THE WOODY REPORT-2003 WELLS FARGO REGION PREVIEW
Fear not prep football junkies, while you've likely been out enjoying another delightful Arizona summer (haha), I've been at work, studying just WHO are the teams to look out for in our great state, as well as which players are looking to make an impression as well. We start this year's festivities with a preview of the rapidly rising Wells Fargo Region, which goes into 2003 among the state's most competitive 4A regions.
- CENTENNIAL COYOTES- Forget the fact that I'm an alumnus, the fact of the matter is that you will be hard pressed to find a team with better talent than the Coyotes. Last season's 8-3 mark was quite possibly a breakthrough year for veteran coach Richard Taylor's program, and with several solid athletes coming back things should only get better. The offense starts with talented runners Terry Longbons (Jr., 6-1, 195) and Marcus House (Sr., 5-9, 190); Longbons gained over 1300-yards on the ground as a soph, while House had 400 despite being healthy for just three full games. Centennial has to replace their entire linebacking crew on defense, but veterans on the defensive line and backfield should offset those losses at least early on.
- CACTUS COBRAS- Perhaps no team was a greater enigma last year than the Cobras. One week they were shutting down preseason #1 Saguaro, the next they were getting lit up by Greenway. Like Centennial though, the inconsistencies of last year should be righted, as several key athletes return. While 1,000-yard rusher Nigel Ricks and backfield mate Kevin Marin return, the most electrifying athlete wearing the Cactus Columbia blue is probably their kicker, Bubba Bradley. Despite taking snaps on offense and contributing on D, Bradley's ability to boot the ball a country mile is without a doubt his greatest contribution to the Cobra cause.
- BRADSHAW MOUNTAIN BEARS- Bradshaw served Cactus their first-ever Wells Fargo loss in humiliating 36-6 fashion, notched three more region wins before falling to Centennial in a game that had the region title at stake. Gone for the Bears are star quarterback Chris Fessler and his favorite target, lanky tight end Clayton Spedding (both first-team all-region picks), but do return the services of the fantastic Reno Paccioni. A three-year starter, Paccioni does a little bit of everything-he runs, he catches, he plays D, etc, etc. There are not too many athletes more dynamic than young Mr. Paccioni. Receiver Tom Stivason also returns; he's a likely all-region selection.
- PRESCOTT BADGERS- In 2002 this might have been one of the state's all-time best 2-8 teams-their two wins came against Skyline Region champ Washington and 6-4 rival Bradshaw Mountain, while also losing games to Coconino, Coronado, Sunrise Mountain, and Pinnacle by a touchdown or less. Coming back for a third straight year at quarterback is Chris Parker, a kid who looked to be destined for all-region selections as a sophomore in 2001 but has been said to be better suited for wide receiver by those close to the program. Still, I expect this guy to be behind center come September, especially following a gritty performance in the team's season ending loss to Pinnacle.
- SHADOW MOUNTAIN MATADORS- Since these guys were out of region last year I didn't get a chance to see them play, so I'm left to kind of guess my way through this one. The move down will help, but not that much with the three teams at the top looking good, and the cold reality is that (from what I hear) their best athletes are rarely the ones going out for football.
- PINNACLE PIONEERS- They had such potential, and now it all seems to have all gone to waste. Not much is left from an 8-0 frosh squad that was dismantled in one of the most bizarre (and sickening) displays in high school sports I've heard of, and really there's too many holes for their 7-1 JV squad to fill as well. They lack solid line play, speed, and a consistent go-to receiver, which is too bad since Trent Walker is a strong-armed quarterback that will likely never reach his full potential.
- DESERT RIDGE JAGUARS- Played two varsity games in 2002, and got outscored in aforementioned games 113-22. On the bright side of things, quarterback John Sanders did throw for two of the team's three touchdowns (scoring the other), and back Adam James tied for second place in the triple jump at the 4A state track and field meet. They'll only improve with a bit of experience.