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.
Of Arizona’s six divisions in football in 2013, Division III would appear to have the most challengers for the top spot.
Queen Creek of the southeast Valley is the defending champion and its stock continues to rise, but Scottsdale Saguaro, Goodyear Desert Edge, Glendale Cactus, Phoenix Thunderbird and Buckeye are the teams from this area that could make a strong run.
State runner-up Desert Edge has started fast, scoring 54 and 49 points in its first two wins.
Some of the top players for coach Rich Wellbrock are senior lineman Dylan Cary, senior receiver/defensive back Paul Davis, senior running back/linebacker Raheem Dowdell, senior wide receiver/defensive back C.J. Heard, senior wide receiver/defensive back Elijah Marks, senior wide receiver Ismael Murphy-Richardson and senior running back/defensive back K.J. Sells.
Buckeye opened with a 33-12 win over Casa Grande.
Leading the way for coach Bobby Barnes are fullback/linebacker Cutter Hart,strong safety/tailback Torres Guy, offensive lineman Ismael Betancourt, wide receiver/defensive back Quinten Hunt, wide receiver/defensive back Jordan Banister, wide receiver/free safety Keiontae Bell, and linemen Josh Kielman and Jesus Ochoa.
Prescott is moving from Division II to Division III and could be a factor.
The Badgers opened the season with a 30-14 win over Division IV power Lakeside Blue Ridge.
Coach Cody Collett says his top players will be middle linebacker Sterling Johnson, running backs/linebackers Kaine Bayze and Chris Wright, defensive lineman Jared Tiefenthaler, linebacker Alex Knickerbocker, defensive back Chris Parker, offensive linemen Willie Andrews and Garrett Chartier, and quarterback Skyler Clinton.
Phoenix Moon Valley has fallen on hard times in recent seasons, but is working hard to find a way to get back into the mainstream. Coach Sam Jacobs said the Rockets doubled their participation in spring ball and improved considerably in the weight room.
Bullhead City Mohave expects to make some noise. The Rod Holmes-coached Thunderbirds are led by wide receiver/linebacker Zach Brey, running back/cornerback Kyler White, running back/linebacker Sean Eidsness, linemen D.J. Dorantes and Jesus Gomez, guard/defensive end Fernando Camacho and quarterback/cornerback Dawson Rickets.
Some of the other top players in the division . . .
Phoenix Greenway linebacker Nate Adams, Cactus quarterback Talal Yousufzai, Peoria High lineman Jacob Leonard, Saguaro quarterback Luke Rubenzer and wide receiver Christian Kirk, Phoenix South Mountain running back Drevonne Dodd, Flagstaff Coconino quarterback Damian Alarcon, Flagstaff High quarterback Kyle Wilson, Kingman wide receiver Skyler Burgess, Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain wide receiver Nick Huntley, Cottonwood Mingus running back Dakota Hanks, Thunderbird wide receiver Adam Turner, Phoenix Central defensive lineman Kelepi Fifita, Phoenix Alhambra running back Jermaine Shannon, Phoenix Christian running back Scottie Jordan, Phoenix Washington quarterback James Rasmussen, Buckeye Youngker quarterback D’Angelo Calderon, Avondale Agua Fria running back Jordan Green, Buckeye Verrado quarterback Eric Ruiz and Surprise Shadow Ridge quarterback Anthony King.