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 Hamilton Huskies of 6A Region 2 (Premier).
Photo by Heather Hackett
Mike Zdebski, third season (12-10)
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 9-3
Region record: 2-2, tied for second place in 6A Premier
Playoffs: Open, beat Centennial 28-19 in quarterfinals, lost to Saguaro 20-16 in semifinals
ALL-REGION PLAYERS DEPARTED
LB Jeremiah Trojan, first team
WR Brenden Rice, first team
OL Finley Lecky, first team
DB Jamar Brown, first team
DL Alex Wielert, first team
K/P Brody Kofahi, first team
RB Gabriel Armenta, first team
OL Dylan Mayginnes, second team
RB Sebastian Dorman, second team
QB Nick Arvay, honorable mention
OL Ryan Castillo, honorable mention
WR Kaden Hattendorf, honorable mention
LS Jacob Kneer, honorable mention
DL Domynic Hilton, honorable mention
DB Isaiah Blanco, honorable mention
Oct. 2, Centennial
Oct. 9, Perry
Oct. 16, Chaparral
Oct. 23, at Saguaro
Oct. 30, at Desert Vista
Nov. 6, at Highland
Nov. 13, Higley
Nov. 20, at Chandler
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Nicco Marchiol, 6-2, 215, Jr.
Marchiol transferred in March from Regis Jesuit of Aurora, Colo., where he threw for more than 4,200 yards and 43 touchdowns in his first two seasons. He immediately jumped to No. 2 on the 247Sports list of Arizona’s junior recruits. His arrival means the Huskies won’t skip a beat after the graduation of last year’s starter, Arvay, or the transfer of his top backup, Gavin Goulette (now at Gilbert). “He’s got a strong arm, great vision, and he’s learning the offense,” Zdebski said. “He’s done everything he can to organize the kids and get to know them.”
Nicco Marchiol photo by Annalisa Masunas
WR/CB Zachary Lewis, 5-11, 190, Sr.
A second-team all-region pick and a Nevada commit on defense, Lewis caught 23 passes for 408 yards last year and is the team’s top returning rusher with 136 yards and a touchdown. The third-year starter also made 49 tackles (three for loss) and had 11 pass breakups and three interceptions at corner. “On offense, he gives us a lot of explosiveness,” Zdebski said. “He has solid, dependable hands. He’s a big-play kid for us.”
WR/SS Brady Shough, 6-2, 200, Sr.
An honorable mention all-region pick a year ago, the younger brother of Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough was the Huskies’ second-leading receiver with 36 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns. The sure-handed safety also made 59 tackles, broke up four passes and intercepted two, but Zdebski hopes to limit his snaps on defense this fall. “That should allow him to play faster for all 48 minutes,” Zdebski said. “He’s a big, physical receiver, a good route runner with solid hands, and he plays with a lot of energy.”
Brady Shough photo by Heather Hackett
LB Victor Zayas, 6-1, 220, Sr.
The all-region honorable mention selection anchored the middle of the Huskies’ linebacking corps as a junior, ranking second on the team with 106 tackles to go with seven hurries and three sacks. He’ll move to outside backer this season. “He’s a long kid, a really good high school football player,” Zdebski said.
RB/FS Jack Howell, 6-0, 190, Sr.
The Colorado State commit transferred from Valor Christian in Highlands Ranch, Colo., where he was a jack-of-all-trades for the Eagles. He was a triple-threat on offense, completing 56 percent of his 25 passes, running for 582 yards and 11 touchdowns and catching eight passes. He had 65 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups in the secondary. “He’s a kid who never has a bad day, just always has a smile on his face,” Zdebski said. “He’s as good as any Power 5 kid.”
TE/DE Michael Masunas, 6-4, 240, Jr.
One of the state’s top junior recruits, Masunas transferred over the winter from Tucson Sabino after his family moved for work. He caught 17 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore and had 36 tackles and six sacks as a first-team all-region defensive lineman. He’ll focus on offense this fall, playing tight end and H-back. “He’s learning to be a more physical player (moving up from 3A) and adjusting to that very well,” Zdebski said. “When he gets out into space, defensive backs have a hard time getting him down.”
G/DL Grayson Stovall, 6-4, 295, Jr.
