Note: This article includes schools in the writer’s area of coverage, which is as follows: from Fountain Hills west through Scottsdale, all of Phoenix (except for Ahwatukee), the southwest, northwest and northern sections of the metro area. Other locales include northern, northeast and northwest Arizona. Most of this information was obtained from e-mail questionnaires returned by the coaches.
Out of nearly 200 boys enrolled at Phoenix Northwest Christian, about 80, more than one-third, are involved in the Division V football program.
That’s a pretty good ratio, and a sign that the program is in even better shape.
Being a part of a team that has been in the state championship game the last three years, winning two (including 2012), helps create interest.
Northwest Christian would like to build the title game appearances to four this year and a third win in November.
It wasn’t easy, but the Crusaders began the season last week with a win, 19-13 over Chandler Valley Christian in Flagstaff.
While Northwest has had a strong offense in recent years, its bread and butter is defense.
Coach Dave Inness rotates seven quality players up front, including Matt Delos, Will Gades, Ben McGriff, and Tyler Webb.
Nick Brown is the team’s top linebacker. The defensive back corps includes Brady Lorenz, Cody Byers, Kaleb McShanag, Tyler Predevich and Inness’ son, Drew.
Drew Inness, a sophomore, also is the team’s quarterback.
*Phoenix Scottsdale Christian has a new head coach, Kevin Allen, but the Eagles struggled in an opening loss to Phoenix Arizona Lutheran.
Scottsdale Christian has a very young roster, and is looking to develop depth in its lines.
Scottsdale Christian’s top players are running back/linebacker Zech Gatling, defensive end/tight end Preston Kalos, quarterback/safety Daniel Schembri, wide receiver/place-kicker Cole Linderink and wide receiver/safety Kory McCutcheon.
*Northwest Christian’s primary challenger is expected to be Yuma Catholic. Those two teams played for the title in 2010 and 2011.
*Another interesting component will be Northwest Christian’s neighbor, Glendale Joy Christian, which won the Division VI eight-man title a year ago and is moving to 11-man D-V. Quarterback Nick Henderson is the top returnee. Joy won its opener 50-0 over Scottsdale Prep.
Joy Christian’s coach is Brian Cole, who was the former head coach at Phoenix North Canyon and for whom Inness served as defensive coordinator when that school won the then-Class 5A Division II title in 2005.
*Arizona Lutheran also can be considered as a contender, led by running back Kaleb Buchholz.
*Some of the area’s other top players are Scottsdale Prep wide receiver Matt Munsil, Williams defensive lineman Kohl Nixon, Tonopah Valley defensive back Efrain Rocha and St. Johns wide receiver Jake Zeiler.