
The players: Chris Galaz, Douglas, QB, 6-0, 170, Sr.; Pablo Bello, Douglas, WR, 5-11, 165, Sr.; Sammy Valenzuela, Douglas, OL, 6-3, 260, Sr.; A.J. Moreno, Douglas, DB, 6-1, 170, Sr.; Zulu Deah, Amphitheater, RB, 5-8, 190, Sr.; Aariq Quick, Amphitheater, WR/DB, 5-11, 165, Sr.; David Watson, Amphitheater, OL, 6-6, 295, Sr.; Ruben Rivera, Pueblo, RB, 6-1, 180, Jr.; Julio Carino, Pueblo, LB, 5-10, 200, Jr.; Ricky Perez, Rio Rico, RB, 5-9, 160, Sr.; D
The intrigue: Amphitheater will dedicate the season after Vern Friedli, who died this summer at age of 80. He was head coach for 36 years at Amphi and won 331 games in his career. Coach Mendivil said his team might come out in a wishbone offense to start the season for Friedli, whose success was predicated on the wishbone, run offense. … Amphi returns one of the state’s top offensive linemen in David Watson, who has committed to Arizona, where his father played football. … James Fitzgerald takes over the Douglas program. … Pueblo went 6-4 last year, behind Rivera’s 1,234 yards and 10 TDs rushing. … Rio Rico, 4-6 last year, returns 1,000-yard rusher Ricky Perez. … Palo Verde gave up at least 41 points in each of its region games last season.
4A Grand Canyon
The teams: Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, Flagstaff Coconino, Flagstaff, Kingman Lee Williams, Cottonwood Mingus, Bullhead City Mohave.
The favorite: Bradshaw Mountain. Senior QB Tim Young capable of picking up where Gunner Bundrick left off.
The challenger: Prescott. Strong offensive line will pave the way.
The dark horse: Mingus. A more athletic offense under 21st-year coach Bob Young.
The players: Tim Young, Bradshaw Mountain, QB, 6-1, 215, Sr.; Austin Gonzalez, Bradshaw Mountain, DB, 5-11, 170, Jr.; Austin Clark, Prescott, QB, 6-3, 180, Jr.; Ryan Greene, Prescott, RB/FS, 6-1, 180, Sr.; Tyler Kelly, Mingus, RB/OLB, Sr.; Ty Furr, Coconino, QB, 6-0, 180, Jr.; Henry Tagle, Flagstaff, QB, Jr.; Andrew Herrera, Lee Williams, QB, 6-0, 180, Jr.; Gavin Valdivia, Mohave, QB/S, 5-9, 165, Jr.
The intrigue: Chuck Moller comes in to take over the Bradshaw Mountain program with a great college-coaching resume. He was an offensive-line coach at Oklahoma State and Stanford. … Former Phoenix College coach Gary Cook will be Bradshaw Mountain’s offensive coordinator. … Prescott’s Clark showed promise near the end of last season when he became the QB. Greene converted to running back from QB during that time and gave Prescott a run-game boost. … Cody Collett returns to the Prescott program he once led as the tight ends coach. … Martin Soria transferred from 8-man Williams to Mingus. He led Williams to an 8-man state runner-up finish last year as a mobile quarterback and defensive back. … Mingus did not have a freshman team last season because of a lack of numbers. … Flagstaff returns three starting offensive linemen. Junior QB Tagle led Flagstaff’s undefeated JV team last year. … The Eagles will be will have co-head coaches for a second year in a row with Bob Castillo and Paul Wolf. … Flagstaff has had only two winning seasons in the past 10 years. Its last playoff appearance was 2007. … The last time Flagstaff-rival Coconino made the playoffs was 2005, but seven of its top-nine leading tacklers return.
4A Black Canyon
The teams: Apache Junction, San Tan Valley Combs, Scottsdale Coronado, Phoenix Cortez, El Mirage Dysart, Phoenix Washington.
The favorite: Dysart. Reigning region champion returns good nucleus.
The challenger: Coronado. New coach, new field, renewed energy.
The dark horse: Apache Junction. Making strides under coach Vance Miller.
