The County Line

4 months ago Andrew Luberda 0

Welcome back to The County Line, my blog on news and notes surrounding the athletic programs we cover at CountyLinePreps.com.

Week One is in the books and Week Two is less than 24 hours away.

In this edition, I take a look back at some things I found noteworthy last Friday and look ahead to this week, including the Battle on Gantzel.

Let’s get after it…

Perfect Kickers – Three placekickers at CLP schools were perfect last week – ALA-Queen Creek’s Talen Rider (7/7), Queen Creek’s Zane Kaupe (8/8) and Benjamin Franklin’s Bradyn Lemieux (9/9).

Rider, who is on my 2018 Bucket List, also drilled a 49-yard FG in the Patriots 68 – 3 win.

Both Rider and Kaupe earned honors from their respective kicking camps for the performances.

One other note of interest:  Queen Creek junior Lleyton Baensch, a foreign exchange student from Germany, was successful on his first varsity FG attempt, hitting a 30-yarder in the Bulldogs’ decisive victory.

“Das ist gut.” – “It’s good” in German.

Patriots’ QB Situation – ALA-Queen Creek does have a quarterback problem – it has too many good ones. Transfers Bo Winfield (Red Mountain) and Rand Jensen (Basha) are two of the four quarterbacks in the mix along with junior Izaiah Anderson and freshman Logan Hubler.

Winfield, a senior, and Jensen, a junior, are sitting out the requisite five games per the AIA transfer rule. In the meantime, Anderson, the Patriots’ JV starter a year ago, and Hubler are splitting time, and doing just fine I might add.

The duo combined to complete 11-of-14 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns last week. Hubler was 6-of-6 with a pair of scoring throws in his varsity debut.

“We will continue to split the reps with Anderson and Hubler until one of them takes ahold of it,” Patriots head coach Rich Edwards told me this week. “We felt like they both played well and were efficient and productive when they were in.”

What happens when Winfield and Jensen are eligible?

“Rand Jensen will be able to play after game five, so he and Bo will compete for time,” said Edwards.

It’s unclear what the status of Hubler and Anderson will be when all four players are available, but if the pair continues to perform as it did last week, I have figure it’s a four-way competition.

That’s not a bad problem to have.

Turf Monster – The new field turf that was supposed to be installed in time for ALA-Queen Creek’s home opener against Thatcher this week is not done. As a result, the Patriots will host the defending 2A State Champion at ALA – Ironwood.

 

“The turf is not down,” Patriots head coach Rich Edwards informed me earlier this week. “The sub grade was bad, so they had to pull it up and are taking out the bad material and bringing in new.”

After Friday’s game, the Patriots play two-straight road games before returning home on Sept. 14, when Edwards is “hopeful” the new turf installation will be complete in time for Yuma Catholic’s visit.

Doubling Down – I was at the Round Valley Dome last Saturday to witness Benjamin Franklin’s win against Ganado. Unfortunately, I also witnessed the left knee injury suffered by junior running back Zach Jefferies, one of the players on my 2018 Bucket List (check the hyperlink above).

Even before I received the update on Jefferies’ injury and playing status, I planned to announce here that I’m doubling down on BFHS to win the 3A state title.

Even without Jefferies?

Yes, with or without Zach.

Why?

Because what I witnessed Saturday was an ultra-disciplined, fundamentally sound team that runs its offensive and defensive systems to near perfection. The Chargers won’t beat themselves, and few 3A teams can match their talent and athleticism.

As far as Jefferies, his injury update is positive.

“(He has) a partial MCL tear (and) no surgery [is] needed,” Chargers’ head coach and Zach’s father Dave Jefferies wrote in a text. “(We) found out (Wednesday). We’re hoping he can sneak a couple games in at the end of the year.”

I’m sticking with the prediction I made here.

Jefferies’ injury didn’t alter my initial prediction, the rest of the Chargers only reinforced it.

Who’s next? – In addition to being in Round Valley on Saturday, I was at Queen Creek on Friday night. I saw three players who impressed me between the two games.

The Bulldogs Trey Reynolds find an opening during action Friday, August 17, 2018 in Queen Creek AZ.

At Queen Creek, sophomore Trey Reynolds and junior Jace Bond caught my eye.

