WOODY REPORT PRESEASON EXTRAVAGANZA!
Well, after a summer's worth of hype, the season is upon us, and I will unleash upon the world the first-annual Woody Report Extravaganza! Here I will unleash my top ten picks, my players to watch list, who, among coaches, is on the proverbial "hot seat," and most importantly the schedule for the second-annual Woody Tour-a ten week trip through some of the valley's best games. So, with no further adieu, the Extravaganza!
KYLE CALDWELL, DL, SAGUARO-The consensus #1 recruit in the state, Caldwell is a physical specimen, weighing in at 270 pounds and running a 4.8 forty. A returning all-stater on the d-line, Caldwell also played fullback, where he averaged over 7 yards a carry.
MIKAL BREWER, OL, CENTENNIAL-The 4A state heavyweight wrestling champion returns for the Coyotes, where he will be a huge block on which to re-build with. As long as he's in the lineup (along with fellow linemen Zack Nielsen), Centennial should be able to field a competent running game.
BRETT PALMER, TE/DL, MARCOS DE NIZA-An all-region pick last season, Palmer has already committed to ASU. Like Caldwell, he's an athletic big guy, and will give the Padres a good foundation on the d-line.
JOSH JORDAN, WR, CHANDLER-A two-time 5A long jump champ, Jordan is possibly the fastest player in Arizona. Last year, he led the state on average yards per catch with 24.3 on 40 receptions.
MARCUS THOMAS, RB, TOLLESON-A two-way starter, Thomas is the state's only returning 2,000 yard rusher and could become the second back to back 2,000 yard rusher at Tolleson in three years. Has the ability to control a game single handedly.
DAVE HENRY, QB, GREENWAY-I call him Mike Nixon Lite-he throws, he runs, he plays defense, the dude even kicks the ball. For all the doubters out there, I'll say this-you don't take a team to the state championship game without some talent and a lot of guts.
TARYLL GALLOWAY & CHAZZ MILES, RB, MILLENNIUM-These guys are together because they are the two-headed monster that is the Millennium backfield. Between them, they racked up 16 100-yard games, 2390 rushing yards, and 27 touchdowns.
JARRET SAYAS, RB, DESERT VISTA-On possibly the state's most talented team, Sayas is the best among the seniors. After over 1300 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, Sayas looks to improve those stats as well as lead the Thunder to a second state championship.
STEVE SMITH, QB, RED MOUNTAIN-The leader of the two-time 5A champ Lions is probably the best option-style quarterback in Arizona. As a junior, Smith ran for nearly 700 yards and six scores while passing for 662 yards and seven scores.
THE HOT SEAT
JIM DAVIS, SUNRISE MOUNTAIN-After two seasons, Davis has compiled a 6-14 record at the north Peoria campus following predecessor Bill Gahn's 9-3 1999 campaign. With a senior class that went 16-0 at the frosh and JV levels, anything less than 6-4 will not be tolerated.
JEREMY HATHCOCK, SHOW LOW-This one's based on the history of the program-the Cougs go through football coaches like some people go through toilet paper. If this legend of rival Blue Ridge doesn't get the Cougars to the promised land, he could be in for a short stay at Show Low.
CHUCK ESQUIVEL, IRONWOOD-With what might be their most talented team since the 1996 4A runner-up squad, Esquivel will be expected to get the Eagles in the playoffs for the first time since moving up to 5A.
TOM JOSEPH, MOUNTAIN VIEW-He won't be fired this year, but nowhere in the state are there higher expectations than Toroland. Joseph built successful programs at Superior and Marcos de Niza, but will he be able to maintain the level of excellence that Toro fans have grown accustomed to?
KEITH BROWN, HORIZON-Like Joseph his job isn't in jeopardy, but after all the fuss that came with his hiring you have to think that Husky fans are expecting results.
9/13-APACHE JUNCTION AT MILLENNIUM-This one is solely based on superstition-I like the Tiger guys and want to be there to make sure their season opener is successful. That aside, AJ has shown themselves to be a dark horse in the tough East Sky during the offseason and in their first week blowout of AIA newbie Desert Ridge.
9/20-CHAPARRAL AT GREENWAY-Last year, the ‘Birds took out Greenway in the regular season only to fall in an OT playoff thriller. This game has a chance to be the best game of the year in 4A.
