The Complete 2018 Bucket List
9 months ago Andrew Luberda 0
A process that started in the spring is finally complete.
My Bucket List includes players, in no particular order, that may or may not make other’s rankings or lists. Simply, they are players I want to see in person before the end of the upcoming season.
I suggest you be on the lookout for these players under the Friday Night Lights:
Joshua Maignan (Jr), Wide Receiver/Cornerback – Florence High School (5’10, 185 pounds)
After appearing in a few varsity games as freshman, Maignan made people take notice as sophomore. He finished his first full varsity season with 1,286 all-purpose yards, including 597 rushing and 641 receiving, both ranking second most on the team behind Nolan Susel and Shane Mathis, respectively. Defensively, Maignan ended last season with 57 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
I saw Maignan in person during a first-round playoff game versus Show Low last year, when he rushed 63 yards and a touchdown in addition to a game-high 153 yards on seven receptions, including one catch-and-run he took 75 yards to the house.
Following the departure of nearly 20 graduating seniors, including Susel, Mathis and others, Maignan is the Gophers’ man this year and next.
I won’t miss an opportunity to see him.
You shouldn’t either.
Florence head coach Scott Howard: “We are going to try and get Josh the ball in different ways. He is such a talented kid, we have to get him the ball as much as possible. He definitely will shoulder the load but from multiple places.”
— Joshua Maignan🇭🇹 (@joshua_maignan) June 4, 2018
Chandler Miles (Sr), Running Back/Safety – Benjamin Franklin High School (5’8, 145 pounds)
It’s nearly impossible to think about the Chargers rushing attack without having some knowledge of the video game-type numbers Miles and the next guy named on The Bucket List put up a year ago.
Miles, entering his fourth and final varsity season, wasn’t only a star on offense, he got it done in all three phases. Of his 29 touchdowns, 21 were rushing scores, five more came via receptions, one was a pick six, and the final two came on kickoff returns.
His greatest contributions were on offense, where he rushed for 1,517 yards in addition to 307 receiving yards. Defensively, he finished with 49 tackles and three interceptions. As a kick returner, Miles averaged more than 35 yards per return and had two returns of 90 yards or more – a 94 yarder against ALA – Queen Creek and one for 91 yards versus ASU Prep.
If you get the chance to see this dynamic player in person, you shouldn’t pass it up.
I’d regret if I did.
Benjamin Franklin head coach Dave Jefferies: “Chandler is [speedy] and will make a move to set a defender up and then run right by him. Chandler would probably play wide receiver if we ran a standard offense, but he still runs very physical between the tackles.
“Defensively, Chandler has started in every varsity game since his freshman year. He is a solid ‘cover -2’ safety for us.”
Zach Jefferies (Jr), Running Back/Linebacker – Benjamin Franklin High School (6’0, 180 pounds)
Jefferies represents the other half of the Chargers’ offensive backfield, and according to his head-coaching father, “will be a kid that never comes off the field” this season after playing “some” on defense during his first two varsity seasons.
As a sophomore, Jefferies led the Chargers with 1,643 rushing yards and tied Miles for the team lead with 21 rushing touchdowns.
Jefferies played in 12 games last year, missing the semifinal playoff game against Pusch Ridge Christian Academy after a season-ending knee injury the previous week against Sabino. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing nine times a year ago, including three games in which he ran for at least 180 yards.
During my visit to the Chargers spring practice, I saw Zach lined up linebacker during defensive drills, which leads me to believe that is his new position on that side of the ball. I can also report that he was not limited as a result of last year’s injury, performing at full speed and without a brace.
If you are on the lookout for Jefferies during a game, he shouldn’t be hard to find.
Just look for the guy wearing jersey No. 24.
He’s usually running toward the end zone with opposing defenders in his rearview, losing ground.