The players: Deaonte Morgan, Washington, OL/DL, 5-10, 245, Sr.; Isaac Almeida, Washington, DE/OL/K, 5-11, 195, Sr.; Kobe Ganados, Dysart, QB, 5-11, 140, Jr.; Marcus Banda, Dysart, WR/LB, 6-1, 200, Sr.; Raymond Cruz, Dysart, LB, 5-9, 195, Sr.; Junior Loggins, Combs, QB, 6-2, 185, Sr.; Jordan Lee, Combs, RB/DB, 5-10, 225, Jr.; Isaiah Buendia, Coronado, OL, 6-3, 315, Sr.; Akime Coney, Coronado, RB, 5-10, 145, Sr.; Zach Lewis, Coronado, WR/DB, 5-10, 140, Sr.; Gibson Limongello, Apache Junction, QB, 5-11, 155, So.; Ethan Zimmerman, Apache Junction, QB/DB/K, 6-3, 165, Sr.; Zach Jerome, Cortez, WR, 6-2, 150, Sr.; Ross Luna, Cortez, RB/LB, 5-7, 146, Sr.; Cieran Lynch, Cortez, OL/DL, 5-10, 210, Sr.
The intrigue: Apache Junction’s last winning season was 2009. But it went 4-6 last year after going 2-8 in 2015. … Dysart lost coach Manny Alcantar, who is now leading Laveen Cesar Chavez, and two 1,000-yard rushers in Chris Medcalf and Pacey Prettyman, who have graduated. … Coronado welcomes Curt LeBlanc as coach, replacing Mike Olson. LeBlanc will have a fast surface with the Scottsdale district putting in new artificial turf. LeBlanc last led a program at Queen Creek, from 2001-09. … Combs also has a new coach with Travis Miller coming over from wrestling. Miller didn’t coach football last year. But in the three years he helped coach, Combs made the playoffs each year. … Second-year Washington coach Tim Mayfield returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense from a 1-9 team. … Dysart QB Ganado threw for 979 yards and 16 TDs on a 9-2 team last year. He also ran for 251 yards. … Cortez got outscored 249-32 in five region games last year.
4A Desert Sky
The teams: Casa Grande, Gilbert Higley, Tempe Marcos de Niza, Chandler Seton Catholic, Tempe.
Favorite: Higley. Returns offensive machine Draycen Hall.
The challenger: Marcos de Niza. Will legendary coach Paul Moro be able to replenish?
The dark horse: Casa Grande. Offense may not be as potent but will still put up points.
The players: Cameron Gardner, Casa Grande, WR/S, 5-11, 180, Sr.; Miguel Quintana, Casa Grande, DB, 5-9, 145, Sr.; Stevie Maddox, Tempe, WR/FS, 6-2, 190, Sr.; Moses Ruiz, Tempe, SS, 6-1, 194, Sr.; Draycen Hall, Higley, RB, 5-8, 165, Sr.; James Mageo, Higley, RB, 5-10, 160, Sr.; Cade Matthews, Higley, LB, 6-1, 220, Sr.; Spencer Brasch, Higley, QB, 6-4, 185, Jr.; Ty Robinson, Higley, TE/DE, 6-5, 255, Jr.; Eilye Hill, Marcos de Niza, DL, 6-3, 275, Jr.; Jacob Hansell, Seton, WR/OLB, 6-5, 200, Jr.
The intrigue: Casa Grande will have to find some big pieces to replace on offense. But this offense will start with receiver Gardner, who had 46 catches and 11 TDs last season …. Tempe has five offensive starters and four defensive starters back and an impact newcomer in sophomore defensive lineman/fullback Sione Tona’uiha. … Higley feels like it is gaining ground on Scottsdale Saguaro in 4A, but the biggest question mark will be at quarterback where it has to replace three-year starter Mason Crossland, who put up ridiculous numbers. …. Paul Moro last year broke the state record for all-time wins, but he’ll have to rebuild in his second year at Marcos de Niza with defections and assistants leaving. … Seton will try to establish a run game after gaining just 806 yards on the ground during a 4-6 season.
The teams: Tucson Catalina, Tucson Empire, Tucson Pusch Ridge, Tucson Sabino, Sahuarita, Tucson Santa Rita, Tucson Tanque Verde.
The favorite: Pusch Ridge. Returns experienced team that is physically tough.
The challenger: Sabino. Only four starters return but always reloads.
The dark horse: Empire. Returns solid skill players.
The players: Christian Fetsis, Pusch Ridge, QB/DB, 6-2, 175, Sr.; Dakota Haynes, Pusch Ridge, RB/LB, 6-0, 200, Sr.; Kendal Tobin, Pusch Ridge, OL/DL, 6-4, 245, Sr.; Mitch Maas, Pusch Ridge, RB/DB, 5-10, 160, Sr.; Alex Verdugo, Empire, QB, 5-11, 205, Jr.; Wyatt Jeffries, Empire, RB, 6-0, 180, Jr.; Brandon Walker, Empire, WR, 5-10, 165, Sr; Christian Gonzales, Sahuarita, WR/DB, 6-2, 190, So.; Nate Christiansen, Sahuarita, OL, 6-8, 330, Sr.; Marlo Corona, Tanque Verde, RB/LB, 5-10, 155, Sr.; Tanner Foshay, Tanque Verde, RB/SS, 5-7, 170, Jr.; Clemente Quintero, Catalina, WR/S/K, 6-1, 165, Sr.; Jose Lugo, Catalina, DE/TE, 6-3, 240, Jr.; Will Offerman, Sabino, OLB, 6-1, 180, Sr.; Alex Bell, Sabino, QB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; Frank Oviedo, Sabino, OL, 5-10, 220, Sr.
