The playoffs are sometimes called the second season, it is a time when every game counts and big game players show up. The 24-7 staff, along with Rich Reid of Cox 9 sports, thought it would be fun to put together an all playoff team combined of 4A and 5A players. Some of the members of this team are very familiar, others are future stars to look out for next year and some members may not be as well known but are kids that played the best ball of their careers at the right time. This team was picked by position, but not in a first team second team format, but rather as a collection of players we felt were crucial to their teams success.
Brian Wriston assaulted the record book even up to the final game as he threw five TDs in his teams come from behind state championship victory. Throughout playoffs and in the final game Travis Dixon continued the play that has brought his Husky team back to back titles. The state championship was the prototypical Dixon performance as he rushed for 136 yards and passed for 139. Other QBs who played great throughout the playoffs were Mt.Ridge's Austin Martin. Martin's athletic play caused fits for opposing defenses as he helped carry Mt.Ridge to the final game. Blaise Johnson also played well for Corona and Conor Hearn of Brophy showed why he will be one of the top QBs in the state for the next two years.
During playoffs no RB meant more to his team than Nick Bell. The 5'9 185 pound Bell was the workhorse of the Mt.Ridge offense as he averaged nearly thirty carries a game and over 190 yards rushing in leading Mt.Ridge to the state title game. Markel Devorce of Brophy and Dan McClendon of Corona also had solid playoffs. Matt Hain of Moon Valley is considered the "heart and soul" of the state champ Rockets. Tim House of Centennial averaged nearly 140 yards rushing a game. Tyler Porras was a big part of Saguaro's run to the semifinals as he worked for tough yards vs some of the states best Ds including Sunnyside. Richard Morris made his 230 pound presence known in playoffs and will be a big part of Cactus' attempt to get the state final three years in a row.
How can you defend the tandem of Chris McGaha and Tsar Johnson? They line up all over the field and then make big plays when they get the matchup they need. Double team McGaha and you get single coverage on the 6'5 Johnson. In the playoffs the tandem combined for fourteen TDs including five in the final game. Cactus Sophomore Manny Solarez became QB Jon Tobin's go to guy in Cactus' march to the final. Remember Solarez, Tobin and Morris all return next year for coach Fetkenheir. Andrew Leahy only had the chance to play in one game but showed on both sides of the ball why he is one of the best and most underrated players in the state. Stetson Banks of Mt.View, Raphael Mack of Highland and Mekell Wesley of Hamilton continued their strong play throughout playoffs.
None of the above skill players would have had success without the hard and often unnoticed work of the offensive linemen. Here are some that caught our eye during playoffs. Sammy Salamasina of Moon Valley is part of a strong Rocket line that returns intact next year to help defend the 4A title. Centennials duo of Bobby Torres and Jordan Lowe continued to power the Coyotes' offense. Brad Gaul was one of the main cogs of a Mt.Ridge line that churned out over 350 yards rushing a game in playoffs. Ty Porter and Richard Tuitu'u of Highland played great ball throughout playoffs and we are going to add their teammate TE Shaun Fitzpatrick to this list for his blocking and ability to make catches in the play action game. On the way to the championship, Ryan Tonnemacher and Chris Hegge of Hamilton once again showed their versatility in the balanced Hamilton offense.
Sam Chung and Isiah Smart of Moon Valley were crucial to the Rockets championship. Chung played solid throughout playoffs, but had great games against Flagstaff and Centennial two of the best O-lines in the state. Dontay Moch and Brian Dean the junior defensive ends for Hamilton, did a great job of containing Austin Martin in the championship game. Also on this list are Dan Monarrez of Cactus and Jon Hargis of Red Mountain. The scary thing about this group is Chung is the only senior.
The linebacking corps may be the strongest group on the list. Ladarius Howard of Cactus may be one of the most underrated defensive players in the state. Daniel Villansenor of Mt.Ridge played inspired football and seemed to get a piece of every defensive stop. Other top linebackers are Ryan Coulter of Centennial, Greg Bird of Red Mountain, Kris Stone of Highland, Jake Taylor of Corona and Jimmy Rogers and Gerald Munns of Hamilton
Nathan Vega, Clark Lamb and Brady Rohlwing. All three of these guys are just the type of solid players you want on your team. Add Austin Martin and Chris McGaha to this list and then try score.