Benjamin Franklin head coach Dave Jefferies: “Zach is a physical runner that will many times just try to run you over. (He) got a few more carries than Chandler, as he is our true running back, but it was pretty close to even. Zach ultimately wanted to be a read option quarterback and follow in the footsteps of Heath Motes out at Thatcher (2013 small schools POY).
“Zach has played some corner for us the last two years, but now as a junior, he will look to play a much bigger role on the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m proud of both of [Chandler and Zach] (and really the entire program) and the way they’ve embraced our leather helmet-style of offense. Many kids would frown on something that seems so outdated and doesn’t fit what THEY want to do.”
Talen Rider (Sr), Kicker – American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek (5’9, 155 pounds)
At one point last year Rider was the top kicker in the country, according to MaxPreps statistical listings. By years end, he was the ninth best kicker in Arizona – regardless of division – second in the 3A Conference, and the best in the Central Region.
He’ll be even better this year, considering all the work he puts in during the offseason. Videos like this one are the norm for Rider:
— Talen (@RiderTalen) June 21, 2018
While he was a modest 8-of-11 with a long of 43 yards on field goals, Rider was nearly perfect on PAT, converting 73-of-75. The Patriots put up a lot points via touchdowns, which limited Rider’s FG attempts.
In my opinion, Rider is one of Arizona’s best kickers.
Don’t believe me?
Go check him out for yourself.
ALA – Queen Creek head coach Rich Edwards: “Talen has put an incredible amount of work into kicking. He has really been a student of the position. He also has a very even keel temperament. I don’t know that I have ever seen him get rattled. It is as though he thrives in pressure situations.”
Devin Larsen (Sr), Quarterback – Queen Creek High School (6’5, 220 pounds)
I’m running out of superlatives to describe this guy.
Apologies if you’ve seen these numbers before but they bare repeating:
4,875 passing yards, 55 TD’s, 62-percent completions, only 12 INT’s in 500 pass attempts.
Those numbers were compiled in a two-year varsity career, so far, and with another a final season ahead will likely reach heights that puts Larsen at the top of any statistical list. In my view, he’s the greatest to play the position at Queen Creek in the five-plus years I’ve covered the Bulldogs’ program.
What more can I say to convince you that Larsen is worth the price of admission?
While I’m short on words to further illustrate what a special player Devin is, I do have two words for all the college recruiters out there: OFFER HIM.
Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman: “We’ve been fortunate to have Devin lead our team for three years. He’s a special player who works hard and sets an example for our players to follow. The success he’s achieved is the result of his commitment and dedication to continue to get better. We think his best season is upcoming.”
Francisco Munoz (Sr), Wide Receiver/Defensive Back – Combs High School (6’3, 185 pounds)
A midseason transfer from Chattanooga, Tenn., a year ago, Munoz sneaked into Combs and made an immediate impact during the final four games of the Coyotes’ season, finishing with 10 receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
Oh, and he plays defense too, finishing with 11 tackles and a pick.
Combs head coach Travis Miller knows he has a player on his hands in Munoz and will find ways to utilize the senior playmaker’s tremendous skills.
Opponents will be forced to account for Munoz in every game.
I caught up with Miller and Munoz earlier this spring at Apache Junction’s 7 v 7 event, where
Munoz’ two-way ability was on display:
Omar Perkins (Jr), Running Back/Free Safety – Coolidge High School (6’0, 172 pounds)
A look at Perkins’ stats a sophomore won’t tell you why he’s on my Bucket List. In limited action last year, he totaled 185 all-purpose yards – 140 rushing and 40 receiving.
The two-way player finished with double-digit tackles, a pick and a sack.
Perkins will start on both sides of the ball in 2018 and will be one of the Bears’ top all-around players.
I visited Bears practice recently, saw Perkins.
He looks the part to me.
Go see for yourself.
