Apache Junction Prospectors
Conference/Region: 4A-I/Desert Sky
Coach: Rich Milligan
Last year’s record: 7-4, lost in the first round of the state tournament
Returning starters on offense: 5, including quarterback Roy Machuca, who had 582 passing yards, 389 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns last season.
Returning starters on defense: 5, including linebacker Harrison Pomeroy, who had 59 tackles and three sacks last season.
Schedule: Aug. 27 at Bradshaw Mountain; Sept. 3 vs. Tempe; Sept. 10 at Agua Fria; Sept. 17 at Higley; Sept. 24 vs. Mingus; Oct. 1 vs. Greenway; Oct. 8 at Cactus Shadows; Oct. 15 vs. McClintock; Oct. 22 vs. Queen Creek; Oct. 29 at Saguaro.
Sept. 24 vs. Mingus: The biggest early-season test for the Prospectors will be against the Marauders, one of 4A-II’s best teams. Apache Junction traveled to Cottonwood last year and lost by two touchdowns. Don’t expect a lot of passing in this one, as both squads are content to grind it out on the ground.
Oct. 8 at Cactus Shadows: The region opener against the Falcons will be a barometer for A.J. With the loss of star players Nate Scola and Cy Maughmer from last year’s team, expectations have been tempered a bit, but a win over Cactus Shadows would be an early boost as Desert Sky action hits full tilt.
Oct. 22 vs. Queen Creek: These teams have been involved in barn-burners through the years. It is the second-to-last regular season game, and both teams should be jockeying to make the postseason or secure home field advantage in the first round. It will be the first time Apache Junction sees Queen Creek with new coach Joe Germaine directing the offense.
Apache Junction will rely on a team-oriented approach following the graduation of stars Nate Scola and Cy Maughmer. Roy Machuca returns at quarterback, where he had a solid year as a junior. The Prospectors will again rely heavily on misdirection in their option offense, with four players expected to get the majority of the carries. Along with Machuca, Harrison Pomeroy, Tanner Morgan and David Fernando will need to step up if Apache Junction wants to extend its streak of five straight postseason appearances. A misdiagnosed sports hernia injury put Pomeroy’s season in doubt earlier this summer, but he is rehabilitating the injury now and should be full strength in time for region play. Those four players will also lead the defense, but the biggest question for Apache Junction will be its line. Only one starter returns, so if holes can’t be opened on offense, and running plays can’t be stopped on defense, Apache Junction will struggle.