The intrigue: New Sabino coach Ryan McBrayer played on Sabino’s back-to-back state finalist teams in 2005 and ’06. … Pusch Ridge returns nine starters on offense and six on defense. … Sahuarita won three of its last four games but it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. … Tanque Verde returns three backs who combined for 1,000 yards rushing. … Catalina hasn’t won more than two games in a season since 2012 when it won four. … Sabino has talent back in the skill positions but must find replacements in the line.
The teams: Chino Valley, Kingman, Phoenix Northwest Christian, Buckeye Odyssey Institute, Mohave Valley River Valley, Wickenburg.
The favorite: Northwest Christian. Loaded up front with three all-conference linemen.
The challenger: Wickenburg. These guys will run teams into submission.
The dark horse: River Valley. Graduated 26 seniors but still talented.
The players: Jaden Hoyt, Northwest Christian, OL, 6-4, 285, Sr.; Harmon Shacklette, Northwest Christian, OL, 6-4, 245, Sr.; Derick Henderson, Northwest Christian, OL, 5-11, 240, Jr.; Zack Johnson, Northwest Christian, TE, 6-5, 215, Sr.; Dustin Inness, Northwest Christian, DB, 5-11, 175, Jr.; Alex Carrasco, Wickenburg, RB, 5-10, 195, Sr.; Shawn Holden, Wickenburg, RB/LB, 5-11, 160, Sr.; Devin Read, River Valley, DB/RB, 5-8, 180, Sr.; Thomas Marrietta, River Valley, OL, C/DT, 6-2, 250, Sr.; Colton Sandberg, Chino Valley, DE/TE, 6-5, 200, Sr.; Michael Paulus, Chino Valley, SB/DB, 5-7, 175, Jr.; Damon Heidorf, Kingman, WR, 6-2, 205, Sr.; Walter Morman, Odyssey Institute, RB/WR/KR, 6-0, 160, Sr.
The intrigue: This should be the best offensive and defensive line at Northwest Christian since 2015. All-state baseball player Jarin Davis moves in at quarterback for the Crusaders. … Wickenburg’s Carrasco ran for 1,121 yards and 14 TDs last season. … Wickenburg ran for more than 4,000 yards during an 8-3 season. … River Valley’s only region loss last year was to Northwest Christian, 34-10. But it must replenish with only one returning starter and under new coach David Klassen. Two-way lineman Thomas Marrietta is River Valley’s only returning starter. It lost to Florence 54-7 in the first round of the playoffs. … Chino Valley lost four of its last six and went 5-5 last year.
The teams: ASU Prep, Queen Creek Casteel, Fountain Hills, Phoenix North Pointe Prep, Chandler Valley Christian, Yuma Catholic.
The favorite: Casteel. Locked and loaded with everybody back from a two-loss season.
The challenger: Yuma Catholic. Only school to beat Casteel (twice) last year.
The dark horse: Valley Christian. Big bounce-back season due after going 3-7.
The names: Nathan Dykstra, Valley Christian, RB/LB, 5-10, 145, Jr.; Manuel Coronel, ASU Prep, WR, 6-1, 180, Sr.; Richard Molina, Yuma Catholic, LB, 6-0, 180, Sr.; Gunner Cruz, Casteel, QB, 6-4, 205, Jr.; Brandt Goodwin, Casteel, WR, 5-8, 155, So.; Cameron Brown, Casteel, SS/WR, 5-11, 185, Jr.; Malachi Siquieros, Casteel, DE, 5-11, 209, So.; Garrett Renner, Fountain Hills, QB, 6-1, 180, Sr.; Austin Lloyd, Fountain Hills, OL, 6-4, 295, Sr.
The intrigue: Last year was Valley Christian’s first losing season under coach Jeff Rutledge since the former Cardinals QBs coach began leading the program in 2013. … ASU Prep’s Coronel led the team in receiving yards with 318 in just five games. … Yuma Catholic is driven after falling to Show Low 28-26 in the state quarterfinals. … Yuma Catholic’s Molina had 31 tackles for losses last season. … Casteel is starting its second varsity season without seniors. It is expected to move up a conference in the next realignment. … Former Fountain Hills football player Jason Henslin is startnig his first season at his alma mater as head coach. … North Pointe Prep has won just two games since 2013.
