Over the next week 24-7 is going to check in with a few teams and see how spring ball went. Football is now a year round sport as programs across the state wipe of the rust, check out new plays and see who will step up. We will start our camp round up with the Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions. This time last year expectations were high as the Mountain Lions returned numerous high profile players. After a tough start, Mountain Ridge righted the ship, won their league and made a run at the state title. This year the names are not as well known but the team has a core of players who tasted a state championship game and want a return engagement.
On their run to the state final last year, Mt. Ridge wore down opponents with a relentless running game led by Nick Bell and Austin Martin. This year, there is not a clear cut running back to shoulder the bulk of the carries. With this in mind, look for head coach Steve Belles to find ways to get the ball to one of the most intriguing groups of receivers in 5A football. At 6'4 and running in the 4.5 range, Josh Morrow presents a tough matchup for any DB. Last year, 7 of Morrow's 27 catches went for touchdowns. Opposing defensive coordinators will have a tough time deciding on coverage now that Tony Paul is at Mt. Ridge. Last fall at Deer Valley high school, Paul caught 34 balls for 6 TDs. Paul should get plenty of touches from the wingback position. To go along with Morrow and Paul, is 6'3 225 pound tight end Dave Campbell. Last fall Campbell averaged 21 yards per catch. Add to this group sure handed wideout Eric Coleman and new QB Chris Johnston should have plenty of go to guys as he gets comfortable being the starter. Coach Belles felt Johnston had an "awesome" spring and expects a lot from his new signal caller. Belles believes Mt.Ridge will throw the ball more than they did last year. Taking over one of the half back spots is athletic junior to be Jordan Scott. Johnston, Scott and Paul should be well taken care with an offensive line anchored by tackle Josh Readel. Belles is very excited about his offensive line that goes a solid two deep with Brett Lenaburg, Peter Fuzi, Zach Hernandez, Sinjon Hicks, Austin Duty, David Fresenious and David Ferni.
Mt. Ridge lost key players on offense as well as defense. Linebackers Nick Covey and Daniel Villasenor have departed but many playmakers have returned. TE/DE Dave Campbell may be more important to his team on the defensive side of the ball. Campbell seems to always be around the ball, last year he had 40 tackles, 3 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception. Joining Campbell to anchor the defense will be linebacker Spencer Ast who had nearly 80 total tackles last year and defensive tackle Matt Pickering. Belles feels the secondary will have a lot of competition for various positions and hopes to get a good look at people during the Deer Valley, Surprise and NAU passing leagues. John Ott, who led the team in interceptions as a sophomore, will anchor the secondary and look for Tony Paul to get reps at strong safety. An influx of talent returns as Kurt Keller, Zach Anderson and Ben Zierten play football after taking a year off to concentrate on baseball.