Week 1 Game Previews

You asked for them, you get them. We spotlight some of Friday's top games.



Cactus offense versus Washington defense


Any discussion of the Cobra offense has to start with two words-Mike Brown.  One of the state's elite backs regardless of classification, Brown rushed for over 1300-yards as a junior while spearheading Cactus to the West Valley Region title.  Early in the season Cactus' offense will likely go as Brown goes, since inexperience dominates most of the other skill positions.


Like the Cactus offense it's hard to mention the Ram defense without first mentioning its star, Boise State commit Kharyee Marshall.  As a junior the lanky defensive end led the Rams in both tackles and sacks, performing well against the Cobras last August (eight tackles, two sacks).  Marshall will get a lot of help from defensive back Trevor Johnson, who picked off seven passes in 2007.


Washington offense versus Cactus defense


In their 2008 debut versus Coconino Johnson was outstanding at wide receiver, averaging over 30-yards a catch and scoring twice.  Junior quarterback Daniel Gamiz showed promise in the opener as well, racking up over 200-yards passing with no interceptions.  If the Rams find a consistent running game to complement their already dangerous passing attack they will give teams in their division a lot of fits.


Cactus looks promising on defense, with big defensive lineman Apollo Ford returning along with linebacker standouts Philip Pollock and Ben Monarrez.  Seniors Ryan Wescott and Kandon Thomas will be counted on to anchor the Cobra secondary.


Bottom line


Washington comes in with one game under their belt, a big advantage as their coaches have been given a real-time scenario to work out their kinks.  While they may not have been taking on a world-beater in Coconino, the importance of live preparation should not be underestimated.  If nothing else Washington should be able to hang with the bigger, more touted Cobras longer than most will expect. 


Cactus has long been one of the state's elite programs and should not have its departures overstated-Coach Larry Fetkenhier has replaced great athletes in the past with little or no ill effect on the program, and there's no reason to expect that trend to end this season.  You can almost expect Cactus to have an awesome offense and a great kicking game year after year, regardless of personnel. 



Brophy offense versus Hamilton defense


In their August 23rd opener against Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman the Bronco offense appeared to be working out a lot of kinks, as big gains were kept to a minimum and penalties were abound.  Still, some positives emerged from that game, as junior TE A.J. Steimel exhibited some flashes of brilliance and senior quarterbacks Sam Quinif and Beau Maggi were competent in running Brophy's no-huddle.


In their eye-opening victory over nationally-reknowned Booker T. Washington of Miami the Husky defense proved to once again be very stingy, forcing three turnovers and holding Washington to just seven points after halftime.  Linebackers Mississippi Jones and Ruben Robinson might be the best tandem in the state, and defensive back Ryan Milus has amazing speed.  Expect all three to be looking for big things from their in-state season debut.


Hamilton offense versus Brophy defense


Perhaps one of the most anticipated head-to-head matchups we will see all season-Hamilton rolled up over 400 yards of offense in Miami, while Brophy's defense was downright nasty versus Gorman.


If anything can be read from their season opener it's that Hamilton will feature a balanced attack-senior QB Zack Hambsch was almost flawless in his debut as a varsity starter, notching 209-yards through the air and one score.  Newcomer WR Allante Wright accounted for over half of those passing yards, and might be the ideal compliment to speedster Drew Terrell.  Junior RB Zach Bauman made his case for the Huskies' next star running back role, scoring four times and eclipsing the century mark.


With all the fanfare being (deservedly) bestowed upon the Hamilton offense it would be easy to say they have the decided edge against the Bronco D; to do so is a foolish mistake, as Brophy sports an experienced, salty defense that might be the best in all of Arizona.  Things start on the defensive line for Brophy, where Stanford-commit Trent Murphy joins fellow top prospects Mike Tree and Seyi Adebayo in creating a frightening front.  Versus Gorman the Bronco defense was particularly unforgiving, limiting the much bigger Gaels to a single touchdown and 125 yards of total offense-if there's a defense in the state that can stop Hamilton in its tracks it would be Brophy's imposing unit.


Bottom line


Coach Steve Belles' biggest task might be to keep his squad grounded going into Friday night-most saw the Miami win as unexpected, and the ease in which it was achieved would tempt any squad of teenagers to get overconfident.  With that said, if there's one opponent that will have the Huskies' undivided attention it would be the team that ruined their undefeated season last November.


It will be interesting to see what offensive adjustments Brophy has made in the nearly two week span since the showdown with Gorman (if any at all).  As tough as their defense might be, it's hard to imagine the Broncos beating Hamilton with the same offensive effort seen in their opener; Hamilton's too formidable of a foe for that to take place.  It's going to take a complete effort in all facets of the game for Brophy (or anyone else in the state for that matter) to knock off Hamilton.

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