Players to Watch
Ryan Bresnahan, Sr., QB, Seton Catholic: What a 2011 was for the Sentinels, who both took advantage of its talent and new schedules to reach the Div. IV state semifinals behind a prolific offense. The glue of that offense returns for his senior season, and after Bresnahan threw for 3,291 yards and 51 touchdowns, there’s not much reason to believe it couldn’t happen again. Matt Haggerty (42 rec., 718 yards and 10 TD) returns as does Eric Probst to help the running game. Bresnahan is the right QB in the right system.
Levi Hartzler, Sr., RB/DL, Tempe Prep: One of they key returning cogs from Tempe Prep’s state quarterfinals runs the past two years, Hartzler and Ahmari Underwood are likely to see most of the running game action for the Knights, and Hartzler’s size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) and speed will make him dangerous running the ball and stopping the other team’s ground game from his defensive end position (70 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks on defense). After rushing for 359 yards and four touchdowns as a junior in limited carries, a senior-laden offensive line in front will only help the cause toward a Div. V state championship.
Jake Lee, Sr., OL/DL, San Tan Foothills: The leader of a strong returning linebacker group (Chris Bailey and Mark Peters being the others) from last year’s surprising Div. V semifinals team, Lee had 64 tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles in 2011, and that group is going to have to lead San Tan Foothills defensively while the offense undergoes significant changes.
Aug. 24: Fountain Hills at Seton Catholic: Seton Catholic’s closest regular season game last year came in the opener against Fountain Hills. The Sentinels played poorly but still escaped with a 20-13 victory. With 13 starters back, a faster start is expected. But not so fast: Fountain Hills is a perennially solid program.
Sept. 22: Scottsdale Christian at Tempe Prep: Scottsdale Christian nipped Tempe Prep in last year’s regular season meeting, 24-20, but was beaten by the Knights in the first round of the playoffs, 14-13. This could be another close game and the Eagles are certainly looking for revenge, not to mention the Eagles are poised for a big season after its furious finish in 2011 and many returning kids.
Oct. 19: San Tan Foothills at Tempe Prep: Strength vs. strength in TP running game vs. STF defense. The questions will lie on the opposite end of the spectrum: Will San Tan’s offense with mostly new personnel be effective against a good Tempe Prep defense? These schools could meet again a couple weeks later in the playoffs.
Can Seton go one step further? The Sentinels’ returning talent and schedule appears to offer the best chance of these programs getting back to the state semifinals as they did in 2011. The Sentinels’ skill position players and offensive line returners should put points up in a hurry again in 2011, and whether they can defend the other elite teams in Div. IV (ala Blue Ridge in 2011) will decide if it’s going to be a championship-caliber season. It’s the source behind the offseason’s work.
Who could be this year’s San Tan Foothills or Tempe Prep? How about Scottsdale Christian? Willie Dudley endured some turbulence in his first six games as the Eagles new coach in 2011 when he took over for Jeff Fox. Then SCA won seven consecutive games to end the regular season. The schedule again will be a challenge to say the least, but the Eagles are seasoned with 17 starters returning and loaded with playmakers (QB Luke O’Neill, RB Chaz Dudley and an OL of Bryan Stephens and Christian Cook).