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 Valley Vista Monsoon of 6A Region 7 (Southwest).
Josh Sekoch, ninth season (48-36)
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 7-4
Region record: 4-1, second place in 6A Southwest
Playoffs: Lost to Highland 47-0 in first round
ALL-REGION PLAYERS DEPARTED
DB/WR Makai Obregon – 1st Team defense, Honorable Mention offense
KR/RB Henry Brown – 1st Team special teams, 2nd Team offense
OL Andrew Rumary – 1st Team
DL Daryon Lee – 2nd Team
LB Trenton Foster – 2nd Team
RB Aiden Cunningham – 2nd Team
DB Tommy Thompson – Honorable Mention
RB Yazid Tyler – Honorable Mention
10/2 vs. Agua Fria
10/9 at Notre Dame Prep
10/16 vs. Westview
10/23 at La Joya
10/30 at Mountain Ridge
11/6 at O’Connor
11/13 at Boulder Creek
11/20 vs. Shadow Ridge
PLAYERS TO WATCH
DE/TE Jaelin McCullen – JR.
McCullen was first team all-region as a sophomore and is considered by many to have some of the highest upside among Arizona defensive linemen in the Class of 2022. At 6-3, 230, and with long arms and good agility, McCullen is just getting started. He also could be an impact tight end — he tallied nearly 200 yards receiving last season and is a strong blocker.
QB Burton Delay IV – SR.
The Monsoon aren’t returning any of their featured options at running back, but they’ll still have one of their top rushers back from last season. Delay is a dual-threat quarterback who received all-region honorable mention last year, when he passed for 1,847 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 394 yards and five scores.
WR/PR Liam Kelleher – SR.
The depth of the Monsoon’s receiving corps is a question mark, but the group will be led by one of the top wideouts in the region. Despite facing constant double-coverage, Kelleher last season led Valley Vista with 623 receiving yards in earning first-team all-region recognition. He made the second team as a punt returner. Delay and Kelleher could emerge as the Southwest’s top quarterback/receiver combination.
LB/SS Vernon Thompson – SR.
Thompson appeared in only five games last season, one of which was a playoff contest, and that still was good enough for him to receive all-region honorable mention. He excels at both outside linebacker and strong safety, and his versatility could help Valley Vista confuse opponents with different defensive schemes.
LB Jeremiah Ruiz – SR.
Another versatile outside linebacker, Ruiz has agility in coverage and the size to punish up front. He was third on last year’s team in tackles for loss and fourth in tackles and quarterback hurries, earning all-region honorable mention.
C Jayden Lay – JR.
How many offensive linemen at strong football programs can say they’ve received meaningful varsity playing time since their freshman year? Very few. Lay was an all-region honorable mention pick as a sophomore and is likely to keep improving as an upperclassman.
CB Angel Gomez – SR.
At just 5-6, Gomez has the quickness and strength to be an impact cornerback. As a junior he was one of the team’s leading tacklers — a rare feat for someone who spends most of his time in coverage.
Last year was like most years for Valley Vista under Sekoch — doing well in region play and making the playoffs without a ton of star power. This season likely won’t feature an abundance of star-caliber talent, either, but in a wide-open Region 7, the Monsoon could finish atop the region standings.
Valley Vista graduated eight all-region seniors, and three of them were running backs. The Monsoon will need somebody to emerge as a dependable feature back to allow Delay, Kelleher and Co. to do what they do best. Jayvon Hampton got some reps as a junior backup and is likely the top candidate to be that guy. If Valley Vista can get enough at running back to keep defenses honest, and the pillars of the aerial attack continue to improve, this could be one of the top offenses in the Southwest.
Even a region title does not guarantee a playoff berth, though — especially with the 6A bracket shrinking from 16 teams to eight this season. To make the postseason this year, the Monsoon would need to be markedly better than they usually are.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
The amount of parity in the Southwest is unusual for a six-team region. Valley Vista will need to fight every week to stay afloat.
The running back situation could become a substantial issue if no one steps up early in the season. Returning a quarterback and star receiver doesn’t mean much if defenses can sink into coverage comfortably. Delay can gain major yardage on the ground, but relying on a QB as the primary running threat is usually not sustainable against strong competition.
Still, with the continuity in the program and Sekoch’s track record, it’s unlikely the team will suddenly fall off this year. Expect the Monsoon to contend for a region title and at least be in the discussion for a playoff spot.