West Valley Preps
For the ninth straight year, West Valley Preps honors the best football players from schools in the Northwest Valley.
Editor Richard Smith and staff picked three running backs for each team, since there was a bumper crop of tailbacks this year. With most teams running a variant of the spread offense, the first team has two receivers and an all purpose player on both teams.
Also selected were four defensive linemen and four linebackers for each team.
Players may only be selected for offense or defense, but can earn a secondary nomination on special teams.
FIRST TEAM ALL WEST VALLEY PREPS
All players are seniors unless noted
QB – Keegan Freid, Sunrise Mountain
RB – Juwaun Price, Peoria
RB – Aren Van Hofwegen, Northwest Christian
RB – Devante Wimbish, Ironwood
WR – Zaach Cullop, Cactus
WR – Cameron Ellis, Liberty
AP – Jeiel Stark, Centennial
OT – Jacob Golden, Peoria
OT – Matt Cadriel, Northwest Christian
OG – Jacob Fyffe, Centennial
OG – Jake Newton, Sunrise Mountain
C – Carson Keltner, Centennial
DE – Connor Knudsen, Centennial
DT – Derek Henderson, Northwest Christian
DT – Scott Mort, Cactus
DE – Braxten Croteau, Liberty
LB – Dylan Wampler, Centennial
LB – Ryan Puskas, Liberty
LB – Matthew Herrera, Cactus
LB – Stone Aguirre, Ironwood
CB – Kieran Clark, Centennial
CB – Cameron Adams (Jr.), Northwest Christian
S – Tawee Walker, Centennial
S – Jayden Young (Jr.), Centennial
K – Ben Ogan, Northwest Christian
P – A.J. Jackson, Centennial
KR – Price, Peoria
PR – Jackson, Centennial
LS – Dustin Inness, Northwest Christian
SECOND TEAM ALL WEST VALLEY PREPS
All players are seniors unless noted
QB – Jonathan Morris (Jr.), Centennial
RB – Anthony Flores (Jr.), Cactus
RB – Malachi Potee, Peoria
RB – Jett Kinsch, Liberty
WR – Darius Moore, Shadow Ridge
WR – Jay Anderson, Sunrise Mountain
AP – Dez Melton, Deer Valley
OT – Andrew Rumary (Jr.), Valley Vista
OT – Isaiah Mercado (Jr.), Shadow Ridge
OG – Donato Zavala, Northwest Christian
OG – Vincente Maestas (Jr.), Liberty
C – David Leasau, Dysart
DE – Leandre Harris, Centennial
DT – Massimo Garcia, Peoria
DT – Dylan Behmeyer, Paradise Honors
DE – Devin Leon, Willow Canyon
LB – Alex Zacek, Valley Vista
LB – Levi Bourland, Northwest Christian
LB – Cire Fields, Centennial
LB – Zach Enhelder, Willow Canyon
CB – Haudarie Andrews, Valley Vista
CB – Eli Pittman, Liberty
S – Nicc Quinones, Cactus
S – Inness, Northwest Christian
K – Aziz Amirudin, Peoria
P – Jaxen Meskimen, Sunrise Mountain
KR – Ezekiel Marshall (Soph.), Sunrise Mountain
PR – Brady Wijbrandts, Northwest Christian
LS – Ethan Hudak, Mountain Ridge
UNDERCLASSMEN TO WATCH
Cactus: Riley Davies (Soph.) DE; Centennial: Oscar Abundis (Soph.), OT, Caiden Miles (Soph.), OT; Deer Valley: Donovan Moore (Soph.), LB, Brandon Schwartz (Soph.), OT/DT; Dysart: Bobby Gardea (Soph.), CB/RB; Glendale Prep: Sam Terpstra (Fr.), QB/LB; Ironwood: William Haskell (Soph.), QB, Elijah Sanders (Soph.), WR/CB; Kellis: Andrew Gaston (Soph.), WR/CB; Liberty: Brock Mast (Soph.), QB, Jax Stam (Fr.), S; Mountain Ridge: Derek Leverage (Soph.), LB; Northwest Christian: Cameron Sterner (Soph.), OT; Paradise Honors: Benjie Castro LB/RB, Kevin Partida, LB; Peoria: Trey Hendrix (Soph.) OG, Cameron Mack (Fr.), RB; Sunrise Mountain: Elijah Anderson (Soph.), DB, Bryce Cord (Soph.), RB; Valley Vista: Liam Kelleher (Soph.), WR, Jaden Lay (Fr.), OL.
OVERALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jaydin Young, junior FS/RB, Centennial. The top three candidates all were from the Coyotes and separating them proved tough. But Young gets the nod, by a nose. He’s the guy Centennial had run a Wildcat offense as a quarterback when Jonathan Morris was injured, even throwing a touchdown. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns on 57 carries, and averaged 24.1 yards per reception on 11 catches. And that’s just his side job. Young was the team’s second-leading tackler with 94. He also led with 14 pass deflections, and made three interceptions. Plus he had a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown. Centennial had five or six big-play guys this year and Young consistently made the biggest plays of all.
Runner-up: A.J. Jackson, senior P/LB/WR/PR, Centennial. Jackson, meanwhile, edged out Young and Tawee Walker, as the most versatile of Coyotes. After all, who else turned the trick of being one of the state’s best punters — and punt returners. And that’s only his special teams contributions. Junior Eric Haney just edged out Jackson as the squad’s leading receiver. He only dabbled in the defense until the home stretch. But when linebacker MJ Walker injured his leg, Jackson learned the ropes and ended up starting the playoffs at outside linebacker too. He was the MVP of the 5A title game rout of Notre Dame Prep, scoring on a punt return, interception return and reception … all in the second quarter.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Keegan Freid, senior QB, Sunrise Mountain. Freid continued to refine his passing, and threw for 2,506 yards and 35 touchdowns against tougher competition in 5A. But what makes him the region’s top offensive weapon is his ability to improvise on the run — and his speed and elusiveness on the sprint. It exceeded that of most running backs and gave defenses (other than Centennial’s) fits. Freid had to take on more of the load after tailback Drake Flores was injured and sophomores Bryce Cord and Brandon Bogard split carries. He also nurtured a young receiving corps, other than stalwart Jay Anderson.
Runner-up: Devante Wimbish, senior RB/QB, Ironwood. Freid had the most responsibility of any quarterback, but Steve Decker did not ask him to stretch this season nearly as much as Ian Curtis asked Wimbish. In fact, his early workload slowed down Wimbish’s second half of the season. For the first five games, the natural tailback was playing, basically, an option quarterback. Most of the time, he was the first option. In the first five games, Wimbish rumbled for 708 yards on 92 carries. He moved to tailback when Deer Valley transfer Will Haskell became eligible for the second half of the year. But Haskell was ineligible the next week, a key game against rival Apollo. WImbish played his last game at QB, rushing for a season-high 248 yards and four touchdowns, and even tossed a touchdown pass.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Dylan Wampler, senior LB, Centennial. Had anyone outside of the people who spend way too much time analyzing the Coyotes formed any impression of Wampler entering the season — considering he made 21 tackles as a backup linebacker? Wampler was not even etched in stone as a starter this season until D’Angelo Garcia moved to Yuma. Five months later, the Arizona Cardinals named Wampler as their state high school defensive player of the year. He made a team-high 107 tackles on one of the most dominant defenses the state has seen — and 66 of those tackles were solo. The postseason GEICO Bowl loss does not count for the purposes of these awards, but Wampler and Jackson were the Coyotes’ best players against Eastside Catholic. Wampler had at least 15 tackles in his final night in the red and navy.
Runner-up: Ryan Puskas, senior LB, Liberty. Last-year’s winner moved to linebacker from safety and took to it well. He actually had a few less tackles, but some of that stems from the Lions’ tougher schedule following the move up to 6A. He still had a couple of picks, and was able to play more snaps than a typical linebacker in the spread era, thanks to his ability to cover like a safety. Puskas is off to California after one of the most memorable high school careers in Northwest Valley history — as an extremely rare four-year starter.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Dave Inness, Northwest Christian. Two Northwest Valley coaches were favored to lead their teams to state titles this year and both did so. But Inness’ team was less of a sure thing. Entering the year, 3A was the only conference without a clear heavyweight. Inness added a few newcomers to a veteran crew. And the Crusaders’ coach had to manipulate and extract more from his team to produce a state title than Centennial’s Richard Taylor. In the playoffs, Inness overhauled its defense three weeks in a row to slow down Benjamin Franklin’s double wing, Valley Christian’s short passing game and Yuma Catholic’s wide open spread. The job his Crusaders did in limiting the Shamrocks in the state final, with a defense the team barely used all year will make it one of the more memorable title games ever.
Runner-up: Richard Taylor, Centennial. The man could win this award almost every a year. While Centennial was the clear 5A favorite, few would have expected this year to outscore its 14 opponents by an average of 39 points per game. Some of that is solely the result of this talented group being uncommonly unselfishly and steadfastly competitive. But who, other than Taylor, sets that team-first world-view. And who else prepares their players better. The only reason this award goes to Inness is, later in the season, the Coyotes were such self starters that their coach did not have to tell them much.