Coolidge head coach Bill Godsil: “(Omar) has dedicated himself in the weight room this offseason and gained some size and strength. He is a slashing-type runner; has long legs that makes his speed deceptive and is not afraid of contact. He will be a two-way player for us, playing safety this year. During 7v7 work this summer, he has made great plays on defense. Offensively, we can split him out or use him as a passing threat out of the backfield. He is also emerging as a positive vocal leader on the team.
Cade Mcafee (Jr), Middle Linebacker/Tight End – Benjamin Franklin High School (5’9, 180 pounds)
What’s that? Mcafee plays tight end, you ask?
He does, according to MaxPreps, but who is it trying to fool?
This guy is a middle linebacker right down to his core. He possesses every trait any coach wants in a player who mans that position. Mcafee checks EVERY box.
He’s a leader in the huddle, on the field, off the field, on the sidelines, in the weight room, and he backs all up with great performance and few words.
As a sophomore, Mcafee led the Chargers’ defense with 107 tackles, an average of more than eight per game. Additionally, he had three interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries.
To be fair, he did rush for 81 yards and two TD’s to go along with three receptions for 18 yards.
Actions speak louder than words…or stats.
I encourage you to see Mcafee in action at middle linebacker.
Benjamin Franklin head coach Dave Jefferies: “Cade was born to be a middle linebacker. He has great instincts and toughness. He works hard in the weight room and is second on the team when it comes to his max lifts, which is quite an accomplishment as a junior. He quietly leads by example and does the right thing in the classroom and on campus. I like to call him the “All-American boy next door.” (Cade’s) a great kid, (and I) can’t imagine Charger Football without him.”
Tucker Usher (Sr), Wide Receiver/Free Safety – Poston Butte High School (5’11, 162 pounds)
Usher played in the Broncos’ final four games last season, missing the first six due to an injury that he talked briefly about here:
— ArizonaVarsity.com 🏈🏈🏈🏈 (@AZHSFB) July 27, 2018
In a short sample size a year ago, Usher proved he’s a guy the Broncos can look to make plays after totaling 235 receiving yards on eight receptions with three TD’s.
Eight grabs, three scores?
That’s a TD every two-plus catches.
I’ll admit, I doubt Usher will repeat a similar ratio in 2018, but he is the Broncos’ go-to guy – a triple-threat who will catch it, run it and return it. Barring injury, he’s going to lead the team in all-purpose yards, without a doubt.
With the Broncos’ varsity roster size expected to total less than 40 players, Usher will be one of several two-way players on Friday nights.
Usher will make up for last season’s lost time in 2018, which means you’ll have plenty of chances to get a glimpse.
Poston Butte head coach Dain Thompson: “Tucker is a senior two-way (actually three-way) player. He will have a chance to return kick, plays free-safety on defense, and will be a utility athlete on offense. Tucker’s attitude and effort has been great in the offseason and he is healthy.”
Dakota Banning (Sr), Center – Queen Creek High School (6’1, 225 pounds)
I’m not going to lie.
Part of the reason this guy is on the list has as much to do with what he represents off the field as on it. His nickname should be EF Hutton because when he talks, the Bulldogs’ listen. I’ve not seen many better leaders during my time covering high school sports.
As far as on the field, I consider Banning, a three-year varsity starter, one of the best centers in the state. His wrestling background – he finished third in the state last year in the HWT division (285 and above) – has benefitted him on the football field.
Head coach Travis Schureman likes his O-linemen to have a nasty streak and Banning’s got that too.
— Dakota Banning (@BanningDakota) June 16, 2018
Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman: “Dakota is arguably the most respected player in our program. He’s a great player and one of our hardest workers, which for a head coach is a great combination to have in a player.”
Armando Orona (Sr), Athlete – Queen Creek High School (5’10, 190 pounds)
On a team with more its share of talented players, Orona may be at the top.
For me, he is at the top.
This guy has the ability to make game-changing plays on both sides of the ball, at different positions.
