It might come in a flash or happen over the course of the season, but by the end of the year, there are going to be a handful of football players from the Southeast Valley who are going to have breakout seasons in 2014.
Last year, Mountain Pointe’s Paul Lucas scored on his first carry of the season on the way to 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Chandler’s Chase Lucas did a little bit of everything every week to keep turning heads and Queen Creek’s Weston Barlow entered the year No. 2 on the depth chart but finished with 2,000 yards after Matt Guida never got healthy.
This year, those three are known quantities, so it opens the door for some newcomers to break into the forefront.
Here are eight candidates who might be primed to jump into the Friday night highlight reel:
Frank Matchinsky, Mountain Pointe — With the stable of running backs the Pride have and the talent on the offensive line, it only makes sense the offense leans more on the running game this year. The passing game will still be counted on — Norris Vaughan loves the play action — to make big plays and Matchinsky is a candidate to be the No. 1 receiver. Don’t be surprised if the senior puts up similar numbers (51 catches, 904 yards, 9 touchdowns) to Garrett Holle in 2010 despite entering the year with zero career catches.
D.J. Ware, Chandler — Ware, who played his freshman year at Mountain Pointe, looks to be making the transition from running back to defensive back. He has crazy athletic ability and might be the state’s fastest player behind Paul Lucas. He hasn’t seen the field much yet, but then he put together an unbelievable performance at a workout in Berkeley in front of Cal coaches. His first 40-yard dash was clocked at an absurd 4.27 seconds. The second had times ranging from 4.25 to 4.39. NFL running back Chris Johnson clocked a 4.24 40 in 2008 at the combine and it is considered the gold-standard time.
Alex Farina, Desert Vista — The junior was thrown into the Ahwatukee Bowl and was overwhelmed after a couple of pick-6s by a veteran defensive backfield let to the game get away. The thing is Farina, then a sophomore, only grew from there. Those strides continued this summer and he received an offer from Northern Arizona this summer. He played in five games, including four starts and completed 47 percent of his passes with six TDs, and five interceptions, but was much better over the last three games (52.9%, 5 TDs, 2 INTs). Expect more of the same in 2014.
Ryan Kelley, Basha — This sophomore looks to continue the run of good quarterbacks coming out of Basha behind Mike Benjamin, Kyle Duran and Zach Werlinger. New head coach Gerald Todd, who was an offensive assistant with the Bears for nearly a decade, has said he will keep the ball in the air like his previous head coaches at Basha. It could lead to Kelley being the most impactful player out of the 2017 class this year.
James Sosinski, Hamilton — Another year and another first-year senior starter at quarterback for Hamilton. It clearly hasn’t hindered the program in years past and it won’t be again this year. The 6-foot-7 Sosinski has been a varsity basketball player since he was a sophomore, so he will be fine with the pressure that come with it. It will be interesting to see how the Husky offense changes, if at all, with a 6-7 QB in the pocket. “James has had a great summer, and seems to be taking the bull by the horns,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said over the summer.
Zach Wade, Seton Catholic — Wade has already been tested on the big stage as he got his chance under center in the state semifinals after then-senior Kyle Johnson was injured. Wade stepped in and struggled (13 of 25 with a touchdown and three interceptions) in a loss to River Valley. He played in parts of 10 games last year (59.3% passing, 6 TDs, 4 INTs) and will be the main man with hopes of driving the Sentinels back into championship contention.
Isaiah Pola-Mao, Mountain Pointe — Anyone who was bored enough to watch the Twitter feed from a 7-on-7 tournament (hey, it’s what I get paid to do) saw this sophomore’s name seemingly every other tweet when the Pride was on the defense. Pola-Mao made several big stops and had a few interceptions during the summer, and showed a good knack for tracking the ball in the air. He will be a good safety for the Pride, who need to replace their entire secondary, but it is unclear whether he will be just as dynamic once the pads are on this fall.
Josh Chadwick, Highland — This 6-0, 180-pound back moves into the No. 1 slot and could be one of the best power backs in the area. He finished last year with about 400 yards in seven games, but had a four-game stretch that gave a glimpse of what he could become this year when he had 55 carries for 336 yards with three touchdowns.
So there you have it, but as the idea behind ‘breakout player’ suggests, don’t be surprised if there are a handful players who are yet known become the talk of the football community after a special Friday night.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.