Pride receivers looking to fill void from graduation - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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Pride receivers looking to fill void from graduation

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Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014 12:45 pm

The Mountain Pointe offensive playbook has always been fluid under Norris Vaughan.

He prefers to adjust his offense to the talent each year rather than force the talent to fit into a specific system.

In his first year in 2009, the Pride ran for 4,100 yards and passed sparingly (109 times in 13 games). Last year, with three college-bound wide receivers, there was a great balance as Mountain Pointe rushed for over 3,500 yards and passed for just less than 2,500.

Each led to the only undefeated regular seasons in program history, so clearly the Pride offense is as adaptable as it is successful.

Heading into 2014, it would seem the Pride offense would shape up to look more like 2009.

Not only do the Pride have possibly the best trio in the state at running back in Paul Lucas, Brandyn Leonard and newcomer Tyrek Cross, there is the fact that none of the players expected to get time at wide receiver has a career catch.

Vaughan, however, isn’t ready to go all Woody Hayes just yet.

“There is an opportunity for these guys to step in and make some plays,” said Vaughan, who added the backs will also get several balls through the air. “I don’t think I’ll ever see the likes of the three receivers on one team again. They were all the full package.

“The guys we have this year aren’t as athletic and aren’t as tall, but they are as fast. This year we are going to run a totally different offense, but we will still be a multiple offense with a lot of formations.”

The starters during the first week of camp are senior Frank Matchinsky, who missed all of last season with a torn medial collateral ligament, and senior Tyree Shivers, who is making the transition from slot back to wide receiver.

There is some young talent — mainly JaQunn Gipson, Jaydon Brooks and Isaiah Pola-Mao — in the mix as well, but the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Matchinsky and the 5-7, 145-pound Shivers look to be the main targets to start the season for first-year quarterback Garvin Alston.

“We have big roles this year and even bigger shoes to fill,” said Matchinsky, who tore his MCL last summer and was cleared to return to football activities in December. “I watched every single thing Jalen Brown did and know what it takes to be successful.”

Shivers, who has an offer from Arizona Christian, is ready to be a major contributor after getting to play late in games last season at defensive back along with six carries for 57 yards on offense.

“At a program like Mountain Pointe, there is so much talent you have to be patient,” Shivers said. “I wanted to be out there more, but we had some great players. When you are a senior, it is your time to shine.

“I look at what Timmy (Hernandez) did last year after in his first year as a senior starter and what he was able to accomplish, and I am ready to show Coach Vaughan what I can do.”

The trio of Emmanuel Butler, Brown and Hernandez combined for 110 catches and 33 touchdowns a year ago, so matching those numbers is probably unrealistic, but keeping nine defenders out of the box with a respectable passing game is more than enough.

“We have a huge line and three running backs that will be hard to stop,” Matchinsky said. “We are going to get some chances. The more plays we make, the better the offense is going to be.”

Matchinsky showed off some good route running and soft hands in practice this week.

“The good receivers always catch the ball with their hands and don’t let it bounce off the chest,” he said. “I watched Jalen catch everything with his hands away from his body in practice, and that’s what I try to do every time.”

Shivers, who is inspired by small-stature athletes like De’Anthony Thomas (Chiefs) and Tavon Austin (Rams), flashed the speed that fits perfectly in being a slot receiver, where he hopes to take advantage of some defensive mismatches.

“I’ve always been a running back since I was little,” said Shivers, who will still get some time at slot back. “I like being a wide receiver. I’m familiar with it. It just gives more chances to get on the field, and that’s all I want.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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