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July 30, 2012
The frustration of Bishop Gorman's dominate run over the last four years started to spill over this off-season but the level of play won't stop just yet in the first year of realignment.
The Gaels built a strong program while facing a heavily battered division over the last decade with a bunch of teams looking to recover from the constant loss of talent during the explosion of population growth. As many teams took on the title of being urban schools, the Gaels expanded from a small campus to the best overall campus in the state.
Currently, the Gaels still have outstanding offensive talent and depth on the lines but the gap is closing. Canyon Springs, Football, Reed and Durango open the year as the best teams in the other divisions.
The question this year is what teams will emerge from realignment to become challengers and set the tone for the future?
Division 1 Pre-Season All-State
1. Canyon Springs-Despite being a very young team, the Pioneers went on to earn a number one seed in the playoffs. The new division allows them to continues the yearly battle with Las Vegas for the top seed. Having and explosive back like Donnel Pumphrey and a very physical defense makes the Pioneers the team to beat in the Northeast.
2. Green Valley-The Gators are the only Henderson team in the Northeast but they make the transition in a year that they will feature very impressive front lines on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Gators should be very effective and the offense should be very strong despite not being loaded with top skill players.
3. Las Vegas-If you look at the Wildcat defense, you see the making of a potentially special team. The program has a host of players that should be battling for post season honors. However, for the first time in over a decade, the Las Vegas Wildcats will be facing a complete rebuilding project offensively. This team has a great offensive system and will be able to move the ball. Having an elite kicker like Jay Mattox is a major plus as well but can they reach the end zone consistently.
4. Silverado-The former Southeast was rugged and the Skyhawks faced a major uphill battle gaining their footing, this year the Skyhawks are set to plant their feet in the mud to become contenders. With quality speed at the skill positions, the Skyhawks will be tough to beat this year and, like the Gators, will be strong on the front line. If this program can find a stronger pass game, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Skyhawks in position to earn a top seed by the end of the season.
5. Valley-The Vikings were a young team with great raw talent last season inching into the playoffs and this year they are looking for the young players to develop into legitimate stars. If the Vikings get quality execution on both sides of the ball, this is a team that can rise to the level of contender in conference play. The overall team speed is impressive and there is quality size on both sides of the ball.
6. Rancho-The Rams just missed the playoffs last season. In a more top heavy division this year, the Rams appear to have a very strong team defensively and the running backs in place to have a very productive ground game. Quarterback development and getting effective play in the front lines will key how competitive they will be versus the upper teams in the division.
1. Foothill-The Falcons are lost a lot of talent from last year but the return of quarterback Drew Doxtator, which means the Falcons should be in position to score lots of points. The Falcons, will be in attack mode defensively and has good team speed on the edge. They return a go-to star in Tyler Morris, who should key both sides of the ball.
2. Liberty-The Patriots are the back-to-back Sunrise Champions and deserve the title of co-team to beat. With offensive stars Kaimana Nacua and Niko Kapeli returning, the Patriots have the offensive output to defeat anybody. The duo combined for 4500 yards of offense last season and had a great showing in the state playoffs versus Gorman. The big question mark is a defense that took a few steps back last season and faces an even tougher rebuilding job this year.
3. Basic-The one thing you know about the Basic Wolves is that on game day, they definitely show up to play. The Wolves are an effective team in every facet of play and the return of 1000-yard receiver Devonte Boyd means that they will have a go to weapon in the passing game keying their spread the field mentality. With a strong defensive backfield, the Wolves should be very competitive and should provide a challenge for the division title.
4. Coronado-The Cougars remain in a very challenging division but should see a few breaks fall their way this season. A young and physical team led by Jason Warren on defense, the Cougars should be stout against the run and have the talent in place to be very strong versus the pass. They also return the speedy Cody Mucino as a playmaker offensively which should allow them to spread the field. The Cougars will be challenged but should see a berth in the playoff this season.
5. Del Sol-The Dragons were recently among the top teams in the state and still has a great staff in place. The Dragons have lost a lot of explosive player from last year's team and will need to set the tone for the future this year with a different style of player. Offensive production is the name of the game in the Southeast this season and if the Dragons can find some new playmaker, they can be in the playoff hunt at the end of the season.
6. Eldorado-The Sundevils have struggled to gain enough depth to get back to regional power status but traditionally have impressive athletes dotting the roster. The return of Justin Brown and Marcus Fletcher means the Sundevils will have quality speed on the edge but lack of overall size and strength could keep the program on the bottom of the division.
1. Bishop Gorman-The Gaels have gotten on to streak of producing great talent offensively and that won't stop this year with a blazing offensive backfield. Nathan Starks is an amazing athlete at running back and the return of Anu Solomon for his fourth year as a starter means the passing game won't take a step back. With a very physical defensive line and a great secondary, the Gaels could actually be a bit more explosive than the 2012 edition but the changing of the guard on the offensive line leaves the single question mark.
2. Legacy-The Longhorns had rare team speed last season but struggled getting the group to gel and missed the playoffs. Although not as athletically talented this year at the skill positions, the Longhorn defense has a chance to be outstanding. Big and fast, this team matches up well with the rest of the southwest and should be in position to rack up plenty of big plays.
