Football players like the Scottsdale Desert Mountain passing combination of quarterback Kyle Allen and receiver Mark Andrews just don’t come around very often.
That’s why fans have to enjoy watching them while they can.
The first of 10 regular season appearances and maybe more in the playoffs will occur on Friday night (Aug. 30), when the Wolves travel to Phoenix College to face Phoenix Brophy Prep. Kickoff is at 7.
Allen and Andrews won’t have to worry about being distracted by the recruiting frenzy. They already have given their commitments, Allen to Texas A&M and Andrews to Oklahoma, so they are free and clear.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Allen and the 6-6, 220-pound Andrews are best friends. They hang out off the field and on the field know what each other is going to do, where they are going to be, almost before it happens.
Records within reach
Allen came to Desert Mountain as a wide-eyed freshman, but by the time his sophomore season rolled around, he was in the starting lineup and hasn’t left since.
As a sophomore, he passed for 2,547 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a junior, he passed for 3,119 yards and 36 TDs. He has thrown 22 interceptions, only seven in 2012.
He is well within range of the Division I (formerly Class 5A) season record of 3,372 yards by Tucson Salpointe Catholic’s Tyler Graunke (2003) and the Division I career mark of 7,089 by Phoenix Desert Vista’s John Rattay from 1997-99. If Allen can reach 3,475 this season, he will pass the state career record of Yuma Catholic’s Matt Inman, who totaled 9,141 from 2005-08. Allen needs 27 TD passes to set the state career record and pass Ryan Kealy of Phoenix St. Mary’s (1993-95).
Andrews had not played Pop Warner or any other organized football when he came to Desert Mountain. He started from scratch. Soccer and basketball were his specialties.
As a sophomore, he burst on the scene with 58 catches for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a junior, he soared into the stratosphere with 81 grabs for 1,494 yards and 21 TDs and was named Big Schools Player of the Year by azcentral.com. He, too, is within reach of state season and career marks.
“When you come in your first year, you just hope you make the (freshman) team. Then you start to gain confidence. That’s what happened to me and Mark,’’ Allen said. “Last year was great for us, and we want to try to be better this time.’’
Given Andrews’ inexperience as a freshman, he said it is “humbling and shocking to me to reach this point, never having played a down before. I never expected this.’’
Desert Mountain coach Tony Tabor said that “with all of the hype, they have done a good job of handling it. They have known each other a long time. They are not just good football players – they are good kids.’’
Academics are important
They also are good students.
Allen’s grade-point average is 3.9. He will graduate in December and enroll at Texas A&M shortly thereafter so he can participate in spring drills.
“Non-stop football. It will be sweet,’’ Allen said.
Andrews carries a 3.5 GPA, and hopes for similar results at OU, where he will be watched in person by many family members who live in the state.
Respect from opponents
Brophy coach Scooter Molander knows what it’s like to have a prolific passing combination. The last few years, he had quarterback Tyler Bruggman (now at Washington State) and receiver Devon Allen (Oregon).
“Allen and Andrews are both great players,’’ Molander said. “They have a strong commitment to the game and are tremendous athletes who work at their craft. They are one of the best passing combinations in the history of the state. It will take great team defense to stop them.’’
Hard work pays off
Andrews said one of Allen’s strong points is the mental part of the game.
“I’ve never seen a guy be able to pick the game and a team apart like he can,’’ Andrews said. “And when he throws, he just put the ball where it needs to be.’’
Allen’s assessment of his own progress is “the little things like footwork, accuracy and reads.’’
Andrews said he has reached new levels “by working on my routes, making sure I’m going to be in the right place at the right time.’’
With the help of Allen and his teammates, Andrews has continued to gain confidence and maturity.
“I think that because of my size, some people might underestimate my speed,’’ he said. “To be honest, I don’t think anyone can catch me from behind.’’
“As good as he wants to be’’
Andrews also is the team’s punter, and he carries a burden that few have to deal with. He is diabetic, often wearing an insulin pump and taking shots daily.
“It’s something I have gotten used to,’’ said Andrews, who played on the school’s basketball team as a junior but is unsure whether he will play this winter.
Allen said Andrews “can be as good as he wants to be. He understands the nuances of the game. As a freshman, he had that raw size and speed, but he has become so much better . . . I have no doubt that he will be playing on Sundays (NFL).’’
Tabor agrees, and adds that Allen “is right there with him.’’
Nothing for granted
It might be a bit difficult at first when the players move on to college.
“We’ll keep in touch,’’ Andrews said.
Texas A&M and Oklahoma are in separate conferences and likely would not play each other “unless it’s a bowl game or something, like for the national championship,’’ Andrews said with a smile.
Andrews and Allen will play their senior season at Desert Mountain with their same intensity, and won’t forget how hard they have worked to get here and the people who helped them.
“I have to admit, I am glad it (hectic recruiting pace) is over, but I will never take it for granted,’’ Andrews said. “There is only once in a lifetime when you experience something like this. I am grateful, and I know Kyle feels the same way.’’