Week 4 rewind: What we learned in Arizona high school football

Corona del Sol's Ricky Pearsall gets upended by against Boulder Creek's Hunter Burkett during their game in Tempe Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. #azhsfb

A trip through Week 4 in Arizona high school football. The good. The great. The amazing. The scares.

Biggest takeaway

With every advancement in safer equipment, better teaching techniques on tackling and blocking, for every safeguard being taken to the head with rules, football still is a violent game. This week was a little scarier. On Thursday night, at a junior varsity game at Peoria Liberty, Mesa Desert Ridge’s quarterback was taken to a hospital with a concussion, varsity coach Jeremy Hathcock said. On Friday, the Phoenix Desert Vista-Surprise Valley Vista game ended with 25 seconds left after Valley Vista defensive back Nathan Lind was injured. Coach Josh SeKoch said Lind was released from the hospital after passing medical tests and had movement in all of his extremities. The injury was described as “whiplash,” SeKoch said. Paradise Valley receiver and captain Jovanni Haddad was placed on a stretcher early in the second quarter when he jumped for a pass and landed on his back and head. Coach Greg Davis said Haddad suffered a concussion. Meanwhile, Tucson Catalina Football coach Jeff Scurran passed out and was taken to a hospital after his team’s loss to host Tucson Sabino. He stayed overnight at Tucson Medical Center, undergoing tests.

Biggest moment

It was second down from the Mesa Desert Ridge 4-yard line, and Peoria Liberty linebacker Jace Accurso was inserted behind center in shotgun formation. Everybody knew where the play was going. Accurso would rely on his power and speed to get into the end zone. But this time, Accurso had to scramble back about 10 yards to retrieve the errant snap. He picked the ball up, turned around and bolted. Down the sideline, he knocked through a couple of defenders and dived into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown that broke a 14-14 tie. “Wouldn’t you?” coach Mark Smith said after being asked why he has his linebacker playing Wildcat quarterback in pressure situations. The 6-foot, 215-pound junior is a beast who will surely generate a lot of interest from Division I colleges.

Best stat line

Like brother, like brother. Chubba Purdy, who has the difficult act of following record-setting brother Brock (now at Iowa State) as quarterback at Gilbert Perry, went nuts in the stat book in a 75-68 win at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor. Chubba, a junior, completed 25 of 31 passes for 419 yards and five touchdowns. He ran seven times for 92 yards and three more scores. He jump-started the offense to a 33-0 lead before O’Connor got on the board. Because O’Connor scored 34 fourth-quarter points, Purdy had to return and he picked up where he left off. The 75 points were more than any game Brock Purdy played in last year when he set 6A single-season records for passing yards (4,405) and TD passes (57). Brock’s only game with more than 400 passing yards last year was a 72-14 playoff win over Chandler Hamilton, when he had 512 yards. In that game, Brock had six TD passes and two rushing scores.

Biggest hidden gem

In a showcase of two of the state’s better receivers — Tempe Corona del Sol’s Ricky Pearsall Jr. and Anthem Boulder Creek’s Hendrix Johnson — the kid without the Power 5 offer stood out. Johnson had 10 catches for 214 yards and three TDs in a 35-22 6A victory. Pearsall, a great receiver who has committed to Arizona State, was held to two catches for 15 yards. And guess who was guarding him all night? Johnson, a two-way standout, whose only two offers are from Georgetown and Columbia. Johnson was over the top of Pearsall with Connor Luis, a cornerback, playing man-to-man. Johnson was on Pearsall man-to-man at times, as well.

Best statements

Douglas, Tombstone and Phoenix Arcadia keep making another one each week, as they keep winning after each had winless 2017 campaigns. Douglas (4-0) had the second-most rushing yards in the 112-year history of the school in a 65-8 win over Tucson Catalina with 483. The school record is 572. Christian Estrella and Manny Mejia both went over 100 yards with fewer than 10 rushes. Arcadia (4-0), a program that mustered only 29 points all of last season, kept its high-octane offense moving in a 55-39 win over Phoenix St. Mary’s, as QB Kaden Beler had five TDs passing and three TDs rushing. Tombstone (3-0) beat Wellton Antelope 68-38, as RB Tyler Wilridge had 21 carries for 320 yards and four TDs. It was his third four-TD game. Their schedules don’t matter. These aren’t mirages. They’re not going away.

