Derek Simmons' 3A Top Ten, Preseason

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Here is my 'top teams' list for Arizona's 3A Conference just two days before the season begins. Rather than the top ten teams, I have included the 14 I expect to make some noise this year. Hear more of a breakdown on Friday at 5 p.m. during The Hatch Toyota Friday Night Football Show on the Sports Zone Radio mobile app and on 98.5 FM, KRFM.

 

14. Florence - The Gophers bring back their best player, Joshua Maignan, who rushed for 160 yd/gm a season ago. Returning JR QB Christopher Walter should be poised for a good season after showing much potential a season ago.

13. Coolidge - Before a first round playoff loss to eventual semifinalist Valley Chrisitan, the Bears had a terrific 7-3 season. This team returns its SR QB who passed for over 1,500 yards and rushed for 550 (Valentine Rodriguez). Most of the team returns, making this one of the more experienced in the 2019 field.

12. Odyssey Institute - Most of this team returns but none more important than the 3A's leading rusher a season ago. In his final season, Chris Weaver will be building on this 4,338 career rushing yards and 45 touchdowns. He fell two yards shy of 2,400 last year.

11. Pusch Ridge - Now a Junior, Evan Lovett, ran for 1,200 yards and 13 TD in 2018 and proved to be one of the more dangerous rushers in the conference. Expecting big things. 

10. Blue Ridge - Time will tell what Coach Bob London and his staff can do with this team who lost the bulk of their starters from last year but they returned stud quarterback PJ London, who enters his junior season. The Yellow Jackets have some hype building around the pair of brothers who transferred in, Jimmy and Cody Wallace.

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9. Show Low - Cougar fans would love to forget last season, undoubtedly. Here is some good news. This team is much more physical than a season ago and have rearranged some things around former first team all conference wideout Keegan Clark, who is now QB-1.

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8. Valley Christian - It may have been a surprise to some that the Trojans made it as deep as the semifinals last season but we'll be more prepared this season. I wouldn't expect another semifinal season but they should be on everyone's radar.

7. Benjamin Franklin - The Chargers return two of their top three rushers including their best player, Zach Jefferies, who should be back to 100% following a knee injury that sidlined him for part of last season. 

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6. American Leadership Academy (Gilbert North)- The Ricedorff crew will no-doubt have this team ready to go in their first season eligible to make the 3A Playoffs, but, it is hard to say where they will be in 12 weeks because they may have the toughest schedule in the conference. http://www.azpreps365.com/teams/football/11427-american-leadership-academy-gilbert-north/119823-varsity

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5. American Leadership Academy (Queen Creek) - Their punishement has been served and are elibible for postseason play once again. Prior to 2018, the Patriots had back-to-back state championship appearances and one title win. Expect several new names and faces who have transferred in.

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4 Snowflake - Until the fourth quarter of the quarterfinals, the Lobos looked as primed as anyone to win it all. This team has a solid group of returners who will be as hungry as anyone to win a championship.

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3. Sabino - As usual, the Sabercats have plenty of talent coming back but the thing that seperates them from most of the pack is their physicality. These guys will be back in the mix come November.

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2. Northwest Christian - Seven graduates from the 2018 State Championship team are now playing next-level football. If you have any doubt at this point that HC David Inness can gather talent and turn it into championship caliber in any given season, think again. We should all be shocked not to see the Crusaders deep in the bracket again.

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1. Yuma Catholic - The Shamrocks led by two scores before a heart-breaking 3OT loss in the state championship game to Northwest. Losing WR John Henderson will be big, (Henderson owns basically every career and single season receiving record for the 3A), but don't be surprised if SR QB Gage Reese owns most, if not all, career and single season passing records by the end of this season. The teams leading rusher and second leading receiver, Ean Chavez, returns as well. I am sure the mindset is "championship or bust" with HC Rhett Stallworth this year.

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