Call them super stars or game breakers.
Mountain Pointe players like to talk about the Money Team. Maybe difference makers is a better fit.
One thing is for sure – they are necessary.
The playoffs brackets will be filled out on Saturday after the Week 10 results are over on Friday. They will be scoured, scrutinized and second guessed.
Mountain Pointe (8-1) and Desert Vista (7-2) are assured of falling somewhere in the Division I bracket with the Pride likely to grab a spot in the top two seeds. The Thunder probably need a win at Chandler on Friday to secure a top eight seed and a first-round home game.
Getting into the extra second season isn’t the goal anymore.
The Thunder want to defend their title. The Pride have felt disrespected ever since losing to Brophy.
They will be ready to go.
And to get to their hopeful destination they’ll need their game breakers to make a difference.
Here are the AFN’s top superstars (not including quarterbacks because they obviously have to play well) and what they need to do in order to get their team to the promise land.
Garette Craig – This multi-dimensional athlete has been incredible.
The senior running back has 22 total touchdowns, 1,037 yards rushing and 421 yards receiving. If he gets a seam he rips through it. If he gets caught behind the line of scrimmage, he usually has the power to take the defensive players for a small gain and he clearly has more moves than Mayflower.
Craig is quiet in his demeanor, but his personality shines when has the ball in his hands.
Jalen Brown – The problem in trying to defend the Pride’s offense is the fact that Brown and Craig might be the most lethal combo in Division I. There are other duos that compare, but Brown and Craig are dynamic with the ball in their hands.
“I think we are our one of the best combinations,” Brown said. “If you concentrate on stopping one of us the other one can go the distance.”
Brown’s exceptional athletic ability has been well documented, but his instincts and IQ (on and off the field) are just as vital to his success.
If he gets a one-on-one situation bet on No. 2 just about every time.
Wesley Payne – This junior linebacker hits like an anvil.
The Pride defense plays with an attitude, has big linemen to clog up the running lanes and Payne is usually there to clean up. There is going to be a time when the defense needs a big stop or a turnover and Payne, an all-state candidate, will mostly likely be in the middle of it.
Ryan Sheehan – The junior kicker felt the ultimate high in Week 1 when his game-winner beat Hamilton.
His next pressure situation came in the Chandler game the outcome didn’t go well and he ended up being replaced.
Sheehan is working with Alex Zendejas, whose son kicked for Arizona a few years ago while his brothers made it to the NFL, so he is in good hands.
The Pride could have a few nail-biters in the playoffs and the right leg of Sheehan might have to come through.
Jarek Hilgers – The bruising running back should be fresh after missing the Westwood game and having less than 10 carries in five other games.
When he is running hard and breaking tackles, it is pretty impressive. Hilgers hasn’t carried the load as most expected to this point, but that should change over the next few weeks when time of possession and short-yardage plays can make the difference in advancing to the next round.
Nick Farina – This senior safety has been getting some looks on offense but his biggest impact is still on the defensive side of the ball.
He has a nose for the ball and closing speed when the ball is in the air. He has had a handful of interceptions in recent weeks and with Chandler up next, along with the possibility of facing Brophy, Red Mountain or Mountain Pointe in the postseason, stopping the aerial attack will be vital to the team’s success.
Kaleb Germinaro – Some have kept waiting for this speedster to make a bigger impact in the Thunder’s offensive scheme.
For whatever reason, Desert Vista went away from the fly sweep and Germinaro was used more as a decoy. He is a playmaker coming off his best game of the season (118 yards rushing, 2 TDs). If he starts making plays as the Thunder get back to their old niche play, Germinaro can bring a different dimension to their offense.
Zack Tamburo – The Desert Vista senior linemen has essentially missed the last three games after getting injured in the first quarter of the Hamilton game.
He has played all three line positions in his career and brings the physical presence to the Thunder’s line. If he is healthy and firing off the line, the Thunder play with a different tenacity.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwautkee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.