Don’t look now, but we’re fast approaching the return of high school football in this patch of parched earth we call home.
We’re roughly 30 days from the first slate of games, which kick off on Aug. 17, meaning it’s basically a calendar month from football.
Last week, we unveiled the first part of our top-30 list, with the middle 10 listed below. We’re fortunate enough to have a plethora of talent at CDO, Ironwood Ridge, Marana, Mountain View and Pusch Ridge, and this is one small way we can differentiate those that stand out amongst the fray.
Make sure to pick up next week’s paper (or venture over to tucsonlocalmedia.com), when we’ll unveil the top-10 portion of our list.
Until then, parse through the names below, and start your countdown clocks. The return of high school football is closer than you think.
20. Mike Contreras, Mountain View High School junior defensive end/middle linebacker
Contreras showed flashes of glory on defense for coach Clarence McRae a year ago, logging 38 tackles, 8 QB hurries, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles for the Lions. Contreras has great potential on defense, with a large frame (he’s 6 foot 1 inch and 255 pounds) and has the type of speed that harkens back to what Kai Golden brought to the team last season. Expect the rising junior to have a breakout season for the Lions, regardless of whether he takes the majority of his snaps on the defensive line or at linebacker.
19. Eliseo Garcia, Canyon del Oro High School senior linebacker/fullback
Garcia finds a way to punch well above his weight class on the gridiron, racking up 57 tackles, 2 QB hurries and a fumble recovery a year ago for the Dorados. Garcia did all this, despite measuring in at 5 foot 7 inches and a slim 190 pounds. The rising senior will be a key component of the team’s defensive scheme this fall, with leading tacklers Jeremy Vallejos and Elijah Carey graduating.
18. Luke Mitchell, Catalina Foothills High School senior outside linebacker/running back
Mitchell is the type of do-it-all athlete that legendary coach Jeff Scurran has built his hall of fame career around. The rising senior provides the hard-hitting spine of Scurran’s defense, with 81 tackles, 6 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 pass deflections in his varsity career. Scurran reiterated his confidence in Mitchell when I spoke with him last week, commending the 6-foot defensive dynamo on his tackling and pass coverage skills. Expect Mitchell to be a thorn in the side of teams all fall long.
17. Diego Miranda, Marana High School senior wide receiver/defensive back
Miranda is the type of two-way player the Tigers have relied on in their program renaissance, with 1,077 receiving yards on 57 catches and 5 touchdowns in his two-year stint with the team. The rising senior possesses a unique combination of speed and soft hands at this level, allowing him to be the perfect safety net in the slot for quarterback Trenton Bourguet. Miranda averaged 50.4 receiving yards a game as a junior a year ago and should factor heavily into a stacked Tigers’ offense, with deep threats Tariq Jordan and Alfred Ebunoha drawing increased attention on the outside.
16. Dominic Bynum, Catalina Foothills High School senior outside linebacker/running back
Bynum has the unique chance at being the Falcons’ leading rusher and tackler this fall, a year after picking up 877 yards on the ground and 24 tackles on defense. The senior averaged an eye-popping 10.7 yards per carry on offense, while also logging 3 sacks on defense, meaning he has the type of speed to become a true dual-threat for Scurran and company this fall. Don’t be surprised if Bynum racks up more than 1,000 yards on the ground and 50-plus tackles on defense this fall, as he’s one of the top dual threat players in Southern Arizona.
15. Jose Cruz, Canyon del Oro High School senior free safety/running back
Cruz is coming off a memorable junior campaign for the Dorados, with 484 receiving yards, 41 tackles and 8 offensive touchdowns to his credit. Heading into his senior year, Cruz will likely be front and center for the team this fall on offense, with coach Dustin Peace likely lining him up in the slot and the backfield. Cruz has the potential to be a game-changing player on both sides of the ball, with the type of speed and vision to disrupt pass plays and find open space with the ball in his hands.
14. Alfred Ebunoha, Marana High School junior wide receiver/cornerback
You won’t find many players with the combination of speed, size and strength on the high school level that Ebunoha possesses. The 6 foot 3 inch, two-way star has the potential to haunt defensive secondary’s dreams this season, with other players likely to receive blanket coverage on the other side of the field. Expect Ebunoha to be one of the breakout stars this fall, after picking up 366 yards on offense with three touchdowns as a sophomore.
13. Gavin Davis, Canyon del Oro junior running back/defensive back
Davis excelled for Jerry Harris and company last fall, with 364 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns on offense, to go with 32 tackles, 5 pass deflections and a forced fumble on defense. Davis will shoulder a much larger share of responsibility this fall, after transferring to Canyon del Oro. Don’t be surprised if Davis doubles his offensive and defensive output this season, as he’ll definitely see an uptick in field time for Dustin Peace's squad, with a void in the backfield after Elijah Carey's graduation.
12. Aaron Logsdon, Mountain View High School junior running back/outside linebacker
Logsdon is the other rising star on the defensive side of the ball for McRae’s squad, alongside teammates Calib McRae and Contreras. The rising junior excelled when he saw the field as a sophomore, with 131 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on offense and 64 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 4 sacks on defense. Logsdon will see a lot more playing time this fall, as the Lions look to take the next step as a program, after finishing 7-4 in back-to-back seasons. Don’t be surprised if the undersized underclassmen excel for the Lions.
11. Gordon Dick, Catalina Foothills High School senior linebacker
Dick, like Logsdon, excelled on the defensive side a year ago for the Falcons—with 71 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 1 pass deflection, despite measuring in at 5-foot-9-inches tall and 145 pounds. Dick’s ball-hawking defense and speed should be on full display this fall, allowing the rising senior to rack up tackles and various other defensive accolades for Scurran and company.