MaxPreps 2013 Arizona Preseason Fab 5 presented by the Army National Guard
Coming off of a 12-2 record and a Division I state title, powerhouse Hamilton shows no signs of slowing. The Huskies are the No. 1 team in Arizona heading into the 2013 season.
Head coach: Steve Belles
2012 finish: 12-2, won the Division I state title 31-16 over Mountain Pointe
For at least the 10th consecutive season, Hamilton is expected to begin the season with a first-year senior starter at quarterback in Sam Sasso. It hasn't really hurt the Huskies over the years (seven state titles since 2002) because of line play and defense. It won't change this year as Casey Tucker and Bryce Holland anchor the line while the defense will be led by Caleb Peart, Qualen Cunningham, Josiah Pola and the Sterling brothers, Levi and Santana. It's all there for yet another title run.
"There's always another trophy out there to get and we will go out there hunting," said Belles.
See the Top 15 Arizona football dynasties
2. Mountain Pointe (Phoenix)
Head coach: Norris Vaughan
2012 finish: 12-2, lost 31-16 to Hamilton in the Division I state finals
It took the Pride 21 years to get to their first title game and they expect to be back much sooner. Back-to-back could very well be in the mix with the assembled talent being shaped by Vaughan, who has led the team to the playoffs all four years, including two other semifinal appearances. The talent lies on both sides as WR/DB Jalen Brown, OL Natrell Curtis, RB/LB Wesley Payne, QB Antonio Hinojosa, DB Dominique Fenstermacher and DB Trey Lauer try to recapture last year's spectacular run.
"We will put in our plan for Bishop Gorman and show how we plan on impacting them," Vaughan said of their Aug. 23 opponent. "We feel like we have the chance to have a pretty good team. We are going to be good on offense, defense and our best unit might be special teams."
See which Arizona teams have the most wins since 2008
3. Desert Ridge (Mesa)
Head coach: Jeremy Hathcock
2012 finish: 11-2, lost 21-7 to Hamilton in the Division I semifinals
The Jaguars might be limping to start as quarterback Tarek Morrison (1,404 rushing, 861 passing, 27 total TDs) will probably miss time as he recovers from a torn ACL sustained in November. Regardless, one thing is for sure, the Jaguars will be better at the end of the year. Hathcock has made people forget how dismal the program was (4-27) before he brought his physical style to the Jaguars in 2006 (56-30).
"It's one of those things where we won't know if (Morrison) will play now or wait until the middle of the year," Hathcock told the East Valley Tribune.
See last season's Arizona football playoff brackets
4. Salpointe Catholic (Tucson)
Head coach: Dennis Bene
2012 finish: 12-2, lost 28-14 in the Division II state semifinals to Centennial
The Lancers have been the class of Tucson, but were upstaged last year by D-II state champion Ironwood Ridge. It only refocuses the coaching staff and players. Bene, who has 112 wins in 12 years, will be loaded with Arizona WR/DB recruit Cameron Denson leading the way. The addition of Kaelin Deboskie, who transferred from Heritage (Colleyville, Texas), will keep opposing defensive coordinators honest. Salpointe plays in the Sollenberger Classic in Las Vegas to get things rolling.
"You don't get guys like him very often in Tucson, so when you get a kid like that you're very fortunate because he is a game-changer. He takes your entire team to another level because of his ability to score and make plays." Bene said of Denson in the Arizona Daily Star.
See last season's final Arizona football rankings, presented by the Army National Guard
5. Centennial (Peoria)
Head coach: Richard Taylor
2012 finish: 12-2, lost 27-3 to Ironwood Ridge in the Division II state championship game
The Coyotes lost a lot — RB Jalen Ortiz, DE Marcus Farria, offensive coordinator Kyle Pooler — but nothing seems to keep this program down. The Arizona Interscholastic Associations investigation into recruiting turned out to be nothing, but it has given the program a new edge and the Coyotes won't have much time settling in with their two toughest games on the schedule possibly coming in Week 1 and 2 against Chandler and Basha.
"I think we're going to look a lot like we did five or six years ago. We're not putting in new stuff, we're condensing. We're doing less and hopefully doing it better," Taylor said about the new offense to the West Valley News.
See last season's Arizona All-Section football teams
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.