Top 30.JPG

Canyon del Oro High School junior running back Stevie Rocker.

We’re roughly a week 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 churning 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 Pusch Ridge) made the playoffs. None of those four made it past the first round of the postseason. 

Last week, we ran the second installment of our top-30 list, with spots 20 through 11 coming off the board. Without further ado, the grand finale of our series: 

10. Eli Pallanes

Ironwood Ridge senior

Defensive back/

wide receiver

26 tackles, 4 interceptions, 

4 pass deflections

Pallanes showed his chops on the defensive side of the ball last year, leading the Nighthawks in interceptions. He should see his role in coach James Hardy’s offense expand this season, giving the Nighthawks another option in the pass game for the two-headed beast that is Fabien Figueroa/Octavio Audry-Cobos. Pallanes has great speed and can obviously read opposing quarterbacks quite well, both of which are rare skills at this level. It’s hard to expect his stats to take much of a hit this season, save for the fact that opposing quarterbacks might avoid throwing the ball his way. 

9. Varney Larson

Mountain View senior

Running back/cornerback

42 carries, 387 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns/28 catches, 390 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns/

6 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 

1 fumble recovery

Larson has been a consistent big-play threat for the Lions in his two years on varsity, eclipsing 1,000 yards of offense as a junior last season. Larson heads a stacked roster of backs for Johnson’s team this season, a year after he averaged 9.2 yards per carry for the Lions. Expect Larson’s unique run and pass-catching abilities to guide the Lions back to the postseason this fall, with the young man possessing the type of skill that few harness at the high school level. 

8. Fabien Figueroa

Ironwood Ridge senior

Quarterback

17/28, 280 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns/43 carries, 160 rushing yards, 

4 rushing touchdowns

Hardy has played his offensive roster close to his chest so far, not saying whether Figueroa or Octavio Audry-Cobos will take the majority of snaps at quarterback. The good thing for Hardy is that both players are seniors and possess unique talents that should allow the team to plow ahead without missing a beat this fall. Figueroa showed his pinpoint accuracy and big-play potential down the stretch, giving Hardy a steady cog in his offensive attack. Expect Figueroa to do whatever his coach asks, giving the Nighthawks two above-average gunslingers this season.   

7. Isaiah Sparkman

Mountain View senior

Safety/outside linebacker

68 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1 interception

Johnson mentioned Sparkman as one of the players that should emerge for the Lions this fall, with a unique skill set that allows him to excel on both sides of the ball. The rising senior, who didn’t see much time on offense last season, should plug in nicely should Johnson need an extra slot receiver or back this year. Sparkman’s calling card is his dynamic ability to roam the field and make big plays on defense, serving as another asset for Johnson on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions should have plenty of talent on that side of the ball this year, with Sparkman, Logsdon and others stoking fear in the hearts of anyone that lines up on the other side this season. 

6. Cameron Drescher

Ironwood Ridge senior 

Free safety/cornerback

61 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 7 pass deflections

Drescher might be the best defensive back in Tucson not named Ransom, given his ability to throttle opposing receivers in the open field while thwarting quarterbacks all year long. Expect Drescher to pick up several interceptions, while continuing his ongoing role as one of the Nighthawks’ best tacklers this season. 

5. Derrick Williams

Catalina Foothills Junior

Wide receiver/cornerback

21 catches, 261 receiving yards/59 tackles, 1 QB hurry, 4 pass deflections, 

3 interceptions

Williams should be a tour de force in the defensive secondary for Darius Kelly’s team this season. Kelly, who played safety for Pima Community College and Syracuse University, expressed great confidence in the rising junior for his ability to roam the secondary and make big plays for the Falcons. I expect Williams to be one of the best cornerbacks in town this fall, while also showing his chops at receiver as well. CFHS quarterback Conner Alubowicz will need a big-play threat at the position this year and Williams should be able to deliver, given his unique combination of speed and on-field prowess. 

4. Aaron Logsdon

Mountain View senior

Running back/outside linebacker

70 carries, 434 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns/55 tackles, 

6.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks

Logsdon finds himself as the highest ranked Mountain View player for a multitude of reasons. First, the rising senior is a thrill to watch on both sides of the ball, because he is electric with the pigskin in his hands and can knock the living hell out of an opponent on defense. He’s also emerged as one of the best two-way players in the state, with a unique ability to fill whatever role needed with gusto. I expect Logsdon to eclipse the 100-tackle plateau this fall, while also threatening the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, given Matt Johnson’s run-first offensive philosophy. The idea of Logsdon teaming up with Varney Larson and Shane Buttigieg in the Lions’ backfield is thrilling, with all three featuring unique talents that should allow the Lions to dominate opponents on the ground. Also, the thought of Logsdon manning the linebacker corps with Isaiah Sparkman and Buttigieg is thrilling to say the least. Expect Logsdon to be the next great Mountain View star, with a senior season to remember for fans, foes and neutral observes alike.

3. Evan Lovett

Pusch Ridge junior

Running back/linebacker

122 carries, 1,192 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns/10 catches, 204 yards, 2 touchdowns

Lovett finds himself as a tough-luck runner-up for the best back in the region, thanks to the talents of a young fella that resides across Oracle Road. That’s no knock on the rising junior from Pusch Ridge, however, as Lovett is a prodigal talent that should be a Division I prospect in 2021. Lovett was the Lions’ leading rusher and receiver as a sophomore, breaking the 100-yard plateau six times in 11 games, with a high of 209 in the team’s 41-6 destructon

of Catalina Magnet in the regular season finale. Expect Lovett to continue his eye-popping ways in the backfield for Jerry Harris’ team, given his remarkable talent and big-play potential on offense. This might seem hyperbolic on my part, but I expect Lovett to crack 2,000 yards of offense this year, breaking all sorts of school records along the way. If you haven’t seen Lovett play, then you’re doing yourself a serious injustice and should rectify that, before the rising star takes off for greener pastures down the road. 

2. Octavio Audry-Cobos

Ironwood Ridge senior

Quarterback/outside 

linebacker

47/91, 760 passing yards, 9 passing touchdowns/118 carries, 776 rushing yards, 7 touchdowns/3 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack

Audry-Cobos’ exact role for the Nighthawks this season remains a bit of a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but he’ll see the field a lot no matter what. The rising senior dazzled during his time as the team’s quarterback a year ago, and will likely turn heads regardless of where he’ll line up this fall. James Hardy Jr. told me that Audry-Cobos will play several positions on both sides of the ball this year and that he’ll dominate each one without a doubt. None of us may know where Audry-Cobos will play, but I can say with some certainty that he’ll do just fine wherever that may be. 

1. Stevie Rocker

CDO junior

Running back

130 carries, 1,163 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns/5 catches, 182 yards, 3 touchdowns

Rocker did something that legendary CDO running back Ka’Deem Carey never did as a sophomore a year ago, eclipsing the 1,000-yard plateau on the ground. Rocker’s year-end stats from 2018 deserve a healthy asterisk, given the fact that he was hampered by a high ankle sprain for most of the year, which kept him out of two of the team’s 11 games. Rockers’ accomplishments warrant healthy praise, as he was able to crack the 100-yard mark in seven of nine starts, with one being the Prescott contest, where he injured his ankle after his first carry of the contest. Rocker is a bona fide star in the making, as witnessed by his offseason scholarship offers from the University of Arizona, Cal-Berkeley, Nevada-Reno and BYU. Expect Rocker to dazzle under the lights of Friday night at Canyon del Oro this season, blazing a trail that sets him apart from anyone that’s donned the forest green and gold in years past. 

 

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