The teams: Chinle, Ganado, Kayenta Monument Valley, Page, Tuba City, Fort Defiance Window Rock.
The favorite: Monument Valley. The Mustangs’ only loss last year came in the playoffs.
The challenger: Page. New coach, but same potent run game.
The dark horse: Ganado. Expected to have another potent offense.
The players: Kele Meredith, Page, RB, 5-10, 170, Jr.; Hayden Garcia, Page, RB, 5-7, 145, Jr.; Justin Curley, Ganado, RB, Sr.; Liam King, Ganado, LB, 5-9, 200, Sr.; Stanford Staley, Monument Valley, WR/DB, 5-10, 180, Sr.; Shamon Salway, Window Rock, TE/WR, 6-1, 210, Sr.; Billy Mitchell III, Monument Valley, RB/DB, 5-10, 175, Sr.; Barlow Marquez, Tuba City, QB, Sr.; Daniel Nave, Chinle, DE/LB, Sr.
The intrigue: Page had a signature win last year, beating Lakeside Blue Ridge 28-22. The San Devils gave Monument Valley its toughest region game in a 27-20 loss. … Page returns 1,000-yard rusher Kele Meredith. Page’s Garcia ran for 800 yards. … Ganado outscored its 10 opponents 307-187 last year. … Monument Valley scored 388 points last season when it knocked off Winslow (24-23) for the time to open the season. Winslow got payback, beating Monument Valley 40-6 in the first round at state. … Window Rock WR Shaman Salway might be the best football prospect on the Navajo reservation. He caught 40 passes for 899 yards and 13 TDs last season.
The teams: Queen Creek American Leadership, Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin, Coolidge, Florence, Globe, Safford.
The favorite: Florence. QB Jared Wood returns after throwing for 2,800 yards and 37 TDs.
The challenger: American Leadership. Defending state champ loses one Boyd but returns another.
The dark horse: Safford. OL Ralph Frias back to lead one of 3A’s best offensive lines.
The players: Bujon Boyd, American Leadership, WR/DB, 5-10, 165, Sr.; Matthew Nevill, American Leadership, QB, 5-8, 155, Sr.; Tarrik Workman, American Leadership, RB/LB, 5-10, 155, Sr.; Zach Jefferies, Benjamin Franklin, Athlete, 6-0, 170, So.; Chandler Miles, Benjamin Franklin, WR/DB, 5-8, 140, Jr.; Carlos Diaz, Coolidge, NG, 5-10, 210, Sr.; Frank Andrade, Coolidge, C/DE, 6-1, 200, Sr.; Jacob Cardenas, Coolidge, C/DT, 6-0, 285, Sr.; Braden Dalton, Globe, TE/DL, 6-4, 250, Sr.; Sean Odell, Globe, OL, 6-4, 270, Sr.; Ralph Frias, Safford, OL, 6-7, 295, Sr.; Cameron Abril, Safford, WR/DB/K, 6-3, 180, Sr.; Powell Skiba, Benjamin Franklin, TE/DE, 6-1, 175, Sr.; Seth Hamblin, Benjamin Franklin, TE/LB, 6-1, 190, Sr.
The intrigue: ALA’s Nevill picked up valuable experience last year when the starter was out. … Florence returns 47 touchdowns in Wood and slot receiver Nolan Susel. … With Dallin Edwards out for six games last season with an injury, Nevill passed for 1,098 yards and 12 TDs. … Last year, Zach Jefferies played every position but offensive line on varsity as a freshman for his father Dave’s Benjamin Franklin team. … Safford will get an early test against 2A champion and arch-rival Thatcher on Sept. 1. Safford lost last year’s meeting, 20-14.
The teams: Lakeside Blue Ridge, Holbrook, Payson, Show Low, Snowflake, Winslow.
The favorite: Show Low. Assistant coach Monte Maxwell promote to take over where Randy Ricedorff left off.
The challenger: Snowflake. Rebuilding or reloading?
The dark horse: Winslow. The return of running back/linebacker Darrien Brown could be the answer.
