5A Desert West Region Preview
Two teams have continuously battled for the region crown; Centennial and Westview and 2010 should be no different. There are new coaches at Tolleson, Ironwood, La Joya and Millennium and Cesar Chavez is going through a bit of a rebuilding phase. After competing for the region crown in 2009, the Champions got hit with AIA sanctions that killed their playoff hopes. Things could get interesting in the Desert West.
5. La Joya
6. Cesar Chavez
Centennial- Losing a number of D1 athletes to graduation usually leads to a dip in expectations for most squads. Early indications from Coyotes' central are things will be ok. The Coyotes have a three-headed monster at RB with Vegas Johnson, Tevin Ray and Jebron Harrington in the backfield that should more than make up for the loss of all-stater Anthony Hughes.
Possibly the biggest question mark heading into the season is who will be the starting QB. Juniors Justin Sanchez and Troy Hawthorn have been in a dead heat through the offseason in a battle for starting nod. Both signal callers have strong arms and have the wheels to make plays as well.
There is plenty of speed on defense led by Julien Singleton, Ray, Harrington, D1 prospect Gary Ross and up and comer Zach Hoffpauir but the biggest concern is on the defensive line where the losses are heavy.
Key Returners: WR/DB Gary Ross, RB/LB Vegas Johnson, DB Julien Singleton, RB/LB Tevin Ray, RB/DE Jebron Harrington, OL Jake Abbott, OL Wilson January
Cesar Chavez- Trying to survive what has amounted to a mutiny defines Coach Jim Rattay's offseason. Having a number of his assistants leaving is bad enough but a few key players have left the recently troubled program as well, none more devastating than the departure of Davonte' Neal.
Neal was a standout for his freshman and sophomore years, bringing hope for big things for the Champions. But after the team was excluded from the playoffs because of AIA sanctions, a cloud quickly formed over the Laveen campus and bodies started to defect.
Rattay, however, has had too much success in the past to not take the route over the hurdles instead of around. While expectations may be low, this team could be surprisingly competitive.
Joseph Raya will supply his senior leadership from the QB position looking for more than capable targets in Matt Ruiz and Chevyn Bryant.
Most of the rest of the team's success will rely on first year varsity performers as only 4 starters return.
Key Losses: WR/DB Davonte' Neal, OL Eric Benitez, DB James Edwards, DB Adam Dixon, LB Jordan Hiebak, DL Junior Walden, DL Kisima Jagne
Key Returners: WR Matt Ruiz, QB Joseph Raya
Ironwood- New coach Ian Curtis has taken over the reigns of the Eagles, coming in from district rival Liberty. What Curtis has brought with him is something sure to give the Eagles a much different look than in year's past. Curtis plans to utilize a very frenetic pace to his offense, modeled after the Liberty squad that kept defenses off balance on a regular basis.
Curtis certainly is equipped with a few key players that can make this up tempo pace give team's headaches. Talented wideout Gary Chambers and QB Justin Butler could be one of the more potent pass-catch combos in the area this year. Chambers, the 6-foot-3, 200 pounder, put in an offseason that saw his times and measures take a turn for the better. This hard work paid off when he was offered and accepted a scholarship to ASU. Chambers will be on the receiving end of many of Butler's throws no doubt, a number that will likely exceed his impressive 14 TDs from last year.
Garrett Robinson's 7 pickoffs last season will key a defense that has several starters returning.
There is talent at Ironwood and while I don't expect the Eagles to challenge for the region title, they could be a sleeping giant.
Key Losses: RB Bobby Hodge, WR Anthony Bugayong, WR Jordan Mireles, DL Phillp DeLaTorre, DL Marshall Puegh, DL Mike Rains
Key Returners: WR Gary Chambers, WR Charles Likong, DB Garrett Robertson, LB Mike Carter, QB Justin Butler
La Joya- With a new coach in Michael Gunderson, who moved up from longtime assistant coach, signs point to new life. After going 2-8 in 2009 can the 2010 team make a return to the playoffs and make a run like the '08 team? Running back D.J. Hubbard will be the key. It looks as if he will be showcased a new spread offense, a departure from the Wing-T style in year's past.
