4A2 Black Canyon Region Preview
This is arguably 4A2’s toughest region, there is no denying that. Traditional powers Cactus, Greenway and PV can play with any 4A1 team. The good news for the other three teams in this region, those three teams suffer heavy losses and Greenway must replace a top-notch coach in Mike Brown. It would not surprise me to see four teams from this region make the playoffs.
2. Paradise Valley
Cactus- Cactus rolled to the 4A2 state title last year going 13-1; their only loss was to 4A1 power Saguaro. They scored 70 points three times during the year and scored at least 40 points seven times.
Last year the Cobras lost stud RB Mike Brown but that didn’t matter as they rushed for an amazing 5,000 yards as a team behind one of the best OLs in the state. Allen Woods rushed for 2,800.
Unfortunately, 3/5ths of that OL have taken their game to the college level as has Woods. But they do return one of the state’s top OLs in Ryan Nowicki. The 6-5 285 pounder has offers from all over the country. Also back is massive junior Denzell Dotson. RB seems to be plug and play over at Cactus and LaShunn Norris managed to rush for 800 yards as a backup to Woods.
The losses on defense are heavy, especially along the DL where 3 of 4 starters graduate. The lone returning starter, Jon Moeck, was one of 4A2’s top sackers. The B corp seems solid with Tyler Hammon and Guy Williams returning.
The losses are heavy for Cactus but I have always said, “the best predictor of the future is the past” and this has been one of the state’s top programs for years. I expect them to compete for a second straight 4A2 title.
Key Losses: RB Allen Woods, QB Brody Ray, OL Christian Williams, OL Patrick Blanar, DB Tanner Bonnell, DL Tyler Tassinari, DL Nick Cerqua, LB Josh Sydzyick, DB Tate Headley
Key Returners: OL Ryan Nowicki, DB Scott Mosakowski, DL Jon Moeck, OL Denzell Dotson, RB Lashunn Norris, LB Tyler Hammon, LB Guy Williams
Cortez- Coach Jeff Huelster knew he had his hands full when he took over this program. He had to go into the 2009 season preaching fundamentals and getting kids to buy into the system. No one was surprised that the Colts went 0-10. To say they struggled is an understatement. They were shutout 6 times and gave up at least 28 points in every game.
2010 has no where to go but up. The team will be young but will actually have some experience as they were forced to play a lot of youngsters last year. There are some winnable games on their schedule and I would expect them to be more competitive in 2010.
Key Losses:OL Alejandro Padron, OL Billy Radke
Key Returners:LB Tony Najera, RB Jacob Cook
Greenway- The Demons went 6-5 but could have just as easily been undefeated in the regular season. They lost 4 games during that time and none of those losses were by more then 8 points. They managed to make the playoffs but lost to Palo Verde in the 1st round.
The losses to graduation are heavy for Greenway. Over 90% of their offensive production is gone as well as their leading tackler, sacker and top 2 DBs. None may be bigger than the loss of long time head coach Mike Brown who is now at Tolleson.
But looking past this program in the absence of Brown is a mistake. This has been one of the West side’s best teams. New coach K.J. Anthony doesn’t take over with a bare cupboard. Tyler Bergsten is one of the state’s top TE prospects and is a two-way starter. RB Shawn Jones has all of the tools to be a star, I expect a breakout performance from him and they have the state’s biggest player in the 6-8 430 pound Josh Taase.
I would expect the 2010 team to at least match the record of the 2009 version.
Key Losses: WR/S Ryan Harper, RB/DB Danny Rankin, WR/DB Ronnie Sellers, LB Chase Harpole, K Angel Bermudez, QB Zander McKean, OL Ethan Caen, DL Derrick Green, HC Mike Brown
Key Returners: TE Tyler Bergsten, LB Harrison Johnson, RB Shawn Jones, OL Josh Taase
Paradise Valley- PV may have had one of the toughest schedules in the state last year, 9 of their 12 opponents made the playoffs and the Trojans still managed to win 7 games. All five of their losses were to playoff teams.
The biggest priority for head man Donnie Yantis is going to be replacing his backfield. He loses 2,600 yards worth of rushing with the graduation of Tyree Parker and Jae Brown plus must replace D1 QB Kevin Spain. Mikah Ruffino managed to rush for 600 yards and score 5 times in a backup role. He will get the bulk of the carries in 2010.
Losses on defense are heavy as they must replace 6 all-region performers. All-state lineman Austen Salazar returns and is a good foundation to start building around.
Once again, the road will not be easy but this is a team that not too long ago was a 5A program. Every year there are players at PV, so do not underestimate them. Getting back to the playoffs is likely.
Key Losses: RB Tyree Parker, RB/LB Jake Brown, OL/DL Joe Wylezik, OL/LB Cyrus Way, QB/DB Kevin Spain, DL Garrett Sanders, LB Ian Nielson
Key Returners: OL/DL Austen Salazar, DB Niko Nicholson, P/K Zak Brown, DB Joe Sabye, RB Mikah Ruffino
Thunderbird- T-Bird was inconsistent last year. They open the year with a loss to an average Flagstaff team and then two weeks later beat 4A1 playoff team McClintock. They lay goose eggs to Apollo and Liberty but then score 48 and 34 points against Cortez and Cactus the two weeks after.
Which team will show up in 2010? They will rely on the legs of junior RB Conner Hustead, who was all-region in 2009, to carry the offense. DB Jake Stiak is their defensive leader and QB Josh Ganados returns after throwing for nearly 1,600 yards.
The 2010 schedule is the same and I would expect similar results for the Chiefs.
Key Losses: P/WR Peter Baroldy, WR Ryan Cowles, LB Chris Delgado
Key Returners: RB Conner Hustead (JR), DB Jake Stiak, QB Josh Ganados
Washington- WHS started the year 2-2 but went just 1-5 down the stretch. The Rams have always been known as an undersized and scrappy team with little depth. Probably the reason for the tailspin at the end of 2009.
The 2010 version actually has some size. Two-way players Steven Gurrola and Greg Price stand 6-2 255 and 6-3 300 respectively.
Coach Becktold always does innovative things to keep this team competitive and expect nothing less this year. As long as injuries don’t plague the Rams, I am calling for them to be the surprise team in this region.
Key Losses: WR Danny Gamez, DL Mike Brown, RB Shawn Woods
Key Returners: OL Steven Gurrola, DL Greg Price, TE Anthony Gonzales, DB Stephen Lopez (JR), QB Devonte Smythe
Coach of the Year- Larry Fetkenhier - Cactus
Offensive Player of the Year- LaShunn Norris – RB Cactus
Defensive Player of the Year- Austen Salazar – DT Paradise Valley
Top 5 Players
1. Ryan Nowicki – OT Cactus
2. Tyler Bergsten – TE Greenway
3. Austen Salazar – OL/DL Paradise Valley
4. LaShunn Norris – RB Cactus
5. Steven Gurrola – OL/DL Washington