The players: Jace Merrell, Snowflake, FB/LB, 5-10, 185, Sr.; Arturo Munoz, Snowflake, OL/DL, 6-2, 210, Sr.; Caleb Uchytil, Snowflake, OL/DL, 5-11, 185, Jr.; Ricardo Villanueva, Winslow, QB, 6-0, 165, Sr.; Ahli Foster, Winslow, MLB, 6-0, 215, Sr.; Mikel Bonner, Winslow, RB, 5-9, 165, Sr.; Brock Davis, Payson, QB, 6-3, 185, Sr.; James Turner, Show Low, RB, 5-7, 150, Jr.; Jake Reidhead, Show Low, WR, 5-11, 175, Sr.; Westin Keime, Show Low, RB, 5-11, 180, Sr.; Cole McDaniel, Holbrook, WR/DB, 5-6, 125, Sr.; Zakhari Waits, Holbrook, RB/DL, 5-10, 211, Sr.; Shane Law, Payson, RB/WR, 6-0, 145, Sr.; Luis Rosales, Blue Ridge, RB, Sr.
The intrigue: Only two starters on offense and one on defense returns for Snowflake, but there is lots of talent coming up from the JV program. … Winslow coach Brandon Guzman and his wife are expecting their first child, a boy, at midseason. … Show Low, which went 12-1 last year, has a new coach after Randy Ricedorff left to lead a new American Leadership school in the Southeast Valley. But Monte Maxwell has been entrenched for six years in the program as an assistant. … Show Low’s run game gets a boost with the return of Westin Keime, who had a foot injury last year. … Payson comes in with confidence after stunning Snowflake with a 7-6 win in the state playoffs. … Blue Ridge has struggled to get players out and it has showed since capturing the state title in 2013, Paul Moro’s last season at the helm and his 13th state championship at the White Mountains school. Since Moro has left, Blue Ridge is 14-18 with two losing seasons. Coach Bob London will try to make this a bounce-back season after the Yellow Jackets went 2-8.
The teams: Whiteriver Alchesay, Keams Canyon Hopi, Many Farms, Pinon, Red Mesa, Rock Point, Sanders Valley.
The favorite: Alchesay. Defending region champ ran the region table last year.
The challenger: Red Mesa. Once again, Alchesay game could determine region title.
The dark horse: Many Farms. Has enough talent back to make a run at the region title.
The players: Tyreck Cosay, Alchesay, RB, 5-9, 170, Jr.; Adriano Perry, Alchesay, LB, 5-8, 185, Jr.; Ammon Polacca, Hopi, OL/LB, 5-6, 215, Jr.; Charleston Tsosie, Pinon, RB/LB, Sr.; Garrick Haskan, Pinon, RB, Sr.; James Gonzalez, Pinon, DE, Sr.; Sherwin Benally, Red Mesa, RB/LB, Sr.; Descheny Dylan, Rock Point, RB/WR/K, 5-8, 150, Sr.; Johansen Yazzie, Valley, QB/FS, Sr.
The intrigue: Alchesay returns 1,000-yard rusher Tyreck Cosay, who has 34 career TDs. … Perry had five sacks last season for Alchesay. He also plays tight end. … Red Mesa’s only region loss last year was to Alchesay, 42-38. … Many Farms won four of its last six game to avoid a losing record. … Valley lost its last three games to finish 4-6. … Pinon was outscored 461-76 last year.
The teams: Benson, Bisbee, San Manuel, Eloy Santa Cruz, Tombstone, Willcox.
The favorite: Santa Cruz. Should have enough talent to make up for loss of leading rusher Devin Neal.
The challenger: Benson. Lost most of top players but this program replenishes.
The dark horse: Bisbee. Figures to bounce back from losing season with return of dual-threat QB Troy Ferestad.
The players: Titarro Jones, Santa Cruz, RB, Sr.; Jesus Cosillos, Santa Cruz, QB, Sr.; Manuel Corrales, Santa Cruz, OL, Jr.; Bryce Taylor, Benson, DB, 5-9, 160, Sr.; Troy Ferestad, Bisbee, QB/DB, 6-1, 182, Sr.; Sergio Montoya, Bisbee, WR/DB, 5-7, 145, Sr.; Armando Estrada, San Manuel, C/DT, 6-1, 290, Sr.; Chrstian Estrada, San Manuel, OL, 6-0, 250, Jr.; Darrion Bryant, Tombstone, DE, Sr.
The intrigue: Santa Cruz’s only loss last season was to Thatcher, 27-26, in overtime. … After reaching the state final two years ago and going 10-3 last year, Benson could be starting over. Benson will see how strong it is in opener against defending state champion Thatcher. … Bisbee’s Ferestad threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (seven) last season, but he ran for 1,684 yards and 15 TDs. … Tombstone will need to shore up its defense after losing twice to Benson last year, giving up a total of 109 points in those two games. … Willcox, 2-8 last year, was outscored 179-12 by Santa Cruz, Tombstone and Benson in final three games.