And while Hubbard will be giving teams nightmares when game planning, QB Nic Linares has a bit more to prove but is up for the challenge. He has had a very good offseason which could lead to a more balanced offense this season.
Hubbard and Linares ultimately will only be successful if their offensive line is on task. Mack Harris, a returning 2nd team all region performer will anchor the line while another 2nd teamer, Andrew Corral will lead the defense from his tackle spot.
Key Losses: RB Kei Harris, WR Sajvonte Pitts, TE John Williams
Key Returners: RB D.J. Hubbard, OL Mack Harris, DL Andrew Corral, RB/LB Tre Holmes, QB Nic Linares.
Millennium- Millennium has been one of the West side's better programs since their inception in 2000 but have gone through a number of coaches, this year they break in yet another.
George Martinez probably has experienced in all, having coached for decades, including stints in the NFL with the Cardinals and the Raiders. All that experience will be needed to help offset the loss of much of the roster to graduation.
Just 17 total players and only 4 starters are back. None should get their name called more than standout DeAnthony Easley, a standout at both running back and in the secondary.
Easley's speed will draw some strong attention from the opposition, but others will need to step up if Millennium is to avoid it's first losing season in 6 years and also avoid being shut out of the playoffs after a quarterfinals trip last fall.
Key Returners: K Zach Lewis, RB/DB DeAnthony Easley
Tolleson- Yet another new coach to the region in Mike Brown, but unlike the others, Brown comes with a very long resume and huge success while at Greenway. Brown is the reason that optimism abounds for the Wolverines' faithful.
Leading the way for the Wolverines will be one of the region's better juniors in running back Eric Ivey. He should see significant carries which will open up Brown's spread offense even more. Unfortunately they will play without D1 prospects Brendan Pineda and Jalen Roebuck. Pineda has decided to hang up his cleats while Roebuck tore his ACL
Tolleson, like most of the other schools in the region, have no clear cut choice at the QB spot. Senior Tommy Warren and junior Austin Cromack are battling for reps.
The Wolverines were expecting to return 26 players but fielded just over 30 recently. Brown has his work cut out for him but undoubtedly will have his teams prepared and disciplined.
Key Returners: RB Eric Ivey, OL Stacy Davis
Westview- Losing studs like an Eric Ramsey leaves a hole, but Westview is still loaded and up for the challenge of it's yearly battle for supremacy with Centennial. Top 75 players Jordan Champion (RB and DB) and Brennan Bowen (Center) look to help their teammates get back to the state finals where they were two year running until last year's early exit from the playoffs.
The Knights always have a strong run game and they will be led up front by three-time all-region center Brennan Bowen. All-region OL Zach Nolte will move to TE this year but his blocking ability will still be extremely valuable. The two will open up huge holes for the talented Champion. The staff is also high on sophomore back Seivion Morris.
Expect another winning season and another playoff run for the Knights.
Key Losses: RB/LB Eric Ramsey, OL Willie Chaffee, WR Nate McOwen, DL Brandon Rediger, DL Brandon Rediger,
Key Returners: LB/P Zach Chavez, RB/DB Jordan Champion, K Jacob Szostek, OL/DL Brennan Bowen, OL/TE Zach Nolte
Coach of the Year- Richard Taylor – Centennial
Offensive Player of the Year- D.J. Hubbard – RB La Joya
Defensive Player of the Year- Jebron Harrington – DE Centennial
Top 15 Players
1. D.J. Hubbard – RB La Joya
2. Jebron Harrington – DE/RB Centennial
3. Gary Ross – WR/DB – Centennial
4. Vegas Johnson- RB/LB - Centennial
5. Jordan Champion - RB/DB Westview
6. Gary Chambers – WR Ironwood
7. Brennan Bowen – OL/DL Westview
8. Jake Abbott – OL Centennial
9. DeAnthony Easley – RB/CB Millennium
10. Wilson January – OL Centennial
11. Tevin Ray – RB/LB Centennial
12. Matt Ruiz – WR Chavez
13. Zach Nolte – TE Westview
14. Julien Singleton – DB Centennial
15. Zach Hoffpauir – DB Centennial