Desert Vista football fans can only speculate on how much of a difference Christian Westerman and Davonte Neal would have made on their football team this year.

And that doesn't even include Chase Knox, the former Phoenix Brophy quarterback who transferred to California this season.

At one time, all of those players lived in the Desert Vista boundaries, but in the era of open enrollment, never made it to campus.

Neal, the Gatorade Player of the Year, started at Laveen Cesar Chavez before transferring to Scottsdale Chaparral this past summer. Westerman, the top-ranked senior recruit who has committed to Texas, has been a three-year starter at Chandler Hamilton.

While Desert Vista made a nice run to the 5A-I semifinals, it's impossible to know how much of an impact these players would have had.

But it's hard to fault their decisions.

Neal and Westerman were both on hand for the 5A championship press conference on Tuesday, as both teams prepare for title games on Monday at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

"I went to a championship game in seventh grade, but obviously it's nothing like playing for a high school state championship," said the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Neal, who has offers from more than 10 schools including the two Arizona programs, USC, UCLA, Arkansas and LSU. "This is one of the goals I've been striving for, ever since I got into high school."

Westerman and Neal didn't know each other growing up despite the close proximity.

Westerman, though, did enjoy playing against Desert Vista in the regular season and Mountain Pointe in last week's state semifinals.

"I have a couple buddies on those teams," Westerman said. "We're always talking, giving each other a bunch of crap. That's fun."

Neal has 869 yards receiving, 522 rushing and 28 total touchdowns. He also has five interceptions as one of the state's top cornerbacks.

Westerman, who has a leg injury limiting his playing time of late, is one win away from capturing three state championships. He has helped anchor arguably the top offensive line in the state, paving holes for three separate 650-yard rushers and giving quarterback Kyren Poe ample time to throw the ball when he drops back to pass.

The 6-5, 295-pound Westerman said he's been extremely happy with his time at Hamilton.

"I've made a lot of new friends," he said. "I've been coached by great coaches, and most of them have played in the NFL so they know what they're doing. They've taught me a lot of life skills. It's been a blast."

Kyle Odegard is a sports writer for the East Valley Tribune.

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