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.
One game does not a full season make, but Scottsdale Chaparral’s 52-27 opening victory over rival Scottsdale Saguaro last week served notice that the Firebirds are very serious about returning to prominence in Division II football.
Coming off an 8-4 finish, Chaparral appears to be much more balanced than it has in recent seasons for coach Dave Huffine.
All-purpose player Elijah Castro, a transfer from Peoria Sunrise Mountain, had a big effort against Saguaro with four touchdowns.
The Firebirds also have tight end Trevor Wood, who returns this season after missing most of 2012 with a shoulder injury, and junior quarterback Sean Paul Brophy.
Chaparral’s primary challenger from the Valley area looks to be Peoria Centennial. The Coyotes took it on the chin with a 41-21 loss at Division I Chandler High to begin their season, but they have more than enough talent to make a run.
Centennial will rely on its running game, led by backs Matt Rodriguez and Dedrick Young.
Phoenix Paradise Valley is in a tough section along with Chaparral, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep and Phoenix Arcadia.
PV coach Donnie Yantis has seven returning starters on offense and seven on defense.
One of the main concerns was to find a replacement for quarterback Ryan Finley, who graduated and now is at Boise State. Yantis believes he has the right man in young sophomore Daniel Bridge-Gadd, who already has developed a strong arm.
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Jordan Brown is one of the state’s most versatile athletes. He caught 59 passes for 960 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Another senior wide receiver/defensive back, Carl Westlund, also was productive with 14 TDs.
Other key players for the Trojans are senior offensive linemen Joel Xericos and Damond McDonald, junior running back Bailey Thompson, senior defensive back Jesse Jackson, senior defensive end Tyler Welch and junior outside linebacker Max Van Kempen.
Tolleson High moved from Division I to Division II, and it seems to be a better fit for coach Jason Wilke and his Wolverines.
Wilke and the team were encouraged by their play in summer passing leagues and had a good preseason camp in Winslow. Tolleson defeated Buckeye Verrado 13-10 in its opener.
Tolleson’s top players are senior quarterback/free safety Billy Wilson, senior running back/linebacker Kenneth Steele and senior linebacker Miguel Sosa-Menendez.
According to azcentral.com, other area players expected to make an impact are . . .
Glendale Copper Canyon linebacker Jesse Avila, Phoenix St. Mary’s linebacker Angel Silva, Laveen Betty H. Fairfax safety Derron Brown, Phoenix Trevor Browne fullback Isaias Ochoa, Phoenix Sunnyslope quarterback Michael Humphrey, Phoenix Camelback linebacker Bailey Hoffman, Glendale Raymond S. Kellis linebacker Jason Aladi, Surprise Willow Canyon receiver Mitchell Carpenter, Peoria Liberty quarterback Tyler Wyatt, Glendale Apollo offensive lineman Jon Sekona, Glendale Ironwood running back Jett Robinson, Glendale Deer Valley quarterback Devon Palomino, Scottsdale Notre Dame running back Phil Caniglia, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows defensive back Emeke Esemonu and Phoenix Arcadia running back Collin Palacek.