SBLive Arizona will preview every 6A football team in the state leading up to the 2020 high school football season. Here’s our look at the Shadow Ridge Stallions of 6A Region 7 (Southwest).
Sean Hegarty, first season
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 6-4
Region record: 2-3, fourth place in 6A Southwest
Playoffs: Did not qualify
ALL-REGION PLAYERS DEPARTED
OL Isaiah Mercado – 1st Team (1st Team all-6A)
RB Michael Clark – 1st Team (2nd Team all-6A)
DE/DT Jayden Jackson – 1st Team
LB Casey Lowe – 1st Team
DB/K/P Josh Cano – 1st Team
QB Kaiden Lansford – 2nd Team
WR Andrew Shahan – Honorable Mention
LB Anthony Salamanca – Honorable Mention
10/2 vs. Basha
10/9 vs. Westwood
10/16 vs. Mountain Pointe
10/23 vs. Sandra Day O’Connor
10/30 at La Joya Community
11/6 at Boulder Creek
11/13 vs. Mountain Ridge
11/20 at Valley Vista
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OL Jack Chappelle – SR.
Shadow Ridge’s elite offensive line set the tone last season, and the Stallions are expecting a repeat performance in 2020. At 6-5, 295, Chappelle is coming off a second-team all-region campaign and will lead the charge.
OL Chris Stoica – SR.
Another Shadow Ridge lineman coming off an all-region junior year (honorable mention), Stoica will play guard. With three starting offensive linemen returning (and two who were all-region), the Stallions might have the top offensive line in the Southwest.
WR Zachary Sutton – SR.
The Stallions didn’t throw the ball a bunch last season, but when they did, Sutton was very steady. His 333 receiving yards and 20 receptions were team-high marks that were good enough to earn him second-team all-region honors.
DT Carson McNutt – SR.
At 6-0 and more than 275 pounds, McNutt is a force at defensive tackle. He registered 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced safety last season. That earned him an honorable mention in all-region voting, but considering how his play improved nearly every week, bigger things could be in store this year.
FS Huston Mitton – SR.
With 52 tackles in 10 games from the safety position, Mitton received an all-region honorable mention last season. He will be looked upon to anchor the secondary in 2020.
LB Hayden Ortiz – SR.
Ortiz is another Shadow Ridge senior who received honorable mention all-region last year. He’s undersized for a linebacker at 5-8, 160, but he packs a punch. He tallied 48 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks as a junior.
LS/DE Kyle Springer – SR.
Last year, Springer was a second-team all-region long snapper who also played well in limited action at defensive end. Now he’s bulked up from 180 pounds to 210. He might emerge as an impact defensive lineman while remaining a premier special teams player.
The Stallions’ goals are clear in Hegarty’s first season — a winning record, a region title and a playoff berth.
It would be a challenge for any team to lose the talent Shadow Ridge graduated — with five first-team all-region honorees having departed — and improve the following year. But the Stallions are coming off a winning season that nearly landed them in the playoffs, and Hegarty brings a spread offense that should help Shadow Ridge deal with the loss of star running back Michael Clark.
While there is substantial roster uncertainty, a winning record and region title are attainable. Region 7 might be the most wide-open region in 6A, so while any team could lose to any team on any given night, any team also could run the table.
Reaching the playoffs will be more difficult than usual this season — only eight teams will make the 6A field, rather than the usual 16. That might not bode well for a team such as the Stallions, who were on the playoff bubble last year before graduating some of their best players. But with the potential for any team in Region 7 to emerge as the alpha — including a Shadow Ridge squad returning senior talent on both sides of the ball — a playoff appearance is not impossible.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
Because of the smaller bracket and the parity in Region 7, there’s a solid chance nobody makes the playoffs from the Southwest. The most realistic scenario for the Stallions is contending for a region title, competing in every game and building toward a playoff push in the coming seasons.
“When the (pandemic-related) restrictions were put in place, it was a difficult couple of days. … I reached out to my staff and athletes to begin Zoom install meetings. … The district allowed us to begin our summer weight room and conditioning program on June 1 with all three levels. The coaches and athletes truly bought-in to the process and followed the strict protocols both in the weight room and on the field. I couldn’t be prouder of the commitment displayed by the athletes and coaching staff throughout the summer months.
“This group of young men has done an incredible job adapting to constant changes while keeping a positive attitude. Their ability to roll with the punches and follow ever-changing protocols has made them stronger as a team and individuals. This is true for every athlete and coach in the program as well.” — Sean Hegarty