Following the Aug. 16 preseason football scrimmage at Davis Field between Apache Junction and Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Prospectors Coach Vance Miller had one question:
“How about that D-line?” Miller asked rhetorically. “Defensively, I think we’re there. We have a few things to clean up in the secondary, but up front, no one’s going to run the ball on us. You could see that.”
In scrimmages, teams do not wear their varsity uniforms, the score is not kept, and coaches are allowed on the field. Mostly, it’s a fine-tuning exercise before opening the season on Aug. 23.
“We ran a lot of different personnel groups,” Miller said. “About every five plays, we were in different groups, different sets, so we could see what would work and what wouldn’t.
“If they scored or moved the ball, it wasn’t because we were out of position. We looked at it like that’s a set we’d have to scrap or work on. That’s what we were looking for.”
Miller said that on offense, “we saw what offenses usually are.”
“They need to get punched in the mouth a little bit by the defense a little bit, and I’m sure South Mountain would say the same thing.
“We were trying to put ourselves in a comfortable situation so we could iron out our wrinkles. So, when we were hot, we were hot.”
Miller acknowledged that both teams were ready to go against someone other than their own teammates.
“We needed to hit somebody besides ourselves,” he said. “So, we thank Desert Mountain for being gracious enough to come down. I’m sure they were feeling the same way. They’re tired of hitting themselves over the last few weeks.
“Desert Mountain did a great job of showing us a lot of different looks, which helped us make adjustments.
“I’m very happy about the scrimmage
“We have a lot of room to grow, but we’re happy with what we saw. We identified everything we need to clean up, and it’s all doable.
“Now, we’re going to work on some personnel groups and some sets, and get after North Canyon next week.”
Last year, the 4A Black Canyon Region champion Prospectors finished 7-4. Citing team health and a productive preseason, Miller is excited about the 2019 season.
“We’re looking good. We’re healthy, and that’s the most important part,” Miller said. “We don’t have a lot of depth -- we’re not a huge team -- so staying healthy is the most important part of our game plan.
“We’re still able to get 11 guys on both sides of the ball, along with a few guys who share reps on both sides. That helps keep us fresh throughout the game.”
Senior quarterback Gibson Limongello, whose running ability is a key part of the Prospectors’ offense, had very few running plays called in the scrimmage.
As a junior, Limongello completed 98 of 183 passes for 1,459 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“I don’t want to say we were one dimensional, we were less dimensional. We had to calm down on quarterback-type runs. If anyone has seen Gibby run, the first guy’s not going to tackle him, and the second guy probably won’t tackle him either. So, we’re pretty confident in what we’re doing,”
With Limongello back for his third season as varsity quarterback, the Prospectors offense also has the runners and receivers to give opponents something to think about.
In the backfield, seniors Chris Lohman, Anthony Reyes and Ethan Labrue will do most of the running.
“Chris has shown some good work. We’ll work on his pass protection a little bit,” Miller said. “On running the ball, he doesn’t want to be compared to his brother (William, who ran for 1,272 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior last season).”
The receiving corps includes sophomore Jordan Morris, junior Cameron Garcia and seniors Tommy Ryan and Jayden Erschen.
“Erschen showed great hands in the scrimmage, and Cameron is always clutch with his speed. Tommy has no fear on our slants,” Miller said.
Returning linemen include seniors Ethan Wright, Clayton Young, Santiago Gonzales, Michael Jada, and Nenad Djuric; plus sophomores Ace Erickson and JC Taylor, and juniors Roman Yashchuk and Zayden Furnish.
On defense, it all starts up front for the Prospectors, with seniors Cody Arbogast, Nicolas Moorhead and Labrue. Plus, an X-factor.
“We started a freshman (Gavin Weeks) at 6-foot, 305 pounds, but he doesn’t move like that. He can move, and we’re teaching him football. He’s raw, but whatever we teach him, he’s learning it, so there’s no bad habits.
“We’re not sure if he’s going to play on the freshmen team or the varsity team -- it depends on his productivity.’
Linebackers are seniors Jada and Zach Langenbach, and junior Brody Bullard.
“Brody just killed it in the scrimmage. The kid was in on everything and if he was going to hit you, you felt it.”
The defensive secondary includes sophomore Jordan Digos, seniors Gino Andrade and Cas Casperson, and junior Aydin Franko
“We’ve got some experience back there, just have some little things to clean up.”
On special teams, Morris takes over punting along with his placekicking chores.
“Best thing is, about 90 percent of our special teams players are back from last year, so they came out knowing exactly what we’re doing.
Miller figures his Prospectors have a shot at placing in the top eight of the AIA’s 4A poll by season’s end, which could translate into playoff success.
“There’s a top eight out there that’s really good, like Cactus, Peoria and Desert Edge. We’re going to battle to be in that top eight,” Miller said.
“But I think if we can get into that top eight this year, we have a chance to move into the second round. I’m optimistic.
“If these guys can stay healthy, they can perform a lot of miracles. It’s going to be awesome!”