The AIA football season is set to kick off Friday, Oct. 2. Attendance will be limited—and masks required.
Schools in the Tolleson Union High School District begin a shortened season later in October.
Other schools in the West Valley will take the field this weekend.
Below are a few of the week-one games and players to watch.
Waddell Canyon View at
Goodyear’s Desert Edge ran to a 10-4 record and was mere minutes away from claiming the 4A championship last season. The Scorpions moved to the bigger, more-competitive 5A conference. They begin the season hosting Waddell’s Canyon View, which is playing varsity football for the first time in 2020.
Desert Edge returns its top 11 tacklers from last year, including highly touted defensive back Steven Ortiz Jr., who is committed to the University of Minnesota. Offensively, the Scorpions are led by junior quarterback Adryan Lara, recently a commit to Washington State football. Lara was one of just two Arizona quarterbacks to throw for over 4,000 yards last season. Junior running back Jeryll Mcintosh ran for 12 touchdowns and over 1,300 yards.
Twins Mark and Marcus Carter are in their first season as co-coaches.
“We think about the way last season ended every single practice,” said junior wide receiver Richard Kulik. “So we’re practicing so that doesn’t happen again.”
Millennium at Gilbert High
The Tigers visit Gilbert to open the season. Millennium defeated Gilbert 45-14 in the first round of last season’s 5A playoffs. They are playing for a third consecutive region championship.
Millennium graduated around 40 seniors from last season’s varsity team, the most in any year under coach Lamar Early. Those graduates include nine of the top 10 tacklers from 2019, the top six running backs, and starting quarterback and coach’s-son Jalan Early. However, the Tigers believe they are poised to begin another winning season.
“We’re not expected to do much, just because we’re younger. But we’re going to surprise some people,” said senior running back Jaylen Hawkins.
Verrado at Sandra Day O’Connor
The Vipers visit North Phoenix and a 6A opponent in Sandra Day O’Connor. Verrado lost four of its first five games last season, before winning four of the final five to sneak into the 5A playoffs. Senior linebacker Austin Bilski said the team is looking to start fast in a regular season of just eight games.
“We’ve got to come out guns blazing,” Bilski said.
Verrado is led by senior running back Logan Gingg. He rushed for 1,412 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019.
Shawn Copeland begins his second season as coach.
Trivium Prep at Scottsdale Christian Academy
Trivium Prep has not lost a regular-season game since the first week of 2017, when it was playing eight-man football outside of the AIA 2A conference. It went 10-1 and reached the 2A quarterfinals last season and begins its shortened, seven-game season on the road against Scottsdale Christian Academy. The two have never met in AIA play.
The Crimson Knights return four-year starting wide receiver August Hubbard, who caught 33 passes for 606 yards and four touchdowns last season. Senior Josh DeGraves is the top returning defender, with 53 tackles last season, and will likely handle the ball on offense as the team’s workhorse running back. He is tasked with replacing graduated David Marquez, who rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2019.
“I’ve been preparing since freshman year to have this spot. He (Marquez) was great, but my goal is to be an even better running back,” DeGraves said.
Trivium is led by fifth-year coach Michael Spencer, the only coach in program history.
Glendale Raymond S. Kellis at Estrella Foothills
Estrella Foothills was scheduled to host South Anchorage, the 2019 state football champion in Alaska, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wolves are led by senior linebacker Quinlan Popham, who recorded 112 tackles in 2019.
Phoenix Northwest Christian
Youngker visits Phoenix Northwest Christian, which is playing its first season of 4A football after reaching the 3A semifinals in 2019. Roughrider senior Anthony Jackson recorded a team-high 91 tackles.