New era for running backs in the East Valley
From D.J. Foster to Joey Counts to Anthony Lopez, the East Valley was stocked with notable running backs heading into last year’s football season.
This year’s going to be a little different.
No team in the area is returning a 1,000 yard rusher from a season ago as a new era begins. There are some familiar names, of course, as players like Marcos de Niza’s Mauriece Lee, Desert Ridge’s J.J. Husar and Desert Vista’s Jarek Hilgers return.
Brophy senior D’Amani Grayer had the most rushing yards last season (939 yards) among the returners, while Pinnacle’s Evan Tompkins, Williams Field’s Sean Schweichler and Poston Butte’s Dustin French were also key cogs in their team’s offense.
There will also be upcoming stars, as Basha junior Rajhan Meriwether broke out in a big way at the end of last season and should have no problem building on that performance. And who will be this year’s T.J. Thomas? The Dobson star went from unknown to focal point in a year and parlayed it into a scholarship to Fresno State.
While there are question marks at running back, it’s the wide receivers which have the more established track record.
Brophy’s Devon Allen, Basha’s Nate Phillips and Chaparral’s Jake Roh lead a group of standout senior wideouts, while Mountain Pointe’s Jalen Brown and Desert Mountain’s Mark Andrews are two highly-coveted juniors. Looking even younger, Chandler’s Bryce Perkins and Saguaro’s Christian Kirk are game-changing sophomores.
While players like these will bring excitement in the passing game, a standout running back is still an essential part of high school football. It’s clear some teams have the aerial weapons to move the football, but which ones will have the accompanying ground game?