4A1 Desert Sky region Preview

This is one of the top region's in the state. This region is stacked with playoff contenders from last year. See who we pick to win it and who made our all region team.

4A1 Desert Sky Region




This is one of the toughest regions in the entire state. There is a ton of talent and all seven of these teams made the playoffs in their respective divisions last year. Saguaro and Chaparral seem to be the teams to beat and their rivalry game will more then likely be for the region title.




1. Saguaro

2. Chaparral

3. Apache Junction

4. Paradise Valley

5. Shadow Mountain

6. McClintock

7. Cactus Shadows




Saguaro- Saguaro went 13-1 and won the state championship last season. The Sabercats averaged over 35 points per game and only gave up 11. Their only speed bump was a three point loss to Chaparral. They return a vast majority of their team from last year but their biggest loss was head coach Mike Reardon taking the job at Mesquite. The school hired within and promoted DC John Sanders to take over this loaded and talented squad.


It all starts up front and Saguaro returns one of the best offensive lines in the state. Chris Merrill, Derek Bisgard and Joe Kellogg all return to open up holes for junior RB Beau Burton. Burton rushed for just under 1000 yards and really got hot in the playoffs. QB Tim Ruben accounted for over 1500 yards of offense as a dual threat QB. The only losses that the Sabercats take are at WR where Shane Anderson and Max Tabach were the main targets.


Defensively, they must replace safety Tabach and his 16 INTs as well as Anderson and all region DT John Sobzcuk. Both Tabach and Sobzcuk signed with GCC and Anderson inked with Nevada.


Merrill and Bisgard return along the d-line. Both have D1 offers and Merrill has committed to UofA. Add 6-4 270 pound junior DT Corey Adams and you have one formidable front. LBs Jake Dunn and Bret Spotleson return and Burton and Paul Porras will man the secondary.


The region is tough and so is their schedule with an amazing nine of their opponents making the playoffs last year but I like what Saguaro has back and they are my early favorite to not only win the region but repeat as state champs.


Key Losses: WR/DB Shane Anderson, DB/WR Max Tabach, OL Garrett Schmenk, OL Ryan Fowler, DL John Sobczuk, DB Chris Soto, HC Mike Reardon


Key Returners: RB Beau Burton, OL/DL Chris Merrill, OL/DL Derek Bisgard, DL Corey Adams, OL Joe Kellogg, QB Tim Ruben, HC John Sanders


Chaparral- Ron Estabrook turned this program from a winless program in the 90's to a perennial state championship contender. He led the Firebirds to an 11-3 record last season and has passed the torch to Charlie Ragle. Ragle was an assistant at Moon Valley when they won the 4A state title and was a graduate assistant at Arizona State last season.


Like any team, Chaparral took their losses due to graduation. QB Casey Lytle was great last season and North Canyon transfer Blake Schembri looks to take over the reigns. The Firebirds top three rushers return and the addition of Chavez transfer Deveron Carr will add speed not only to the backfield but to an already experienced secondary.


WR Vince Coleman will walk-on at UofA but Mike Cummings will be the go to guy in the air. He looks to improve on his 35 catch 790 yards junior season. If the offensive line can jell, this could be one of the most dangerous offenses in 4A.


On defense, they return a very experienced secondary where DBs Cummings and Derek Oesterblad accounted for 14 INTs. Losing middle backer Matt Phelan and most of their d-line hurts but if they can come together, Chaparral is a serious contender for the 4A title.


Key Losses: QB Casey Lytle, WR Vince Coleman, OL Matt Streich, LB Matt Phelan, OL Brennan Rieffel, OL Randell Bymoen, RB Matt Peterson, DL Alex Shih, DL Rodney Shaw, DL TJ Corley, LB Brock Claffey, K Stathis Kondylis, HC Ron Estabrook


Key Returners: RB/DB Deveron Carr, WR/DB Mike Cummings, LB Charlie Lytle, CB Easton White, DB Derek Oesterblad, QB Blake Schembri, HC Charlie Ragle


Apache Junction- AJ jumps up from 4A2 where they went 9-5 and made some noise in the 4A2 playoff race. They take some heavy losses including head coach Max Ragsdale taking a coordinator job at Mesquite. They hired former freshmen head coach Rich Milligan. AJ will field a fairly small team this year but they will be big physically and will ride the "Shane Train" to some wins this season. RB Shane McCullen rushed for 1900 yards as a sophomore and will be their main offensive weapon once again. He is bound to break a few big runs during the course of a game.


The Prospectors schedule is a tough one and if they can stay healthy, I think they could have a winning season despite their losses and move up to 4A.


Key Losses: DB/WR/P Justin Higuera, OL Zach Tourangeau, DB Dalton Hoch, LB Steve Duarte, DL John Taylor, K/DB Cody Morrow, RB/DB Jake Celis, LB Ruben Diaz, HC Max Ragsdale


Key Returners: QB Dan Ambrosio, RB Shane McCullen, OL/DL Louie Crespo, HC Rich Milligan


Paradise Valley- PV went 4-7 last year and lost to all seven of the playoff teams they faced. They move down from 5A2 but lose 2400 yards in rushing from Mike Williams' and Charles Hubbard's graduation. Their pitch and catch combo of Grant O'Brien to Chris McFaul returns but they also lose a lot of the offensive line that protects them.


Their schedule is tough and you can always count on PV being a solid squad. The move down to 4A will not be as easy as some people may think, especially landing in this region, but with 24 players returning don't underestimate them.