Reynolds, who is Devin Larsen’s backup on offense and a linebacker on defense, somehow lined up at running back for a play, which even caught the Bulldogs’ coaches by surprise. Perhaps less surprising to them was what he did with the ball in his hands: a 24-yard burst that included “trucking” at least a pair of Westwood players along the way. The Queen Creek sideline was fired up, and for a split second I thought I was watching a different Trey.

Bond, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound speedster, could be next in a long line of great running backs at Queen Creek. Against Westwood, Bond totaled 103 yards – 36 rushing and 67 receiving – and a rushing touchdown. He carried five times and caught five passes, many of them swing passes where he was able to get outside and turn on the jets. I believe Bond is a weapon that opposing team’s will be forced to account for as the season progresses.

Benjamin Franklin sophomore Chancin Loving replaced Zach Jefferies after the latter was injured during last week’s game.

Loving’s numbers: 10 carries for 165 yards, three touchdowns.

While Jefferies is expected to miss at least the next 4 – 6 weeks, Chargers Nation should feel pretty good about Loving’s potential.

“To me, (Chancin) can do everything that Zach did last year,” Benjamin Franklin head coach Dave Jefferies said immediately after Saturday’s game. “I feel like weight room-wise, ability-wise he’s no different than what Zach was last year.

“We’re going to have him get after it. This is a great opportunity for him to become a starter and see what he’s made of. He’s a young kid with great ability and he’s a special athlete. We’re excited about Chancin.”

Bear(s) Down, er, Up! – Coolidge picked up a decisive 30 – 10 win against Bourgade Catholic last week. Quarterback Valentine Rodriguez ran for 122 yards and four touchdowns.

Head Coach Bill Godsil was optimistic about this season when I visited for my season preview, but last week’s performance has me feeling he was playing possum just a bit.

The Bears’ defense, which has been poor in recent years – and that’s saying it nicely – has some size, strength and athleticism this year. That unit alone could be the difference between two wins a year ago and five, six or more this year. Linebacker Abram Palacios, CJ Valencia and PJ Schultz are among the top defenders.

If the Bears continue to perform on both sides of the ball like they did last week, with upcoming games against AZ College Prep and Paradise Honors, a 3 – 0 start is on the horizon.

Battle on Gantzel – Combs and Poston Butte will renew their rivalry on Friday night. I previously wrote about the schools being placed in different regions last October. I said then and still say now, I don’t understand the placement. Nonetheless, the schools were smart enough to schedule the game, so kudos to each institution.

In advance of Friday’s matchup, I asked both head coaches to answer three questions about the game.

County Line Preps:  Why are your teams, fans and students looking forward to this game?

Poston Butte HC Dain Thompson:  The entire Poston Butte Community is looking forward to having a true rivalry game. Rivalries are a great part of high school athletics and I am excited to again be a part of one.  I was lucky enough to have experienced the rivalry atmosphere while playing and coaching in Northeast Arizona. I hope this is something that creates big-time positive excitement and energy.

Combs HC Travis Miller:  Varsity Football at Combs has yet to win a game against Poston Butte. There are certain things our team is hungry to check off our list of accomplishments (and) getting a victory against Poston Butte is one of them.

CLP:  Do you want this to be an annual game?

DT:  The proximity makes it the perfect kind of annual game, hopefully for all sports.

TM:  We opened the same year as (PBHS) did and shared a lot of similar growing pains. It has always been a bigger school than us. There was a time when we were having a lot of success here at Combs, making the playoffs for those three consecutive years, but never got to showcase our talent against (PBHS). Now that we are in the same 4A conference, I don’t see why this game shouldn’t be an annual game. Good programs need rivalries and need that game they circle on the calendar every year.

CLP:  What does your team need to do to win?

DT:  Pretty cliché – win the turnover battle, run the ball, and play with great energy on defense.

TM:  We need to be fast from whistle to whistle, execute our scheme cleanly, and fight until the end. That basically boils down to the effort of our athletes. We can scheme the best game plan on the planet, but at the end of the day it is our athletes vs. theirs. I have incredible amount of faith in my athletes, so I am feeling good going in to this game.”

Friday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.