9/27-RED MOUNTAIN AT PEORIA-Last season's gritty win over Peoria in week three defined what the 2001 Red Mountain squad was all about-team play, defense, and a grind-it-out offense. No doubt Peoria will like to prove once and for all that they can hang with the best of the east valley.
10/4-DESERT VIEW AT CENTENNIAL-I'll be honest, I just want to be there to witness my Coyotes win one; Centennial went 0-3 in games I went to last season and are just 1-5 in my trips to their games the past two years.
10/11-RED MOUNTAIN AT MOUNTAIN VIEW-I'm trying to keep my games on the Westside, but I'll make the trip to east Mesa for this one. This has been one of the state's biggest rivalries the past two years, and I expect it to continue this year.
10/18-SUNRISE MOUNTAIN AT CENTENNIAL-I might use my "right of refusal" depending on the state of both teams at this point in the year. Sunrise is "the consensus" (i.e. anyone who's not me) pick to win the Wells Fargo (I really, really, REALLY don't know why), and Centennial is a "consensus" top three team in the region. I'll wait and see…
10/25-TOLLESON AT MILLENNIUM-This game needs no explanation…the consensus 1-2 teams in the West Valley Region go head-to-head in what could become a showdown of two phenomenal running back tandems.
11/1-CENTENNIAL AT CACTUS-My god we were SO CLOSE to winning this game last season…the verdict on Cactus is still out; I have them winning the region, Ol' Man Barry has them fourth, and lil' Dicky Obert has them taking second. If Cactus has a rival left in 4A (a big "if"), Centennial is it.
11/8-CACTUS AT SUNRISE MOUNTAIN-That's right, the fifth annual "Mustang Massacre" game. Cactus has been dominating in this series, but the last time this game was in north Peoria it was 42-30 shootout for the region championship.
- Red Mountain-I hate to say it but they almost get this one by default; if not for circumstances in the offseason surrounding Desert Vista and Mountain View, the Thunder and Toros would be ranked 1-2. That being said, the Lions are still very, very talented-QB Steve Smith might be the most athletic quarterback in the state, and DL Aaron Fernandez has a chance to be a three-time all-stater.
- Desert Vista-No one in 5A returns more talent than the Thunder. Starting with running back Jarret Sayas, Desert Vista's offense should be able to put some points on the board. That being said, the Thunder struggled against Sabino last week in their opener; a team with a chance to be great or the chance to underachieve.
- Hamilton-Talk to me next year and these guys will be a preseason #1. Two junior backs, Trammel McGill and Myrio Davis, shared time as sophomores, and at 6-2 Davis could see time at receiver this season. DL Michael Papa and LB Mike McDonald are the senior leaders on defense.
- Mountain View-Never before have the legendary Toros been forced to overcome this much adversity-much of the Toro legacy was questioned as a result of accusations against former coach Bernie Busken. Still, the players are still the same group of overachievers they've always had, and that can take these guys far.
- Camelback-This might be the most talented team to come out of the Phoenix Union district since the South Mountain teams of the early nineties. Senior Eric Anderson is an all-state pick at in the defensive backfield, and receiver Thomas Huff and defensive linemen Ivan Clark are among the state's top 25 seniors.
- Peoria-Yes, they lose a lot on offense, but the defense is perhaps the best in the school's storied history. And with a big line and a big back (5-9, 215-pound James McCollum), the Panthers should be able to play some smash-mouth ball.
- Brophy-Again, a team that loses a lot, but the Broncos have built a good enough program to where they don't rebuild, they reload. Taber Lemarr, one of the team's best athletes, moves over to quarterback from receiver, and junior back Uriah Marshall started as a sophomore.
- Gilbert-With all he's accomplished, Jesse Parker deserves the benefit of the doubt. Seniors Mike Moffitt, Chris Johnson, and Jerrett Burman give the Tigers good size in the trenches.
- Mountain Ridge Lions-Good size and a quality running back give Ridge fans hope. Senior Eric Urbank, an honorable mention all-region pick as a junior, will be running behind big bodies like Jason Perkins (6-3, 240), Mike Gibbs (6-0, 260), Trey Jones (6-2, 270), and Rob Martinez (6-0, 270).
