Zone Read: Good Things Come in Three

Arizona Sports News online

This spring is moving right along, with little help from Mother Nature.

Temperatures around the state are climbing as we inch closer to what we all hope is a much more predictable, and complete, 2021 football season here in Arizona.

Here are a few things which caught my attention in this week’s “Zone Read.”

Three of a Kind

It’s a fresh start for Jason Jewell and his Brophy Broncos as they look to turn the page on a forgettable 2020.

BCP lost starting quarterback EJ Warner for the year to a broken leg, suffered in a season-opening loss at Notre Dame Prep, which led to offensive woes the next six games. Brophy scored less than 20 points in six of their seven losses in a season marred with key injuries, a heavyweight schedule and a delayed COVID start. The young team at times struggled to net 100 total yards during their 0-7 campaign.

2021 brings fresh optimism and promise just one year removed from an 8-3 run in Jewell’s first season at the helm.

Besides Warner, and 50 other to-be seniors, being back in the fold – BCP features three Top 15 in-state players in the 2022 class.

“Zone Read” asked Jewell to put on his ‘ole recruiting analyst hat and spotlight Ben Morrison, Zac Swanson, and Tyler Powell who will be asked to provide not only great production but leadership as the Broncos navigate through what is expected to be another ultra-competitive 6A schedule this fall.

#3 prospect – cornerback Ben Morrison:

“Has traits that everyone desires in a big-time corner. [Ben] has length and is physical. About as much of a no-brainer prospect as I’ve ever coached. Length. Good speed. Physical. Smart. Athletic genes. About as good of a human being as you’ll ever find.”

#4  prospect – defensive lineman Zac Swanson:

“Love that Zac has position versatility. He can play end in an odd front or play defensive tackle in an even front. He’s 6-foot-4, 250 now and will only get bigger. He has good strength and is explosive as heck. Much better speed than you would think, too.”

#14 prospect – tight end Tyler Powell:

“This kid has so much untapped potential. Just learning the game and new to football as a freshman. Giant frame at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds and runs a sub-4.7 (40-yard dash). Uncoachable tools. Was a three-sport athlete early at Brophy, playing basketball and baseball – but focusing on football and baseball now. Is big and strong enough to put his hand in the ground but is fast enough to flex out. Upside is huge!”

Clearly, the pieces are in place for a bounce back season this fall and the future holds promise with a number of talented underclassmen in the system.

Blues Traveler

One of the glaring omissions from last fall was seeing our Arizona football talent flex its muscles on a national stage.

As the Valley continues to rise in both population and gridiron talent, State Forty Eight has attracted matchups against some of the top teams in the country. The games serve as unique and special opportunities for the players and coaches to game plan and compete against the elite on the opposite sideline.

One of those teams is Arizona’s alpha – the Chandler Wolves – who have had a stranglehold on Arizona high football supremacy for much of the past decade.

Head coach Rick Garretson is anxious to play out of state games on the road but only when it makes sense, from a safety standpoint, for his program.

“We are still a little reluctant to travel because of what’s going on in California,” Garretson said to the “Zone Read.” “It’s been kind of tough. We plan on traveling next season [2022]…we’re still not over the COVID era. It hasn’t gone away yet. It’s still there and you have to respect it. Ultimately, you have to make sure that [we] take care of our kids, our parents, and our staff.”

“Zone Read” followed up by asking if he feels other teams will once again return to those showcase matchups when the time is right.

“I hope it’s something that’s just on hold,” he continued. “It’s nice to play those teams we’ve played in the past. Whether it be Corona Centennial (CA) or Bishop Gorman (NV). Last year we were going to have JSerra Catholic (CA) come out here and play us at home because we never have out of state teams come play us at home since IMG Academy (FL) in 2017.”

Wednesday night Garretson confirmed Chandler will have a national showcase game this fall as they’ll host Cherry Creek High School (CO). He said there is a possibility the matchup will air live on ESPN’s family of networks.

Cherry Creek went 23-0 the past two seasons with back-to-back state championships playing in Colorado’s top division.

Speaking Out

We here at the “Zone Read” speak truths and deal in reality, regardless of the topic or situation.

One of the slipperiest slopes in AZHS football circles deals with players transferring and the frequency we’re seeing at the highest level.

Let’s be crystal clear about a few things before moving forward.

First, the idea of “neighborhood teams” is becoming as archaic as the flip phone. In-district prep coaches do everything in their power to funnel kids through their “feeder systems” in youth football but all bets are off when they reach high school and start playing in passing leagues. New friendships are made and fresh opportunities present themselves. Kids talk to kids.

Secondly, elite head coaches in this state don’t recruit players, their programs do. Jason Mohns and Saguaro has had a bullseye on their back for years and unfairly so. I’ve spent endless hours with the coaching staff, even went all-access with them in the summer of 2018 to southern California. Is there power at the top when it comes to talent? Absolutely. But Mohns and his staff grind hard and don’t take shortcuts. They also certainly don’t make any playing time promises to players who transfer in, or to their parents.

Lastly, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Of course, some players gain more recruiting attention from playing at elite schools (competition breeds greater success) but there are also a number of players who likely would have been better off not transferring…too many to list in this column.

One neighborhood team success story from 2020 was Boulder Creek who was a yard away from playing for a 6A State Championship. But let’s not forget, both BC mainstay senior offensive stars, quarterback Bear Milacek and running back Jacob Cisneros transferred in as underclassmen, from Brophy and Westview respectively, after their families moved to Anthem.

San Tan Charter head coach Kerry Taylor recently tweeted his views which, for the most part, are spot on.

The AIA has seen this train racing down the tracks for the past few years. They’re tried to discourage “super teams” from forming through their mandatory transfer rules for in-state players but history has shown us, players aren’t concerned about sitting five games, even during their senior year.

One former Saguaro transfer, off the record, said this to the “Zone Read.”

“I’m not worried about having to sit out five games because Saguaro is guaranteed to play four in the playoffs. So, essentially, I’m still playing a full season.” 

Welcome to our new normal.



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