For the 12th straight year, West Valley Preps honors the best football players from schools in the Northwest Valley.
Editor Richard Smith picked three running backs for the first team, since there was a bumper crop of tailbacks this year. With most teams running a variant of the spread offense, the first team has two receivers and the second team has three. All purpose players are on both offensive teams, and this is for quarterbacks who make a large impact as a runner and for multi-position athletes on offense.
Also selected were four defensive linemen and four linebackers for each team.
Players may only be selected for offense or defense, but can earn a secondary nomination on special teams.
All players are seniors unless noted
QB – Adryan Lara, Desert Edge
AP – Will Galvan (junior), Cactus
RB – Ashton Hill, Deer Valley
RB – Damian Jiles (junior), Cactus
RB – Zues Pindernation (sophomore), Millennium
WR – Terrance Hall (junior), Moutain Ridge
WR – Micah Johnson (junior), Sunrise Mountain
OL – Mason Cullop, Cactus
OL – Layton Vining (junior), Liberty
OL – Gavin Broscious, Desert Edge
OL – Alex Doost (junior), Mountain Ridge
C – Matthew Hapner, Sunrise Mountain
DE – Justin Holmes, Cactus
DE – My’Keil Gardner (junior), Liberty
DT – Dylan Roberts (junior), Centennial
DE – Jaelin McCullen, Valley Vista
LB – Ata Teutupe, Cactus
LB – Daniel Delponte (junior), Millennium
LB – Tovia Vito (junior), Cactus
LB – Gavin Dodge, Liberty
CB – Breshaun Brown, Desert Edge
CB – Jeremiah Gossett, Peoria
S – Jax Stam, Liberty
S – Polo Banuelos (junior), Cactus
K – Bryson Wilke (junior), Willow Canyon
P – Easton Black, Sunrise Mountain
KR – Aundre Gibson (Soph.), Desert Edge
PR – Michael James, Valley Vista
LS – Tyler Wigglesworth, Mountain Ridge
Cactus Cobras' Justin Holmes, left, races to recover a fumble by Saguaro's Devon Dampier (4) during the Open Division quarterfinal Nov. 26 at Cactus High School in Glendale. Holmes is the runner up for defensive player of the year. [James T. Abraham for West Valley Preps]
All players are seniors unless noted
QB – Brendan Anderson (junior), Mountain Ridge
RB – Chris Cordero (junior), Desert Edge
RB – Anthony Garcia (junior), Shadow Ridge
AP – Xereque Parham, Willow Canyon
WR – Isaac Moreno, Peoria
WR – Kyler Thruston (sophomore), Northwest Christian
WR – Jordon Guevara, Liberty
OL – Braden Croteau, Liberty
OL – Riley Pierce, Deer Valley
OL – Michael Carlson, Cactus
OL – Justin Firriolo, Sunrise Mountain
C – Alexis Sanchez, Mountain Ridge
DE – Maxwell Sawyer (junior), Desert Edge
DT – Josiah Gardner, Willow Canyon
DT – Julian Laborin (junior), Dysart
DE – Dom Solano (junior), Cactus
LB – Jaylen Dawson (sophomore), Desert Edge
LB – Sergei Chagolla, Peoria
LB – Christian Cabello, Centennial
LB – Brody Lindemann, Valley Vista
CB – Andy Morales, Cactus
CB – Demykal Anderson (junior), Sunrise Mountain
S – Steven Le (junior), Kellis
S – Hayden Allen (sophomore), Mountain Ridge
K – Brysen Gardner (junior), Centennial
P – Dylan Conn (junior), Centennial
KR – Chris Thomas, Cactus
PR – Banuelos, Cactus
LS – Austin Hall (Jr.), Sunrise Mountain
Cactus: Braiden Lagafuaina (Soph.), QB/S; Centennial: Noah Carter (Soph.), WR/CB, Kenny Worthy (Soph.), CB; Deer Valley: Jacob Kreuziger (Soph.), LB; Desert Edge: Aundre Gibson (Soph.), CB/KR; D.J. Warner (Soph.), DE: Dysart: Kye Brown (Soph.), QB; Xavier Silvas (Soph.), DL; Estrella Foothills: Simione Koroush (Soph.), LB; Glendale Prep: Nickolas Cummings (Soph.), WR/S, Josh Rickey (Fr.), OT/DT; Highland Prep: Kohan Hill (Soph.), WR/CB; Ironwood: Drey’Lan Dobbin (Soph.), FS, Jayden Sullivan (Soph.), WR; Kellis: Mikhei Dotson (Fr.), DE: Tytus Gomez (Soph.), WR; Liberty: Navi Bruzon (Soph.), QB, Keaton Stam (Soph.), LB; Millennium: Isaac Huerigo (Soph.), LB; Gavin Trim (Soph.), CB/WR; Mountain Ridge: Ryland Sands (Soph.), WR; Northwest Christian: Gunnar Pezkover (Soph.), WR/DB; Paradise Honors: Gage Baker (Soph.), QB, Jaiden Lailson (Soph.), WR/CB/KR; Peoria: Sebastian Carrillo (Soph.), DB; Gabriel Rodriguez (Soph.), LB; Shadow Ridge: Memphis Palelei (Soph.), LB, Craig Whitley (Soph.), WR; Sunrise Mountain: Elijah Mendez (Fr.), WR; Brandon Robbins (Soph.), OL/DT; Valley Vista: Anthony Hernandez (Soph.), LB; Willow Canyon: Calvin Mathews (Soph.), QB, Marquez Smih (Soph.), RB.
