We’re roughly three weeks away from the start of the high school football season in Arizona, with kickoff looming on the horizon. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of quality football players in our midst, with six programs that churn out talent.
Catalina Foothills, Canyon del Oro, Ironwood Ridge, Marana, Mountain View and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy had varying levels of success last fall. Four of the teams (CDO, Ironwood Ridge, Marana and PRCA) made the playoffs. None of those four made it past the first round of the postseason.
Here’s my annual top-30 list for the region. Pick up future editions of the paper for the continuation of this list.
30. Conner Alubowicz
Catalina Foothills senior quarterback
1/1, 5 passing yards, 3 carries, 15 yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
Alubowicz is the big man on campus for first-year Catalina Foothills coach Darius Kelly, who assumes the coaching role that Jeff Scurran vacated late last year. The tall, right-handed gunslinger’s stats in years past might not look impressive, but he contains the skills needed to thrive, according to his coach. Kelly believes Alubowicz has the potential to be one of the best QBs in the city this fall. Whether he will or not remains to be seen, though Alubowicz looked the part during the Falcons’ summer workouts.
29. Ruben Orduno
Orduno packs quite the punch in the trenches for coach Louie Ramirez’s squad on both sides of the ball, manhandling opponents despite measuring in at 5 feet 9 inches tall and 205 pounds. Ramirez has high hopes for Orduno on both lines this fall, expecting the young man to be a leader when it comes to blocking schemes and decimating opposing quarterbacks.
28. Cory Bonstrom
92 rushing yards, 82 receiving yards, 3 total touchdowns, 47 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions
Bonstrom is a rare multi-sport athlete that finds a way to dominate regardless of what game he’s playing. He’s excelled when on the field for Dustin Peace’s team, showing his chops in the secondary, with three interceptions, while also exemplifying his deceptive speed in the pass and rushing game for the Dorados last year. Expect Bonstrom to be a key part in the team’s offense this season, with Jose Cruz and quarterback Zach Eidenschink graduating this spring.
27. Enrique Perez
Catalina Foothills senior
12 carries, 135 rushing yards, 1 rush TD, 2 catches, 12 yards, 49 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 2 interceptions
Perez is the Falcon’s lead returning rusher from 2018, with Dominic Bynum (1,094 yards), Isaiah Bae (828 yards) and Luke Mitchell (288 yards) all graduating. Expect Perez, who rushed for a career-best 90 yards in the Falcons’ opening game against Buena last season, to step up his game on the ground this fall, giving Kelly a dynamic option in the backfield while anchoring the team’s defensive unit.
26. Tanner Wengert
Marana senior center
Wengert is expected to be an anchor on the lines for Ramirez this season in his main role as the team’s center. Such a position is even more important given the inexperience of projected starting quarterback Kai Spencer. The center is probably the most underrated player on a team’s roster, with the flow and success of an offense relying on that person’s ability to get the snap off cleanly and set the blocking schemes for the line. Expect Wengert to do just that, with Ramirez and his staff counting on the senior to be a larger than life character in the trenches.
25. Christian Barrios
Ironwood Ridge senior
running back/inside linebacker
24 rushes, 156 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs/15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Barrios’ emergence in the rushing game will be vital for first-year coach James Hardy Jr. this fall, with do-it-all back Nathan Grijalva graduating. Expect Barrios to do just that, teaming up with Fabien Figueroa to provide the Nighthawks with a one-of-a-kind rushing attack.
24. Kai Spencer
9 catches, 137 receiving yards, 27 tackles
Spencer might be the most intriguing player in the region this fall given his tall task of replacing legendary Marana quarterback Trenton Bourguet under center. Spencer has all the right traits to do so, with a rocket-powered throwing arm and the type of accuracy that gave Ramirez enough confidence to name the young man as his starter in spring camp. Expect Spencer to live up to the hype, given the praise he’s gotten from teammates and coaches alike during the offseason.
23. Charles Ebunoha
9 punt return yards
Ebunoha’s stats in his freshman year are scant, but he’s a big-time talent, according to Ramirez. The rising sophomore is expected to fill a crucial role at wide receiver for the team this fall, picking up where his older brother, Alfred, left off. Ramirez expects Ebunoha to be a serious big-play threat in the passing game, with a unique combination of speed and soft hands that few receivers at this level possess.
22. Phillip Raica
Pusch Ridge junior
tight end/defensive end
45 tackles, 6 QB hurries, 4.0 sacks/19 rushing yards, 17 receiving yards
Raica has the right combo of speed and size to excel in coach Jerry Harris’ ground-and-pound offense, while also being the prototypical lineman in Harris’ swarming defense. Raica thrived on the defensive line and should see a lot more time in the backfield as well. Expect his numbers to jump with the increased playing time, as the Lions look to make it back to the 3A playoffs again this fall.
21. Hayden Parson
Mountain View junior
81/169, 1,274 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, 11 interceptions/64 carries, 376 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
Parson took his fair share of lumps as a sophomore, throwing two or more interceptions in each of the Lions’ first four games. The 6 foot 4 inch gunslinger showed a lot of intestinal fortitude from there, however, rebounding to go five games in a row without an interception. The Lions, in turn, won their last five contests after beginning the year 0-5, showing Parson’s leadership capabilities and the Lions’ promise under Johnson this fall. Expect Parson and his new coach to thrive this fall, with the young man having the potential to eclipse the 2,000-yard plateau while showing his above-average ball-carrying skills in a run-first spread offense.