Key Losses: RB Mike Williams, OL Alex Miller, OL/DL Victor Atteh, RB Charles Hubbard, DB Jacob Intorcia, LB Jacob Igono, OL Anthony Walker


Key Returners: WR Chris McFaul, DB Dylan Borys, QB Grant O'Brien, OL Nick Sabye


Shadow Mountain- The Matadors went 3-8 last year as a 5A2 team. They lost to all seven playoff teams they faced with a very young team that dressed 17 sophomores. The most glaring needs for Coach Sekoch are at QB and DB. Nick Amari departs as does 3/4ths of his secondary. RB Richard Garcia is back after rushing for 762 yards and earning all region honors and a big group of young linemen are eager to open holes from him headed by junior Doug Zismann. They also return one of the state's most under-rated players in LB Tyler Juede. He racked up 139 tackles last year and is being recruited by many Ivy League schools.


The schedule is working against Shadow Mountain, they face another brutal schedule that could see them finish below .500 again but they have some winnable games on their plate and could beat last year's win total.


Key Losses: DB Chase Hunter, DB Bryce Mallette, OL Riley Truitt, QB Nick Amari, DB Gerald Flunder


Key Returners: OL Doug Zismann, DT Ryan Shaw, LB/P Tyler Juede, RB Richard Garcia, WR Mike McLeran


McClintock- Steve Campbell departs and Mike Gibbons takes the reigns of a Charger team that lost in the first round of the playoffs last year. It hurts losing Mack Martin and his 1400 yards rushing but Malcolm Martin returns at wideout and looks to be the leader of this offense along with QB Kelly Kurzman. Whoever replaces Martin at tailback will have a devastating lead blocker. David Blair is well known for his skills at linebacker, but watch him block and you will see a kid that loves contact.


Overall, 33 players are back for Gibbons but a replacement for Martin is essential to this team's quest for another playoff birth.


Key Losses: OL Ben Erickson, RB Mack Martin, OL Justin Ward, DL Koree Simpson, DL Faustin Kapelemba, LB Josh Thomas, DB Andre Jackson, DL Barrett Parker, WR/DB Josh Hardin, HC Steve Campbell


Key Returners: WR Malcolm Martin, LB/FB David Blair, WR/DB Jeremy Wittig, HC Mike Gibbons


Cactus Shadows- Losing 95% of your offense is never a good thing especially when you are moving up into a tough Desert Sky Region. The Falcons lose QB Phillip Aholt and his 3592 passing yards, RB Eric Gorriaz and their top five receivers. Their leading returning Johnny Barro only accounted for 228 rushing yards last year.


They good news is they only lose 17 players and return 32 but the 17 they lose were their main sources of offense and multi-position players. Coach Chad DeGrenier will have his work cut out for him trying to fill all of the holes on offense. The defense does return DE Chris Manship and LB Matt  Williams but the team will get no time to breathe as they play 8 teams that were playoff bound last year. I expect the Falcons to be competitive but they lost their workhorses at the wrong time, jumping up to 4A1.


Key Losses: RB Eric Gorriaz, QB Phillip Aholt, WR Kyle Watkins, OL Ryan Patchak, OL Chris Sclafani, DB/WR/K Kyle Royer, DB/RB Kyle Foley, LB Sean January


Key Returners: DL Chris Manship, OL Alec Wightman, OL Ryan Sterner



24-7Football.com Preseason All Desert Sky Region Team


QB- Tim Ruben- Saguaro

RB- Beau Burton (JR)- Saguaro

RB- Shane McCullen (JR)- Apache Junction

WR- Mike Cummings- Chaparral

WR- Malcolm Martin- McClintock

TE- Rusty Fernando (JR)- Apache Junction

OL- Chris Merill- Saguaro

OL- Derek Bisgard- Saguaro

OL- Joe Kellogg- Saguaro

OL- Doug Zismann (JR)- Shadow

OL- Louie Crespo- Apache Junction

K- Danny Compton (JR)- Paradise Valley

Return- Deveron Carr- Chaparral


DL- Corey Adams (JR)- Saguaro

DL- Chris Merrill- Saguaro

DL- Derek Bisgard- Saguaro

DL- Chris Manship- Cactus Shadows

LB- David Blair- McClintock

LB- Charlie Lytle- Chaparral

LB- Tyler Juede- Shadow Mountain

DB- Deveron Carr- Chaparral

DB- Mike Cummings- Chaparral

DB- Derek Oesterblad- Chaparral

DB- Paul Porras- Saguaro

P- Tyler Juede- Shadow Mountain


Coach of the Year- John Sanders- Saguaro

Offensive Player of the Year- Mike Cummings- WR- Chaparral

Defensive Player of the Year- Chris Merrill- DL- Saguaro


4A1 Desert Sky Region Top 15 Players


1. Chris Merrill- OL/DL- Saguaro

2. Mike Cummings- WR/DB- Chaparral

3. Corey Adams (JR)- DT- Saguaro

4. David Blair- LB- McClintock

5. Shane McCullen- RB- Apache Junction

6. Derek Bisgard- OL/DL- Saguaro

7. Deveron Carr- RB/CB- Chaparral

8. Tyler Juede- LB- Shadow Mountain

9. Joe Kellogg- OL- Saguaro

10. Malcolm Martin- WR- McClintock

11. Doug Zismann (JR)- OL- Shadow Mountain

12. Beau Burton (JR)- RB- Saguaro

13. Chris Manship- DL- Cactus Shadows
14. Louie Crespo- OL/DL- Apache Junction

15. Tim Ruben- QB- Saguaro

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