Game Previews

In-depth look at Moon Valley/Higley & Desert Vista/Centennial



By: EJ Kirkland

Thunder offense versus Coyote defense

After scoring just seven points in a season-opening loss to Gilbert the Thunder offense has come to life, averaging 32-points per game in three consecutive wins.  Junior QB Cody Sokol has been solid, throwing for 516-yards and six scores on the year.  Two-way end Danny Mullarkey has made just five catches this season, but three of them have gone for scores (including two in Friday's comeback win over Mesquite); WR Casey Bolena leads the team in both receptions and receiving yards.  Senior RB Marcus Washington is a Division One prospect.

Centennial's defense is coming off a dominant effort against North, where the second quarter saw three defensive touchdowns scored by the Coyotes; on the season Centennial has had five different players score touchdowns on defense.  UNLV commit Reggie Umuolo and junior Austin Arias had combined for 55 tackles from their linebacker spots on the year, and DE Jimmie Lewis leads the team in sacks with four.

Coyote offense versus Thunder defense

Senior RB John Hughes has dominated much of the storyline revolving around the Centennial offense, having scored 13 touchdowns through the North game; he also leads the team in both rushing and receiving.  Senior Justin Callahan and junior Matt Baugh are emerging as consistent threats at wide receiver, with both registering a 30-yard reception against North.  Junior Anthony Hughes is the thunder to brother John's lightning at running back, averaging over six yards a carry whilst running primarily between the tackles.

Mullarkey will be forced to pick up the slack at defensive end now that top recruit Devon Kennard is out for the season; against Mesquite he was phenomenal, recording nine tackles along with three sacks.  Senior LB Lee Williams leads the Thunder in tackles with 23, while Jake Van Raaphorst's is the team leader in interceptions.  On the year Desert Vista has recorded 15 take aways as a unit.




This game has the potential to be the second emotional week in a row for Desert Vista; last week the team had to deal with the loss of Kennard to an ACL tear, then needed a 14-point fourth quarter to down an unheralded Mesquite squad.  Last season the Thunder had the two-time 5A-2 champion Coyotes on the ropes for over 40 minutes, only to watch the heroics of Jeff Hughes and Jarrell Barbour grab the win for Centennial.  The Thunder returnees likely remember this, and would like to redeem themselves in front of a Valley-wide television audience.

The edge in the kicking game has to go to Centennial; senior Ryan Shauger is perfect on extra points this season, and possesses one of the strongest legs in the state (nine touchbacks against North).  Desert Vista has yet to make a field goal this season, though K Alec Hsu has booted through 11 extra points.


The battle between the Thunder ground game and Centennial's rush defense will be crucial to the game's outcome; Centennial has not allowed an opponent to gain over 100-yards rushing on the game all season, while the loss of Kennard left Desert Vista without their leading ground gainer.  It will be difficult for any team to defeat Centennial with a one-dimensional offense, as Desert Ridge and Hamilton found out in early losses.



Moon Valley vs. Higley


          By: Mike from 24-7


The Mark Smith era at Moon Valley is off to a great start.  Coach Smith had successful runs at both Glendale HS and Millennium HS and now he is winning again at Moon Valley.  The Rockets are currently 3-1 on the season with impressive wins over Flagstaff, Kellis and Sunnyslope last week.  Their lone loss on the season came at the hands of a much improved Tempe squad. 


On offense the Rockets feature one of the states top overall players in WR C.J. Westbrooks.  Westbrooks who currently holds offers from Colorado and Idaho has played very well so far, with 14 catches for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He went over 100 yards receiving against both Flagstaff and Kellis.  While Westbrooks gets most of the headlines, RB Brian Ramirez has been just as important.  Ramirez leads the team in rushing with 252 yards on the ground.  QB Marshall Bailey has great size at 6'4 220 and a strong arm.  With a weapon like Westbrooks on the outside he has put up good numbers throwing for 741 yards 7 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.  Bailey may end up being a JUCO type prospect when it's all said and done. 


On defense LB Matt Ramirez has been a star.  Ramirez leads the team in tackles with 42.  The secondary is lead by the dynamic duo of Josh Tucker and Anthony Moya.  Both of those two are all over the field and will also contribute in the run game.  Mike Dewitt leads the team in sacks with 4.5, pretty impressive after only 4 games.


Higley has become one of the most consistent teams in the 4A II level.  They started out slow losing to both Cactus Shadows and McClintock, but have gotten better in a hurry winning their last two contests over Washington and Coconino. 


On offense Higley wants to run the football.  Both Chris Campbell and Jace Smith have been impressive so far.  Together they have combined for 569 yards.  WR Paul Castro has been the favorite target of QB JP Beall. 


The last two games the biggest difference has been the defense.  Defensively, Higley is lead by the three very good players in Joey Speltz, Aaron Wright and Tanner McVicker.  Up front RJ Arriaga has 4 sacks early on and defensive back Kelvin Fisher leads the team with 3 interceptions. 


Keys to the Game

At every level of football, when a team has a dynamic player who is capable of taking it to the house at any time the opposing team has to limit the amount of touches that player gets.  Higley on defense has to try and slow down the pass game of Bailey to Westbrooks.  If Westbrooks gets the ball in space watch out!  Watch for Higley to try and grind it out on the ground and slow down the game.  The best way to make sure the Rockets talented skill kids don't touch the ball is to keep them on the sideline. 

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