3. Centennial-The Centennial Bulldogs have responded the last two season and rode a powerful running game to the playoffs last season. This year's edition will feature a physical line and very impressive group of linebackers. With quarterback Austin Turley leading the offense, the Bulldogs should be in the thick of the playoff hunt but pass defense leaves a minor question mark in a division featuring high quality quarterbacks.
4. Desert Oasis-The Rattlers are in position to be a very strong team this season with the return of powerful running back Devin Fortenberry and a more experience Herman Smith at quarterback. Defensively, the Rattlers have proven to be strong and return high quality core of players that are capable of being difference makers. If they can get quality play out of the pass catchers, the Rattlers can challenge for a top seed this season.
5. Bonanza-The Bengals worked back to the level of challenger and despite a major coaching change, has the chance to be very good. Junior Jayveon Taylor is the fastest player in the state as well as being among the elite speedsters in the country in track. He is extremely explosive in the open field and the return of quarterback Brett Doyle means the Bengals will be able to move the ball through the air. Developing a quality line has been a problem for the Bengals however and that is going to be the difference in on field performance as well as the need for playmakers on defense.
6. Cimarron-The Spartans are a team that can never be counted out but they will be shorthanded this year in overall depth though they feature some talented playmakers. Running back Justin Davis should give the Spartans a solid ground game. Developing a quality pass rush will be the key if the Spartans are to be in the playoff hunt late in the season.
1. Durango-The Trailblazer barely backed into to playoffs last season but gain a huge edge with the return of running backs Arie McQuaig and Marcus Williams. This team has the ability to pound it out on the ground and should feature a much more physical defense as well. If the Trailblazer get even decent blocking, they should be extremely tough to slow down offensively this season when healthy.
2. Palo Verde-The Panthers are an annual contender and has one of the most effective offensive systems in the state. The Panthers will look to Lee Griggs to key the backfield this season and the defense should be among the best in the state with great overall team speed. The biggest struggle for the Panthers will be finding the explosive speed and a physical presence out of the backfield that keyed past state playoff runs.
3. Arbor View-The Aggies had great season last year emerging as a contender but they took in huge losses with a very talented group of seniors moving on. The Aggies will have a strong line on both sides of the ball but lack the skill player depth on both side of the ball to match the level of play from last year's team. Donnie Gaskin is an offense standout at running back but he may be forced to carry a heavier load.
4. Shadow Ridge-The divisions wildcard, the Mustangs will go as far as new quarterback Bakari Smith can take them. This team isn't loaded defensively but Smith is a player with high quality skills as a passer. If he can put provide the accuracy, the Mustangs are capable of having a strong offense.
5. Sierra Vista-Sierra Vista was a very young team last year and just missed making the playoffs. Despite the loss of their quarterback and top receiver, they should be an even stronger team this season. Led by junior Justin Green, the running game should be very strong and the defense should be a much more physical edition.
6. Spring Valley-The Grizzlies return a strong coaching staff but the talent level isn't equal to year's past. Overall, this is a team that will put in a high effort but a tougher division will make it difficult to earn a playoff berth.
1. Douglas-With quarterback Michael Nolte and running back Conner Peterson returning, Douglas should feature among the best offensive attacks in the state. Few teams will be in position to slow down the duo but a average defense could make for quite a few shoot outs.
2. Bishop Manogue-The Miners had a very solid season and should among favorites this year in the North. The offense has some new player in place at key positions and will need the running game to become a force but the defense should be among the strongest in the region.
3. Carson-The loss of Dylan Sawyers is huge for Carson and the Senators should see more balls take to the air this season with quarterback Matt Nolan returning. Defensively, this is a very solid team that can be great if the linebackers gel quickly.
4. Galena-The Grizzlies will be depending on youth to step up this year and make plays. The North is extremely tough and they lack a game changer to make them a contender but they should be a challenging team to face week in and week out.
5. Damonte Ranch-Mustangs will be making a big change to a wide open offense and lack the size upfront to be very effective defensively. The big question is can the program find the skill players to be explosive on the offensive side of the ball. This year could see many struggles.
1. Reed-The Raiders were a monster offensively last season and, despite heavy losses, they should be in position to run the table again. Quarterback Mark Nowaczewski and wide receiver Devin Gray could be the most lethal passing combination in the state offensive. Defensively, the Raiders feature plenty of playmakers.
2. McQueen-The Lancers were of a quiet success last season but they didn't have the players in place to truly dominate opponents. This season the Lancers should feature more balance on offense and the addition of a very strong group of juniors should make them very effective on defense.
3. Reno-A successful season took a turn the last four games as the Huskies faced an extremely tough slate of football programs. This season's edition features a senior heavy team with a solid group of linemen leading the way. The Huskies are a strong at the skill positions and if they get quality play up front, they have a chance to be a contender.
4. Spanish Springs-The Cougars had a couple of close losses that sent them to a doomed playoff berth versus Reed last season. The return of Hunter Fralick at quarterback means they have a key piece in place to form a very effective offense. Defensively, the Cougars took a few steps back down the stretch.
5. North Valleys-North Valleys couldn't get it going last season but they return a solid core of player from last year's team. The interior line needs to become more physical if they are to be in the playoff hunt but Jesse Krueger should be a great go-to guy on either side of the ball.
6. Hug-The Hawk faced a big transition last year losing a man that had been center of the program, this year should see the team begin to make strides in a positive direction. The Hawks always feature plenty of athletes. If they can build a quality line, they have great upside.