Liberty sophomore quarterback Navi Bruzon runs upfield against Brophy Prep Nov. 5. Sharing the Lions' quarterback duties all season with junior Dom Ochoa, Bruzon is one of West Valley Preps' underclassmen to watch. [Courtesy James T. Abraham/For West Valley Preps]
Terrance Hall, junior WR/KR/PR, Mountain Ridge. Once Deric English transferred to Saguaro in the summer, Hall returned from the Mountain Lions’ lead tailback to the team’s top receiver. He still had 25 carries, but spent most of the year as the engine of a much improved offense. Hall was fifth in the state in catches (80) and receiving yards (1,243) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (18). Several players ahead of him player 14 games, while Hall played only 12. Without the dynamic junior, Mountain Ridge only plays 11 games. He caught six passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns in Mountain Ridge’s 40-35 upset of Mesa Mountain View in the first round of the 6A playoffs, the program’s first playoff win since 2004. Hall also dabbled at defensive back but earns the overall award for his impact as a kickoff and punt returner. That’s another 444 yards total and a punt return touchdown.
Runner-up: Jeremiah Gossett, senior CB/WR/KR, Peoria. Gossett did a bit of everything for the Panthers. The team’s top cover corner also made 48 tackles, including five for losses, plus two picks. He also was the team’s No. 2 receiver, with 36 catches for 588 yards and four touchdowns. Teams tried to avoid him on kickoffs when possible, but he averaged 25.7 yards on 10 returns and took back one for a touchdown. As for the things that cannot be measured, Gossett won the proud program’s Golden Helmet Award for leadership.
Will Galvan, junior QB, Cactus. The stats don’t jump out at you but the film does. Galvan is our first team all-purpose offensive player instead of at quarterback because he’s more of an athletic, creative offensive force than a traditional quarterback, and even a more modern quarterback with an RPO look. There’s some Russell Wilson-like impact to Galvan’s play, with his ability to improvise and create plays as a runner and passer. Galvan can throw strikes our of the pocket, as Northwest Christian and Poston Butte will attest, and is a big threat on designed runs. But more of his signature runs and throws came when things were off schedule. Galvan is 5-8, 160 pounds but strong for that size and extrordinarily hard to pin down 1-on-1. To drive home the point from the first sentence, watch the highlights from the Open Division game against Saguaro, which collapsed the pocket on Galvan with regularity. Stats show 8-17 passing for 60 yards and 15 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown. Highlights show four of the Cobras’ biggest plays of the night improvised out of near-sacks.
Runner-up: Ashton Hill, senior RB, Deer Valley. The Skyhawks broke through with their first playoff trip since 2014 and it was on the back of an offense that averaged 39 points per contest. While junior quarterback Rudy Gonzales had a bireakout year, Hill was the fulcrum of the attack, adding a power running element while staying nimble, and complementing Deer Valley’s three receiving threats. Hill finished with 1,238 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on 7.2 yards per carry — despite missing a game. The 215-pound back caught 37 passes for 336 yards and five scores. Only eventual 4A champ Casa Grande was able to slow down Hill below his season average, in their playoff first round game. Deer Valley was 3-7 two seasons ago, with then-sophomore Hill leading in rushing, and he finished his career leading the program back to 7-3.
