This is one of the toughest regions in the entire state. There is a ton of talent and five of the seven teams were playoff bound. Just as 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 but do not count out PV as they upset Chaparral last year.
4. Apache Junction
6. Cactus Shadows
Saguaro- The Sabercats rolled through a pretty tough schedule and won the 4A1 state title. They had a few close games, including two tough ones against Chaparral, but still scored nearly 400 points more then their opponents.
They do lose some stars, especially along the offensive line but have plenty enough talent to make a run at a three-peat. The offensive and defensive lines have plenty of horses and with Beau Burton and Paul Porras back, they will have some weapons on O. They key will be how Cole Rarrick replaces Tim Ruben at QB. Rarrick is a different style of QB then Ruben was and it will be interesting to see what tricks the coaches have up their sleeves.
Chaparral- The Firebirds were a strong contender for the 4A1 title last year. Their three losses came by a combined ten points. They have plenty of talent coming back, including D1 recruits Craig Roh and Cactus Shadows transfer Taylor Lewan at OT but what is going to hurt them is losing Deveron Carr and Mike Cummings. Both were stars on both sides of the ball and with Carr being a great return man, it is like losing five starters.
I like what they have coming back along their defensive front seven but they lose three-quarters of their secondary and will rely on Eric Shaw stepping up to fill one of those spots.
The Chaparral/Saguaro game on Oct. 17th will be one I will not miss.
Key Losses: RB/DB Deveron Carr, WR/DB Mike Cummings, LB Charlie Lytle, CB Easton White, DB Derek Oesterblad, DL Rahav Colton, OL Zach Graham, K Scotty Wells
Key Returners: DE Craig Roh, LB Tommy Russell, QB Spencer Stone, OL Ethan Lewis, OL Taylor Lewan, DT Derrick Nsubuga, LB Tyler Ermisch, WR Brandon Martin, LB Ryan Holmes, TE Tyler Williams, RB Dewayne Garrett
They will not sneak up anyone this year as Coach Yantis has many of the pieces in place to make a run. He has a big-tough back in Tyree Parker to make his wing-t run, has plenty of speed and some experience back on defense. The line play on both sides of the ball will be key.
Getting Horizon transfer Kevin Spain to replace Grant O'Brien at QB was huge!
Key Returners: RB Tyree Parker, DB Dylan Borys, WR/CB Ebo Makinde, LB Jesse Harper, LB Jake Brown, DL Andrew Fajardo, DB David Godley, WR Johnny Galvez, K/P Danny Compton, S Weston Diehl, QB Kevin Spain
Apache Junction- AJ went 6-6 last year after moving up from 4A2 and faced a tough schedule that included 8 playoff bound teams. Unfortunately, the Prospectors went just 2-6 against those teams.
Last year the star of the team was Shane McCullen and he returns this year and will be Coach Milligan's workhorse again. Last year Shane averaged over 20 carries per game and expect more the same for the ASU bound back.
I do not think that AJ is ready to hang with the big boys of this region but I would not be surprised to see them get into the playoffs again.
Key Losses: QB Dan Ambrosio, OL/DL Louie Crespo, LB Tripper Meason, OL Eddie Mayora, DE Jeremy Loya,
Key Returners: RB Shane McCullen, DE Rusty Fernando, LB Nate Scola, LB Justin Ferman, LB Danny Flores
Cactus Shadows- It was only two years ago that Cactus Shadows won the 4A2 state title but everyone knew moving up a division would not be easy, especially with the roster losses they took last year. They struggled offensively last year, averaging just 11 points per game, after being a juggernaut like their state championship team.
On a positive note, they beat Higley and McClintock last year and were able to get some young guys some great game experience. They did not graduate many players from last year's roster, so while I am not calling for CS to make another un at a title, I do think they will be improved.
Key Losses: DL Chris Manship, OL Ryan Sterner, OL Taylor Lewan, DL Carl Matthes
Key Returners: LB Matt Williams, LB Dane Andrews, OL Alec Wightman, RB Anthony Stevens, QB Dylan Claussen, WR Danny Trittler
They return a big offensive line, their leading rusher, passer and receiver and lost only six players from last year's roster.
Expectations are low at Shadow but I would not be surprised to see them go .500.
Key Losses: LB/P Tyler Juede, RB Richard Garcia, WR/DB Mike McLeran, DB Marcus
McClintock- The Chargers were just 3-6 headed into week 10 and ended up beating AJ to squeak into the playoffs despite a sub .500 mark. The ended up beating #2 seeded Cactus in the first round but were manhandled by
Last year's class was senior dominated and only 12 players return. Amongst those losses are their leading passer, rusher, receiver, tackler and sacker. That does not make for a good recipe for success. Playing in this tough region and getting Canyon del Oro and Higley in non-conference play, could mean a long year for Charger fans.
Key Losses: WR Malcolm Martin, LB/FB David Blair, WR/DB Jeremy Wittig, DL Robert Mahoe, DB Vincent Bradley, DL Devin Adams, TE Jared Ringer, QB Kelly Kurzman, LB Ty Roberts
Key Returners: K Xavier Carrillo
QB- Spencer Stone- Chaparral
RB- Tyree Parker (Jr)-
RB- Shane McCullen - Apache Junction
WR- Paul Porras- Saguaro
WR- Brandon Martin- Chaparral
TE- Tyler Williams- Chaparral
OL- Kody Koebensky- Saguaro
OL- Taylor Lewan- Chaparral
OL- Sebastian Sica- Saguaro
OL- Doug Zismann –
OL- Corey Adams- Saguaro
K- Danny Compton -
Return- Beau Burton- Saguaro
DL- Corey Adams - Saguaro
DL- Craig Roh- Chaparral
DL- Rusty Fernando- Apache Junction
DL- Justin Jungblut- Saguaro
LB- Justin Ferman- Apache Junction
LB- Dane Andrews- Cactus Shadows
DB- Paul Porras- Saguaro
Coach of the Year- John Sanders- Saguaro
Offensive Player of the Year- Shane McCullen- RB Apache Junction
Defensive Player of the Year- Corey Adams- DT- Saguaro
1. Corey Adams- DT- Saguaro
2. Craig Roh- DE- Chaparral
3. Shane McCullen- RB/DB- Apache Junction
4. Kody Koebensky- OL- Saguaro
5. Taylor Lewan- OT- Chaparral
6. Ebo Makinde- WR/CB-
7. Justin Jungblut- DE- Saguaro
8. Beau Burton- RB- Saguaro
9. Paul Porras- WR/DB- Saguaro
10. Tyree Parker (Jr)-
11. Max Smith- TE- Saguaro
12. Tyler Williams- TE- Chaparral
13. Spencer Stone- QB- Chaparral
15. Rusty Fernando- DE- Apache Junction