2A Metro East
The teams: Wellton Antelope, Chandler Arizona College Prep, Chandler Prep, Glendale Prep, San Tan Foothills, Scottsdale Prep, Phoenix Veritas Prep.
The favorite: San Tan Foothills. George De La Torre doesn’t have much rebuilding to do in new venture.
The challenger: Chandler Prep. Defending region champ using 51-6 playoff loss to Thatcher as motivation.
The dark horse: Arizona College Prep. Wants to make immediate impact in first season.
The players: Zach Herrera, San Tan Foothills, QB/DB, 6-2, 150, So.; Amahri Bailey, San Tan Foothills, RB, 6-0, 175, So.; Brock La Point, San Tan Valley, OL/DL, 6-3, 285, Jr.; Alex Brandt, QB/LB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; Brody Gregory, OL/DL, 6-0, 210, Jr.; Mark Chavez, Arizona College Prep, QB, 5-9, 140, Fr.; Blaise Dalton, Arizona College Prep, K, 5-10, 150, Jr.; Saar Zutshi, Arizona College Prep, RB/LB, 5-7, 175, So.; Ahlias Jones, Arizona College Prep, WR/DB, 6-0, 155, So.; Karsten Santaella, Scottsdale Prep, RB/LB, 6-0, Jr.; Gino Vargas, Glendale Prep, WR/DB, 6-0, 150, Sr.; Ryan Rafidi, Glendale Prep, QB/LB, 5-10, 190, So.; Sebastian Bautista, Veritas Prep, RB, 5-10, 205, Sr.
The intrigue: San Tan Foothills has its fourth head coach in four years. George De La Torre is used to repairing ailing programs at Phoenix South Mountain, Florence and Mesa Dobson. But San Tan went 6-3 last year, finishing second in the region. … San Tan Foothills has 11 sophomores, but one of those, Zach Herrera, had four interceptions last season. … Alex Brandt split time at quarterback for Chandler Prep last year, passing for 486 yards and running for 313. … Arizona College Prep likely will start a freshman at quarterback in its first season playing football. … Scottsdale Prep has not had a winning season since Will Munsil led it to 7-4 record in 2013. SPA is on its fifth head coach since then. … Jim Ellison, who had strong years leading Phoenix Arcadia and was once assistant coach at Chaparral under Ron Estabrook, is leading Veritas Prep.
2A Metro West
The teams: Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, Phoenix Bourgade Catholic, Gilbert Christian, Glendale Joy Christian, Phoenix Christian, Scottsdale Christian, Tempe Prep.
The favorite: Phoenix Christian. Coach Brian Cole moves in with championship rings from Joy Christian and North Canyon.
The challenger: Scottsdale Christian. Losing QB Jack Miller in a transfer move to Chaparral could be a big adjustment.
The dark horse: Gilbert Christian. Close to tripling the number of players that began the 2016 season (just 13 players) after going 6-5.
The players: Mason Rhynard, Joy Christian, WR/S, 5-10, 150, Jr.; Boston Schwesinger, Joy Christian, DE/G, 6-0, 190, Sr.; Tito Figueroa, Phoenix Christian, C, 5-11, 250, Sr.; Daniel Frampton, Phoenix Christian, WR/DB, 6-1, 180, Sr.; Corey Leary, Phoenix Christian, WR/DB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; Nick Hershey, Gilbert Christian, QB/DB, 5-10, 165, Sr.; Drew DeBree, Gilbert Christian, WR/DB, 6-2, 185, Sr.; Hunter Trask, Gilbert Christian, OL/DL, 5-10, 210, Jr.; Jackson Gray, Arizona Lutheran, RB, 5-8, 170, Sr.; Brandon Garcia, Arizona Lutheran, RB/S, 6-0, 175, Jr.; Jake Havens, Scottsdale Christian, QB, 6-3, 175, Jr.; Jacob Kaites, Scottsdale Christian, WR/DB, 5-11, 165, Sr.; Kevin Rodriguez, Bourgade, DL, 6-1, 232, So.
The intrigue: Four of the seven teams have new head coaches. … Joy Christian, which won state under Cole two years ago, will try to bounce back from an 0-8 season under new coach Patrick Blakesley. … Phoenix Christian center Tito Figueroa will be in his fourth year as a varsity starter, his first two at Joy Christian. … Phoenix Christian should have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in 2A. … Scott McDaniel has taken over from Shawn Patterson at Gilbert Christian, which returns all five starting offensive linemen from a playoff team. … Arizona Lutheran returns 10 starters on offense and all 11 on defense. … Joshua Brittain is in his second season leading Tempe Prep after his father led it to a 2A final. Last year’s team won eight games. … Marcel Lopez, a former St. Mary’s football player, replaces former St. Mary’s coach Pat Lavin as head coach at Bourgade Catholic.