Queen Creek breaks up Campo Verde’s late attempt at a game-winning drive. QC leads 21-16 with 33 seconds left pic.twitter.com/mqhXYlUK4k
— Richard Morin (@ramorin_azc) October 7, 2017
On defense, he’s lined up with his hand on the ground, standing up as an outside linebacker, and he could play in the defensive backfield, which he might. He finished his junior year with 56 tackles, including three TFL’s and three sacks. He also recovered a fumble and returned it 89 yards.
Offensively, he played sparingly but still made an impact as a running back and receiver. He’ll have more opportunities this year.
Did I mention his skills as a kick returner? He returned 6 kicks for 177 yards, one of them went for 90 yards and a touchdown.
I’ll make it easier for you to find Orona when you go watch him play: He’ll be on the field. All the time.
Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman: “Armando is a player that we rely on a lot and he’s proven he can handle the load. He seems to be guy that gets himself in position to make plays – big plays – when we need them most. He’s a very valuable player on our team.”
Dalton Holley (Sr), Quarterback – Poston Butte High School (5’10, 170 pounds)
There’s just something about wanting to see a guy that’s paid his dues, waited his turn, and is now getting his first starting opportunity as a senior.
I expect Holley will make the most of it, so I want to see how he performs for myself.
I haven’t seen him action, as he attempted only one pass as a junior and rushed one time for three yards.
Playing the most important position on the field, Holley’s teammates will count on him for leadership and the ability to make plays.
Every indication I’ve heard and seen during training camp makes me believe Holley will succeed at both.
Poston Butte head coach Dain Thompson: “This will be Dalton’s first real opportunity to play at the varsity level. Dalton is a great teammate and has grown into a solid leader. His understanding of the game is great, so we are anxious to see if he can put that into action on Friday nights.”
Brandon McMahan (Sr), Offensive Line/Linebacker – San Tan Foothills High School (5’9, 225 pounds)
McMahan was a two-way starter a year ago and will be again this year.
The senior earned several postseason honors in 2017 and should again in 2018.
One Sabercats assistant coach recently told me that McMahan will be a beast at middle linebacker in 2018.
I wouldn’t expect anything less after he finished with 91 tackles a year ago, which was tops on the team. Of the 91 tackles, 58 were solo stops, eight were tackles-for-loss, and one was a sack.
McMahan also had a pick, caused two fumbles, and blocked a field goal.
Speaking of field goals, McMahan is the Cats’ placekicker and punter too.
He converted 53-of-60 PAT and 1-of-2 field goal attempts. His average punt traveled 42 yards.
If you want to see a player who does it all, McMahan is your guy.
Brock LaPoint (Sr), Offensive/Defensive Tackle – San Tan Foothills High School (6’3, 260 pounds)
LaPoint is another returning starter from a year ago, and like his partner McMahan, he picked up a plethora of postseason recognition after last season.
He has the talent, size and academics to attract college scouts, and he likely will throughout his final high school season.
While LaPoint played on defense last year, he made his mark as the Cats’ dominant left tackle on offense. He did finish with 25 tackles in 2017, including five tackles-for-loss.
If you want to see one of the best offensive linemen in the 3A Central Region, head to a STFHS game and look for this guy.
Isaiah Navarro (Jr), Center/Defensive Lineman – Poston Butte High School (5’11, 240 pounds)
Navarro is arguably one of the Broncos’ toughest returning players, and one of their most versatile.
Like several of his teammates, Navarro will be a two-way starter in 2018 and could line up at more than one position on the defensive side of the ball.
As a sophomore, he started along the offensive line, where he excelled and learned to be a leader. Navarro’s experience and leadership among the linemen will be important as that group is responsible for protecting first-year varsity starting quarterback Dalton Holley.
Poston Butte head coach Dain Thompson: “Isaiah is the leader of the offensive linemen. He’s a tough player with a great motor. (He’s) one of our best defensive linemen, and he may even stand up and play linebacker in certain situations.”