Deer Valley senior Ashton Hill cuts back in the first half of an Oct. 1 win against Walden Grove that gives the Skyhawks a 4-0 start for 2021. Hill is the runner up for West Valley Preps' offensive player of the year. [Courtesy Ed Russell Photography/For West Valley Preps]
Jax Stam, senior S, Liberty. A rare three-time first team all West Valley Preps player, Stam is the clear choice for defensive player of the year as a senior. Beyond his ability to set up the Lions’ defense and make the calls, Stam’s unique skillset allowed Liberty to run the three high scheme most of the last two seasons. In leading the team to its second straight Open Division semifinal, Stam finished with 107 tackles, the high number of 8.5 tackles for loss for a safety, plus three fumbles caused and two fumbles recovered. Beyond the numbers, Stam’sability to quickly diagnose offensive plays and deliver bone jarring hits reminded veteran West Valley football observers of Centennial legend Zach Hoffpauir.
Runner-up: Justin Holmes, senior DE, Cactus. The Cactus defense, which allowed a mere 6 points per game in a 10-0 regular season, is full of stars. But Homes is the epitome of the undersized unit that overwhelmed opponents with speed and technique. At 5-10, 185 pounds Holmes is a smaller pass rushing end than usual, but plenty of successful high school defenses utilize players around this size in this type of role. It is not stunning to see this type of player lead his defense in sacks and tackles for loss, which Holmes did with 11.5 and 20, respectively. However, he also proved more than stout against the run with 86 tackles (second on Cactus) as teams foolishly tried to run at him.
Joseph Ortiz, Cactus. Everyone following high school football knew Cactus entered the season with the potential to be a top 10 team in the state and the Cobras were a chic pick, along with Chandler Basha, for new schools making their first Open Division appearance. But even the most optimistic predictions did not envision this level of regular season dominance. As a team full of returnees from the 2020 squad that lost the 4A final by one point, it would have been natural for the Cobras’ attention to waver during the regular season. Instead Cactus completely dominated its first nine games, scoring at least 42 points in all of them and allowing no more than 14. That 42-14 win? Against the best regular season opponent and future 5A semifinalist Desert Edge. Ortiz and his staff deserve a great amount of credit for keeping this group focused all season and allowing its talent to flourish. Rival Peoria played an inspired season finale, tying Cactus at 7 at halfime before falling 29-13. Even the 42-21 first round Open Division loss to Scottsdale Saguaro looks better in context, as the Sabercats beat Hamilton and Chandler in the next two weeks to become the state champions. It is still a tough ending for what was clearly the top team in 4A, and one of the two best in school history — depending on your point of view. But Ortiz deserves credit for taking the program into the big leagues in his fourth season.
Runner-up: Ben Kullos, Kellis. What a debut for the youngest head coach in the area. Yes, Kellis played a bit easier schedule than the 0-8 team in 2020. But 6-4 this season is almost unfathomable for the Glendale program, which went 1-27 the last three seasons and rarely competed in all those losses. Kullos and his staff changed the perspective, as most of the key contibutors this season were part of the rough seasons. Narrow wins over Sierra Linda and Copper Canyon built confidence, and by midseason Kellis was the team blowing out overmatched opponents like Kofa, Independence and West Point. Before the final two games, the Cougars were even in 5A playoff position. Kullos has already done one of the toughest things to do at Kellis, built belief and momentum for the football program.
Second runner-up: Doug Madoski, Mountain Ridge: While 8-4 is a far different record than 3-6, there is a good argument that the Mountain Lions only won two more games than expected for 2021. But what a two games they were. Both were comebacks that shook the Valley after Mountain Ridge fell behind 35-14. The first, in Week 3 against Centennial, shocked the long standing premier program in the West Valley in the first varsity meeting of the two schools. The second, in the first round at Mountain View, marked the once proud Mountain Ridge program’s first playoff win in 17 season. Look out next year, because most of the key players were juniors or sophomores.
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