The teams: Camp Verde, Kingman Academy, Mohave Accelerated, Surprise Paradise Honors, Parker, Sedona Red Rock, Tonopah Valley
The favorite: Paradise Honors. Returns starting QB and a 1,000-yard rusher.
The challenger: Tonopah Valley. Returns top three rushers and top passer.
The dark horse: Kingman Academy. Top two receivers return from 6-4 team.
The players: Christian Moga, Paradise Honors, RB/LB, 6-2, 205, Sr.; Chris Davis, Tonopah Valley, QB, 6-2, 216, Sr.; Angelo Anderson, Tonopah Valley, RB, 6-0, 180, Jr.; Anfernee Valdez, Tonopah Valley, DB, 5-8, 146, Sr.; Nate Carter, Kingman Academy, WR, 5-9, 150, Sr.; James Hoban, Parker, RB/DB, 5-11, 160, Sr.
The intrigue: Kingman Academy is rebuilding after losing two 1,000-yard rushers and its quarterback. … Christian Moga, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last season, returns to lead a strong senior class at Paradise Honors. It returns nearly 30 players who will be seniors. … Tonopah Valley QB Chris Davis passed for 1,000 yards and ran for nearly 400 yards last season. … Parker went 3-7 last year but returns seven offensive starters, led by leading rusher Hoban.
The teams: Miami, Morenci, Pima, Eagar Round Valley, San Carlos, St. Johns, Thatcher.
The favorite: Thatcher. Defending state champions still loaded.
The challenger: Round Valley. Hungry after falling to Thatcher in state final.
The dark horse: Pima. Went 9-3 after move up from 8-man ball.
The players: Josh Whitaker, Pima, QB, 6-0, 200, Jr.; Dillon Workman, Round Valley, DB/RB, 5-6, 140, Jr.; Colter Hogle, Round Valley, NG, 5-9, 155, Jr.; Tyler Roebuck, Thatcher, QB, 6-2, 200, Sr.; Jordan Herbert, Thatcher, MLB, 6-2, 185, Sr.; John Robertson, St. Johns, QB, 6-2, 175, Sr.; Joseph Ramsey, St. Johns, RB/DB, 5-10, 175, Sr.; Steven Chavarria, Morenci, RB, 5-8, 135, Sr.; Isaiah Sanchez, Morenci, OL, 6-3, 315, Sr.; Athaniel Spurgeon, Miami, WR/OLB, 5-10, 150, Jr.
The intrigue: Pima’s Whitaker has a career QB rating of 124.6. … Pima returns four players who each had at least 100 rushing yards last season. … Pima lost to Round Valley 31-28, but the Kartchner twins as jumbo receivers will be missed. … Round Valley’s only loss last season was to Thatcher in the state final. … Round Valley graduated three 1,000-yard rushers. … Dillon Workman had 124 tackles last year for the Elks. … Round Valley’s last region loss was in 2012 to Thatcher, 26-13. … Thatcher has to replace its quarterback, leading rusher, top receiver, top lineman and leading tackler from last season. Thatcher graduated nine offensive starters and seven on defense. … Miami returns two 500-yard rushers.
The teams: Sells Baboquivari, St. David, Goodyear Trivium Prep, Elfrida Valley Union.
The favorite: Valley Union. Should win a depleted region.
The challenger: St. David. Takes a big step back after graduation.
The dark horse: Trivium Prep. Up and coming.
The players: Alex Owens, St. David, Athlete, 6-0, 140, Jr.; Dawson Meador, St. David, RB/DB, 5-8, 150, Sr.; Martin Bui, RB, Trivium Prep, 5-6, 150, Jr.; Adan Sanders, Trivium Prep, WR, 6-1, 175, Jr.; Derek Hahn, Valley Union, QB/LB, 5-10, Sr.; Noah Spence, Valley Union, WR/DE, 6-1, Jr.
The intrigue: Patagonia has canceled its football program because of the lack of players, but hopes to start a soccer team in the fall. … Trivium Prep is only in its second season as a varsity program. … St. David will have to replace Travis Davis, who ran for 987 yards and passed for 2,231 yards for a 7-3 team last year. … Valley Union will miss 1,300-yard rusher Karsen Estelle from a 7-3 team.
The teams: Anthem Prep, Bagdad, Mayer, Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, Mayer, Salome, San Pasqual Valley, Telesis Prep, Phoenix Valley Lutheran.
The favorite: Bagdad. Defending state champion returns 1A POY QB Israel Loveall.
