THE WOODY REPORT-2003 EAST SKY REGION PREVIEW
For the past several years the East Sky has been the region all 4A regions are compared to. Since 1996 the East Sky has sent at least one team to the state semifinals, with Tempe winning a state crown in 1996 and Chaparral bringing it all home in 1999, 2000, and 2002. However, with the loss of great coaches like Tempe's Tim McBurney last year and Saguaro's Stuart Goldstein this year, things seem to be growing thin in the East Sky.
- CHAPARRAL FIREBIRDS-There's definitely enough firepower to go around, enough so to seriously think that the Firebirds could repeat for the second time in five years. QB Darren Mougey and WR John Peel are considered to be among the state's top D-1 prospects, and junior Ekom Udofia is a monster on the defensive line. As usual, Chaparral has a great pool to reload from-the frosh and JV teams went a combined 13-2-1. Senior Kam Kranz returns at running back after a bizarre injury cost him the latter part of the season.
- SAGUARO SABERCATS-The outlook of Year One, post-Goldstein seems to be divided in two camps-one that says the program is through, another that says they'll do fine. I'll say it'll be somewhat in between. A few key players do return, starting with linebacker Bevan Howard, the younger brother of former Sabercat standout and current Northwestern star Loren Howard; he'll be counted on to keep a Saguaro D that lost All-American defensive end Kyle Caldwell respectable. Offensively, quarterback Justin Andreen likely takes over after seeing spot duty at the position last season. Under Goldstein, the ‘Cats always had big, strong linemen-it'll be interesting to see if that trend sticks under new coach Mike Reardon.
- ARCADIA TITANS-Every year I try to shake things up a bit with my picks from those of the other media outlets, and this is one of those cases. That aside, the Titans just might have the region's top backfield with Jimmy Bevel taking the snaps and Terrell Toliver providing the running game. Bevel was solid last year, completing over 50% of his passes for 14 touchdowns, and Toliver gained over 700 yards and scored six times with his 10.9/21.81 speed. Last season Arcadia started off on fire, going 4-0 before fading down the stretch.
- TEMPE BUFFALOES-Last year was a down year for the Buffs, going 3-7 following the departure of former stars Maurice Smith, Nate Mortensen, and Corey Marshall, but as usual Tempe has plenty of athletes looking to step up. Like rival McClintock, Tempe will start a "big body" at quarterback in Darius Davis (6-1, 235), who came on strong late in the year. His best performance came against Arcadia, accounting for all four Buffalo touchdowns on three passes and a short run. Young Mark Meadows could see time at running back.
- CORONADO DONS-In quarterback Louis Marson, the Dons likely have one of the Valley's top quarterbacks. Unfortunately, there's not a lot outside of Marson to build a team around. Marson is one of three-year varsity starters.
- APACHE JUNCTION PROSPECTORS-Last year was AJ's chance to do something special-they had a nice collection of talent at the skill positions, but the best they could get was 3-8. The top athlete around will be receiver Ryan Allan, a junior receiver who is perhaps the fastest up-and-coming player in the state.