The East Valley has hundreds of athletes who will move on to play college sports, a few might eventually reach the professional ranks. Needless to say, paring down a list of the top players from the 2012-13 school year was no easy task. However, there were five males that stood out above the rest, either for their complete dominance in one sport or their ability to compete at the highest level in different ones.
Here are the candidates for the Tribune’s Male Athlete of the Year award.
The winner will be announced in one week.
Mark Andrews, Jr., Desert Mountain, football/basketball
Some people think Andrews should play tight end in college. Others believe he can stay at wide receiver. At this point, who cares? No matter where he was lined up on Friday nights in the fall, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound star excelled, catching 81 passes for 1,494 yards and 21 touchdowns to help the Wolves reach the Division I state quarterfinals. Andrews has accumulated more than 20 scholarship offers, from prestigious colleges such as Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Once the football season was done, his work wasn’t, Andrews transitioned to the basketball court, where he was an integral part in helping Desert Mountain make the Division I semifinals. He averaged 7.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest in addition to playing fantastic defense against the state’s best big men. Andrews’ future resides in football, but he was still one of the best basketball players in the East Valley this season. He will have one more year of high school left to make runs at both titles, but Andrews’ fantastic junior year won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Dalton Brady, Sr., Chandler, wrestling
State titles had come so easy to Dalton Brady in his first three years of high school that a fourth as a senior seemed like a no-brainer, until he upped the ante. The Wolves’ team chances would be maximized if Brady moved up a pair of weight classes, and while it gave the team a better shot at winning a title, it put Brady’s historical feat at risk. He was tied with Cesar Chavez’s Dajour Reece heading into the final period in the finals, as Reece’s reach advantage wreaked havoc. However, Brady persevered and won via takedown, becoming only the 28th wrestler in state history to win four consecutive championships. Brady finished with 156 wins in 157 high school matches, and his senior season performance just reinforced once again his place among the state’s elite athletes.
Jalen Brown, Jr., Mountain Pointe, football/basketball
Brown’s football skills have been on display since he burst onto the scene as a freshman, but he took the next step as a junior. The wide receiver/defensive back dominated on both sides of the ball, catching 67 passes for 1,235 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 26 tackles and a team-high five interceptions. Brown was named the Gatorade Player of the Year and is one of the most coveted football players in the state, with scholarship offers from Florida State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Southern California, among many others. He originally chose to skip basketball, but was convinced by coach Aaron Windler to fill in after injuries left the team short. Brown only played in 13 games, but his athleticism and stellar defense provided an immediate impact, as the Pride became one of the most improved teams in the state by season’s end. Eventual-champion Corona del Sol needed a last-second, game-winning shot in double-overtime to end Mountain Pointe’s season, but not before Brown proved his worth in his “other” sport.
Clarence Clark, Sr., Brophy, soccer/football
Clark didn’t begin the year on the same plane as high-profile Broncos teammates Tyler Bruggman, Devon Allen and Riggs Lennon, but ended it as arguably the most productive of the bunch. Allen dealt with injuries during the football season, which allowed Clark to take over as the go-to receiver, leading the team with 44 receptions for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Broncos made the Division I semifinals. He then moved over to the soccer field, earning Tribune Player of the Year honors for his standout defense and leadership as Brophy won the state championship. It’s rare to see a two-sport star in football and fútbol, but Clark excelled at both.
Matt Haggerty, Sr., Seton Catholic, football/baseball
There was talk all season about how the Seton Catholic football team couldn’t hang with the White Mountain football powers, but, led by Haggerty, the Sentinels disproved that theory. The versatile star led the team with 66 catches for 1,007 yards and 19 touchdowns on offense and was just as good on the other side of the ball, registering 37 tackles and a team-best seven interceptions. He moved over to the diamond in the spring and helped Seton Catholic grab the No. 1 overall seed and were among the final six schools left in the Division II state tournament. Haggerty ended the season as the team’s best player, hitting .414 with a .545 on-base percentage and slugged .690. Haggerty was selected in the 40th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers in addition to securing college scholarships for both sports.
Honorable mention: Devon Allen, Sr., Brophy, track/football; Casey Benson, Jr., Corona del Sol, basketball; Dylan Fischer, Sr., Desert Vista, track/football; Matt Guida, Jr., Queen Creek, football; Riley Unroe, Sr., Desert Ridge, baseball;