- Marcos de Niza-After going undefeated during non-region play, the Padres crashed and burned, finishing the year at 6-4. With most of their starters returning (including preseason all-stater Palmer), Marcos should have enough to overcome the loss of head coach Tom Joseph.
- SUNNYSIDE- Simply put they have the best defense in the state, with three all-staters returning on that side of the ball. What they did to Saguaro was no accident-anyone who thinks Sunrise Mountain will give them trouble needs to have their head examined.
- CHAPPARAL- No team has garnered more respect in the past five years than the Firebirds. Coach Ron Estabrook is one of the best in the business, and he'll have little trouble molding this talented group into a playoff contender.
- MILLENNIUM- The backfield of Galloway and Miles is top-notch, and it's even better when you throw in talented quarterbacks Regan McCarthy and Tate Ford in the mix. Ford, a junior, will be a big contributor on defense as well.
- SAGUARO- Losing to Sunnyside was tough, but they showed that though their offense might be down, their defense might be better than last year. The loss of all-region defensive back Casey Swift hurts, but Saguaro still has what it takes to make another playoff run.
- GREENWAY- The Demons shocked everyone last year by taking second in the state, but could be even better this year. Henry is one of the top multipurpose players in the state, and the guy he throws the ball to (Sean Laidlaw) is also a top-flight two-way player.
- CORONADO- The Dons scared the wits out of Saguaro in last year's playoffs before falling, and all signs point to them making it even farther this year. Their main man is miniback Grady Smith, a 1,000-yard rusher last year.
- TOLLESON- There might not be a better skill position player in the state than Marcus Thomas, who essentially carried this team on his back much of last season. DL Levi Brooks leads a defense that needs to improve.
- MINGUS- Not only are they experienced, they are very talented and have good size. Multi-dimensional Chris Rice could be the David Henry of northern Arizona.
- CACTUS- No, I'm not writing these guys off. Why? Because by the time Wells Fargo Region play starts, can anyone doubt that Larry Fetkenheir will have the Cobras ready to make a run? This team reminds me a lot of the '00 Cobra squad that started slow but went 5-2 over their last seven games. The main difference? This year's Wells Fargo is a lot weaker than the 2000 West Valley Region.
- AGUA FRIA- The most storied program in 4A, the Owls have two things that always give them an edge-size and speed. Steve Ayala is a 295-pounder that will anchor the line at center.
- BLUE RIDGE- No explanation needed here. The reputation says it all.
- WICKENBURG- One of the most physical teams in 3A. They'll showcase a powerful running game.
- SNOWFLAKE- Porter Caldwell will provide the Lobos with the best passing game in the White Mountains.
- WILLCOX- They started the season with two straight shut outs; once the o-line gels 1,000-yard rusher Scott Greene will be turned loose.
- PAYSON- Big win over 2A power St. Johns proves that the ‘Horns are legit.
- COOLIDGE- Junior Elijah White is one of 3A's best backs.
- PARKER- They need to rebuild, but they've built a strong tradition on the river. Can prove mettle with a strong showing against Blue Ridge tonight.
- QUEEN CREEK- Playing with a vengeance after being slighted from the postseason last year.
- GLOBE- The South is the toughest region in 3A this year, and Globe has been impressive in wins over Miami and Seton; we'll know just how good they are when they play Coolidge tonight.
- HIGLEY- After going 4-5 in their first varsity season, the Knights return almost everyone to their team this year. Coach Jim Ewan is one of the best.
- ST. JOHNS- Despite their loss to Payson, the ‘Skins still have what it takes to be the class of a watered-down 2A Conference.
- NWCC- Beating Show Low handidly was impressive, and if star quarterback Ryan Hoffner returns they'll be tough to beat.
- BOURGADE- Quinton Bellamy is one of the top runners in 2A.
- VALLEY CHRISTIAN- Put up some big passing numbers in last week's win over 3A Fountain Hills.
- THATCHER- Off to a slow start, but they're still a threat until proven otherwise.
- PHOENIX CHRISTIAN- Jim Rattay will have these kids playing well late in the year.
- TOMBSTONE- Might be the best team in a down 2A South.
- ORME- Opened with a win over an experienced Arizona Lutheran team.
- MOGOLLON- Had problems with 1A Joseph City last week, but seems to always be there at the end.
- ARIZONA LUTHERAN- I'm at a loss for another team here, so I'll take another team from the tough Metro Region.