Lofton Lechner is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Skyline High School athletics.
Despite their early season struggles the Skyline Coyotes are still upbeat and are looking to grab their first win of the season when they host Corona del Sol (0-4) in the 6A East Valley section opener on Friday.
Skyline (0-4) is coming off its bye week after losing the previous week to Tolleson 42-6. In four games this season, Skyline’s offense has only been able to score 11 points. Their offense has been able to find no rhythm in the early goings of the season with only 107 total passing yards and 441 total rushing yards. Head coach George Hawthorne is hoping that changes this week.
“We need to be more consistent … I think a lot of our problems stem from me, coaching. We have had a lot of confusion, and confusion causes hesitation among players,” Hawthorne said.
In practice Skyline is working through that confusion with more streamlined communication between coaches and players. Position coaches and players now exclusively practice and communicate with each other. Hawthorne hopes this will stop some of the communication issues the team has had in the past weeks.
Skyline’s offense will now have a chance to show more consistency against a Corona del Sol defense that has also had their early struggles this season. The Aztecs’ defense is allowing an average of 177 rushing yards per game. For the Coyotes, this plays right into their run first offense where senior running back Kevin Lee leads the team with 171 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown on the year.
As for the passing side, the Coyotes are still looking for that consistency, as sophomore quarterback Gabe Tapia has only thrown for 78 yards on the season. The offensive line for Skyline is looking to step up in this game and help give Tapia more time to pass the ball.
“We’ve been learning on blocking inside, keeping our blocks, keep driving through the guy and go until the whistle blows,” senior center Raymond Fritz said. “The effort, playing through the whistle is really going to help us.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Coyotes are looking at an offense similar to theirs. Both Skyline and Corona del Sol have had issues passing the ball down field and are a run first offense.
“Corona is a lot like us,” Hawthorne said. “They are struggling a little bit. We are struggling a lot, so we are just trying to get familiar with what they run.”
The Skyline defense is looking to exploit the weaker Corona del Sol offense by taking away the passing game, and forcing them to run the ball.
“To force them to run the ball, [we will] probably send a lot of pressure. Send pressure, pressure that QB, stuff them up the middle,” said senior linebacker Trey Bourdon.
Corona del Sol is also coming off their bye week, after losing the previous week to Desert Vista 52-7. Like Skyline, Corona del Sol has had an inconsistent offense that relies on the run more than the pass. Junior running back Jonathan Kubat leads the Aztec rushing attack with 298 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. As a team the Aztecs are averaging 140.5 rushing yards per game and sophomore quarterback Conner Ackerley is averaging 86 passing yards per game.
The section opener for the two teams will be played on Friday, Oct. 8 at Skyline High School in Mesa at 7 p.m.