The challenger: Mayer. Expected to go deep in the playoffs after a 6-5 season.
The dark horse: Salome. Should take a step forward after a 4-4 season.
The players: Dylan Wildhide, Mayer, QB/DB, 5-8, 140, Sr.; Oscar Cruz, Salome, QB, 5-8, 155, Sr.; Octavio Martinez, Salome, RB, 5-5, 155, So.; Israel Loveall, Bagdad, QB, 5-10, 185, Sr.; Scott Finnerty, Bagdad, WR/DB, Sr.; Jonah Sielaff, Valley Lutheran, Athlete, 6-2, 155, Sr.; Karchi Csizmadia, Valley Lutheran, WR/OLB, 5-6, 150, Sr.; Connor Busch, Anthem Prep, QB/RB/LB, 6-0, 200, Sr.
The intrigue: Wildhide had 79 tackles and six interceptions, leading Mayer’s defense last season. … Salome’s Martinez averaged nearly nine yards on 35 carries last season. … Valley Lutheran tries to bounce back from a one-win season. It had only one senior last year. … Bagdad has won the last three West Region titles. Dalton Mills was the 1A Coach of the Year last season. … Loveall passed for 3,038 yards and 59 TDs for Bagdad in 2016, but his top four receivers have graduated. … Bagdad’s Finnerty had eight interceptions last season. … Telesis Prep canceled its season after four games last year. … Anthem Prep’s Busch returns from two-win team after passing for 430 yards and running for 560 yards in six games.
BEST OF THE BEST: Arizona’s elite high school program in each sport
The teams: Bowie/San Simon, Duncan, Fort Thomas, Winkelman Hayden, Phoenix NFL Yet, Kearny Ray, Superior.
The favorite: NFL Yet. A young 7-2 team last year grows up.
The challenger: Superior. Went 9-1 last year but has to fill big holes after graduation.
The dark horse: Hayden. These guys could win a playoff game or two.
The players: Robert Bohrn, Hayden, D/DE, 5-11, 155, Sr.; Frankie Valencia, Hayden, WR/DE, 5-9, 160, Sr.; Tyraill Carrethers, NFL Yet, WR/RB, 5-9, 180, So.; B.J. Bryant, NFL Yet, 6-3, 175, Jr.; Marcos Bueno, Superior, WR, 6-2, 185, Sr.; Wesley Conyer, Duncan, RB, 6-0, 180, Jr.
The intrigue: Carrethers, one of the leaders for NFL Yet’s 1A state basketball championship team last year, ran for 600 yards and caught 24 passes for 374 yards and seven TDs last season as a freshman. … Bryant had 37 tackles, 15 sacks and 26 QB hurries last season. … Superior returns arguably the best 1A wide receiver in Marcos Bueno, who had 40 catches for 822 yards and 14 TDs last season. … Superior graduated most of last year’s region title team but has a solid freshman class coming in. … Duncan’s last winning season came in 2012 when the Wildkats were 6-2, but returns 1,000-yard rusher Wesley Conyer.
The teams: Colorado City El Capitan, Fredonia, Tuba City Greyhills, Heber Mogollon, Rough Rock, Williams, Joseph City.
The favorite: Williams. Not only the region but the 8-man state favorite.
The challenger: Joseph City. State semifinal potential.
The dark horse: Mogollon. Tossup with Joseph City on Williams’ biggest challenger.
The players: Martin Soria, Williams, QB/DB, 6-0, 175, Sr.; Trey Tenney, Mogollon, QB, 6-0, 155, Jr.; Cameron Baldwin, Joseph City, QB/DB, 5-8, 150, Jr.; Devon McLean, Mogollon, RB, Sr.; Matt Fields, Joseph City, RB/DE, 6-2, 200, Sr.; Daniel Lopez, Williams, RB/DB, 6-1, 150, Sr.; Zack Perkins, Williams, WR/DE, 6-3, 175, Sr.; Noah Horn, Mogollon, WR, 6-1, 155, Sr.; Tate Grantham, Williams, LB, 5-9, 185, Sr.; Chance Pearson, Williams, DB, 5-10, 186, So.; Rhett Beard, Joseph City, DB, 5-8, 143, Sr.
The intrigue: Williams’ Soria is a dynamo with the ball in his hands. He ran for 981 yards and passed for 1,548 yards en route to the 1A final. … Joseph City’s Matt Fields last year averaged nearly nine yards a carry and had six sacks. … Perkins had seven sacks and 69 tackles last year for Williams. … Horn caught six TD passes in seven games for Mogollon. … Williams’ Grantham led the region with 111 tackles last season. … Williams’ Pearson has four interceptions as a freshman.
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.