Division III, Section III
Coach: Lenny Abt
Last year’s record: 10-3, lost in the Division III semifinals
Returning offensive starters: 7, including tight end/wide receiver Will Allen, who had 14 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown last season.
Returning defensive starters: 2, including safety Collin Palecek, who had 15 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery last year.
Aug. 24 at Coronado; Aug. 31 at Washington; Sept. 7 vs. Thunderbird; Sept. 14 vs. vs. Shadow Mountain; Sept. 21 at Camelback; Sept. 28 vs. Maricopa; Oct. 5 vs. Paradise Valley; Oct. 12 at Tempe; Oct. 19 vs. Saguaro; Oct. 26 at Higley.
Sept. 7 vs. Thunderbird: The biggest early-season test for Arcadia will be against star running back Kani Benoit and the Chiefs. The Titans started 7-1 last year with their lone loss to Thunderbird. This should give a good indication as to whether Arcadia can make a deep playoff run again.
Oct. 5 vs. Paradise Valley: Arcadia’s only two defensive starters returning are in the secondary, which should be a good thing against the powerful arm of Paradise Valley quarterback Ryan Finley. These teams will have opposite game plans but it should be a competitive contest.
Oct. 26 at Higley: Arcadia has a favorable schedule, but there are a few toss-up games which are sure to affect playoff positioning. The Titans rolled past the Knights last season but this could be a tough game in the season finale.
Arcadia has some reloading to do. Following an impressive run to last year’s Division III state semifinals, the Titans lose leading rusher Sosaia Maafu, quarterback Cole Richardson and all but two defensive starters.
Why then, is coach Jim Ellison so excited? Well, participation in the program is at an unparalleled level in his tenure, and the players are using last year’s deep run and eventual loss to Glendale Cactus as motivation for another banner season.
Arcadia had 105 football players in its summer lifting sessions, nearly 80 more than when Ellison arrived in 2008.
“That first year we had 28 kids,” he said. “Last year was up to 75, but the work ethic wasn’t like it is now. These guys this year, they’re coming in and doing it. You can tell we’ve kind of raised the bar.”
This will be an interesting year because of all the turnover. D.J. Warrick started at cornerback last season but should see extensive time at running back alongside Steven Moala.
Last year’s backup quarterback, Payson Kendle, is battling junior varsity starter Peter Campbell to take over as the team’s signal caller.
The top passing target is expected to be tight end/wide receiver Will Allen, a physical presence who is garnering interest from Northern Arizona.
The defense will be a work in progress as Ellison attempts to plug holes with the right newcomers.
“In all my years of coaching, I’ve never seen anything like this (amount of turnover),” he said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
There may be as many as seven defensive starters who have never played varsity football before.
The Titans have a manageable schedule early which should get them off to a solid start. The team’s goal isn’t just to make the playoffs any more, but to be a consistent presence deep in the postseason like programs such as Cactus, Saguaro and Sabino.
“That’s exactly what I’m working for every day,” Ellison said. “We want to be up there with those guys.”