As we embark on a new season, one thing is certain in the 4A, 3A and 2A conferences: East Valley teams are in the mix as state title contenders.
In 4A Division I, Scottsdale Chaparral remains an annual state title contender. Graduation hit the Firebirds hard in the skill positions, but they have a solid offensive line. And hey, the Firebirds don’t rebuild; they reload. The big question mark for the Firebirds will be how former defensive back Casey Lytle adapts to playing quarterback.
Scottsdale Saguaro also should be a player in 4A-I. The Sabercats have
most of their starters back and expect to have a formidable defense.
If they can put up points, they should enjoy a highly successful season. Tempe McClintock went two games into the playoffs last season and should be respected and Phoenix Pinnacle made its first playoff appearance ever.
In 4A Division II, Phoenix Arcadia gets the label of team to beat, even
though coach Jim Bevell would argue that point. Sure, after going 12-1 last
year, the Titans lost most everyone up front offensively. But they have
running back Chip Sivak back. All he needs is a little seam and he is good
for 20 yards. Also back is quarterback Alec McDuffie, a good runner
who should be even better after putting on 20 pounds of muscle.
Queen Creek lost most of its starters, but the Bulldogs don’t seem to
worry about such things under coach Curt LeBlanc. They will hit you and
play great defense. If they can put up points, they could be in the state title
State champion Coolidge has 16 starters back, meaning the Bears are the hands-on favorite in 3A.
Quarterback Jesse Wheeler makes the Bears go — and they should go far. Running back T.J. White also is a big threat.
Potential challengers to Coolidge include Fountain Hills, which has another one of coach Jim Fairfield’s sons at quarterback in Jason Fairfield; Chandler Seton Catholic; and Florence.
In 2A, state champion Chandler Valley Christian was decimated by
graduation. That should open the door for perennial powerhouse Phoenix
Christian. Yet the Trojans will not go down without a fight.