Another of the state’s top juniors, Stovall arrived with Marchiol from Regis Jesuit in the offseason. He had 19 tackles and three hurries in limited action as a sophomore for the Raiders. “A very intellectual young man with great feet and great hands,” Zdebski said. “He’s learning the offense and getting better in space.”
RB/LB Noah Schmidt, 5-11, 195, Sr.
Another Aurora, Colo., transplant, Schmidt arrived on campus in June from Grandview High, where he ran for 1,815 yards and 16 touchdowns on 292 carries as a junior. With 1,000-yard runner Armenta having graduated, the starting tailback job is Schmidt’s to lose. “He’s a hard, physical runner and is learning his responsibilities in the offense,” Zdebski said.
CB Cole Martin, 5-10, 175, Soph.
Martin, the state’s No. 1 sophomore recruit according to 247Sports, entered the program with two FBS offers already in hand and has added several more, including Michigan State, LSU and Oregon. He didn’t disappoint as a freshman, finishing with 38 tackles, five pass breakups and a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown against Mountain Pointe. “He’s as good as any defensive back in the country,” Zdebski said. “He was also a very vocal leader as a freshman, and to see that at that age is not the norm. He’s a very special kid.”
Cole Martin photo by Heather Hackett
WR Christian Anaya, 6-1, 175, Jr.
Anaya caught 22 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns primarily as a slot receiver last year. “He really helps us as that third receiver in the slot,” Zdebski said. “He’s got solid hands and runs really well. As long as he continues to fill out his frame, he’ll be very recruitable.”
OG Alex Bruns, 6-3, 285, Sr.
Bruns is a third player to join the Huskies from Regis Jesuit and a bookend guard with former Raiders teammate Stovall. “He’s shown himself to be a very physical blocker at the point of attack,” Zdebski said. “He’s done a good job of picking the offense up.”
OT Connor Deprez, 6-4, 250, Sr.
Deprez joined the Huskies last year after moving from Carmel, Calif., and has worked his way into a starting role at right tackle. “His feet, his strength, his pass protection skills are all much improved this year,” Zdebski said. “He’s a kid who, you tell him what to do, and he just figures things out.”
Last season was a bounce-back year for the Huskies, who had a streak of 19 playoff appearances (including seven state championships and four runner-up finishes) snapped in Zdebski’s first season after coming over from Walled Lake Western in Michigan, where he won 203 games and was inducted into the state’s Hall of Fame.
They rebounded by qualifying for the first Open Division playoff, and after graduating 15 all-region honorees, they welcome some big-time transfers who give them the look of a repeat Elite 8 team. They are No. 5 in the USA Today West Region rankings.
“They’re going to help us a lot,” said Lewis, who likely will be a two-way starter. “We lost a couple of really key people, and they came in and filled in at the right time.”
With the COVID-19 quarantine leaving teams unable to have organized practices, Lewis said the players got together on their own to acquaint themselves with their new teammates.
“The new guys brought their leadership in with them,” he said. “With our leadership combined with theirs, we’ve got no choice but to come out on top.”
Masunas, one of the high-profile newcomers, agreed that the team’s cohesiveness hasn’t suffered too much despite the quarantine limiting the offseason work.
“We’re all really focused on our main goal, and that’s getting better together,” he said. “All of us having that same goal has really helped.”
Michael Masunas photo by Annalisa Masunas
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
The defensive line is all-new this season, putting even more pressure on a secondary that features four players with FBS or FCS offers.
“The guys who’ve stepped in this year are all athletic, but not real big,” Zdebski said. “I’m concerned about their ability to contain the run game.”
His biggest concern, though, comes with special teams. The Huskies don’t have the big leg of some of their top rivals, “meaning we’ll need to be more strategic than other teams,” Zdebski said. “We have to be very careful and get the kicking game figured out so that it doesn’t become a detriment.”
He also wants to limit the work of his two-way players and develop the depth necessary for the Huskies to be fresh for the stretch run.
If all goes according to plan, the season finale at Chandler will be for the region title and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the Open bracket.
“We now have a solid six or seven guys on the offensive line, but we need our third and fourth guys at each position to come through and be somebody we can depend on.” — Mike Zdebski