Best new coaches

Kerry Taylor is in his first year at Arcadia, which was awful last year and now could be coming into Week 6 against five-time defending state champion Scottsdale Saguaro undefeated. Chandler Seton Catholic coach Mike Chiurco, who was an NFL assistant coach under Bruce Arians with the Cardinals the last five years, has the Sentinels 3-0, despite losing top running back Nick Wade to a season-ending knee injury in a preseason scrimmage. Wickenburg is 3-0 behind Mike Mitchell, who moved from the Northwest this summer. Scottsdale Chaparral’s Brent Barnes, who moved from Oklahoma, has the Firebirds (3-0) off to their best start since they went 14-0 in 2010. Glendale Cactus is 3-0 behind Joseph Ortiz, who was Eddy Zubey’s offensive coordinator at Gilbert Higley. Chandler Basha is unbeaten with Chris McDonald, who did a great job at Maricopa before resurrecting the Bears, who were 2-8 last year. Marana is 4-0 behind 25-year-old Louie Ramirez in his first year as a head coach. Flagstaff Coconino’s Mike Moran, who turned around the school’s boys basketball program last year, is in his first year as football coach and has the team 3-0 after it went 2-8 last year. The Panthers are thinking playoffs now after last making the postseason in 2005.

Best revelations

In Nogales’ 45-0 win over Rio Rico, junior Maile Vasquez made all six of her points after touchdowns. She is believed to have tied Chandler Basha kicker Becca Longo for most points in a game by a female football player in Arizona high school history, and most extra points made by a female kicker. “She came out in March, did a workout and beat out two other kickers,” coach Jake Teyechea said. “She definitely earned a spot.” Vasquez has made nine of 10 extra points in the Apaches’ 2-1 start. Tyeechea uses a foreign-exchange student, junior Mate Domeny, for long kicks. He never kicked before  this season, Teyechea said. Domney made a 42-yard field goal in the game.

Biggest surprise

Watch out for the 4A Grand Canyon Region. Five of the seven teams have either a .500 or better record, with Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain (4-0) and Coconino (3-0) leading the way. Bradshaw Mountain has outscored its opponents 136-54 after being outscored 295-258 last year when the Bears went 4-6. Cottonwood Mingus (3-1) have moved on well in the post-Bob Young coaching era. And Prescott (2-1), which lost head coach Mike Gilpin this week after he stepped down because of team division, responded with a 59-7 win over Glendale Deer Valley with quarterback Austin Clark setting a single-game school record with seven rushing TDs. He ran for 398 yards on 24 carries. “He’s a load,” interim coach Cody Collett said. “He’s every bit of 6-3, 200 pounds and when he gets turning downhill, he’s tough to stop. And the offensive line had its best game.”

Best growth spurt

Paradise Valley junior QB Ben Finley, brother of North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley (regarded by Todd McShay as the best QB prospect in the 2019 NFL draft), is going to get a lot of Division I colleges in on him after his fast start. It helps to have a good  growth spurt. “He’s grown big time,” PV coach Greg Davis said. “This is his third year starting (on varsity). He’s finally comfortable being on the field with his role.” Finley rallied the Trojans from a 20-6 deficit against rival Phoenix Shadow Mountain for a 34-31 win. He ran the ball 16 times for 73 yards and two TDs and completed 25 of 41 for 301 yards and three scores. Last year at this time, Finley was 5-10, 156 pounds. Today he is 6-3, 187, Davis said.

Around the state

Week 5 Game of the Week

Chaparral (3-0) travels to play Saguaro (3-1) in the renewal of one of the greatest big-school football rivalries in Arizona history. It’s the Buckeye backfield of Ohio State commits Jack Miller (QB) and Darvon Hubbard (RB) with a big target in Tommy Christakos against Saguaro’s all-Division I-offered defense, led by the nation’s top 2020 cornerback, Kelee Ringo. Expect many of the schools’ biggest alumni to come out for this one.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.




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