As I've been continuing work on my not-so-extravagant extravaganza, I've noticed that there are a number of provocative topics that could sprout from a lot of the information I'm finding. These are topics that are semi-controversial (at least as it pertains to Arizona high school football) and are specific to the specter of what might play out on the field. I'd like to start a discussion with my view on some of these so-called "hot takes" and see what sort of discussion grows from it. I'll start it with perhaps the hottest of takes (at least when I'm involved in the conversation), the unmitigated superiority of the Centennial Coyotes.
HOT TAKE #1-2016's best defenses in the state reside at 5A powerhouses Chaparral and Centennial.
In the Northeast Valley Conrad Hamilton may not have left an experienced heir apparent to head the vaunted program at Chaparral, but he did leave a hell of a defense. Parker Walton and Mason Drake would be sure-fire all-state picks regardless of enrollment division, while Hunter Johnston proved to be a difference maker despite fighting injuries during the 2015 season. Like Drake safety Jack Moyes is a potential all-stater in the secondary, giving the Firebirds a solid claim to having one of the state's top back sevens (linebackers and secondary).
The Coyotes at Centennial have a similar model in place; the 2015 D-1 state champs already had a ton of depth at the safety positions in Isaac Haney, former special teams star Gage Franklin, and 2015 rotation player Angel De Los Reyes, and that position got even better when D-2 all-state selection Gleson Sprewell transferred over from Valley Vista. At linebacker Marcus Wakeham is Centennial's leading returning tackler, finishing behind two-time All-Arizona pick Bozton Sanders for the overall team lead last year; as an undersized, strong, and athletic 'backer that started his high school career as a running back, the comparisons to 2015 D-1 POY John Rincon are natural. On the front line for the Coyotes, defensive end Andrew Nichols was devastating in the playoffs, dropping opposing quarterbacks 7.5 times in four games and should have been charged rent for the amount of time he spent in the other team's backfield.
It's easy to point at what both teams lose (Chaparral's defensive-minded HC and Centennial's bevvy of now-departed talent from the class of 2016) and question the validity of such a claim, and there is some legitimacy to those claims. Some will also make the claim that 6A powers Chandler and Mountain Pointe have a level of star power Centennial and Chaparral don't have, or that the recruit-laden squad at Saguaro will pitch more shut-outs in Class 4A than Clayton Kershaw squaring off against the Buckeye Little League All-Stars; I say those are ridiculous claims, as the defenses at Chaparral and Centennial were never man-handled like Saguaro and Mountain Pointe were against Centennial (and Mountain Pointe against Bakersfield), nor ever regressed to trying to out-score the opposition as Chandler did late in the year. If last year's realignment were still in place these squads would have a pair of defenses capable of carrying them to a title; unfortunately for them they got placed in a division alongside what will prove to be the state's best team regardless of division.