7-on-7 prepares Mustangs for life without Cord

Sunrise Mountain’s Jay Anderson (5) sprints for the endzone on a 66 yard touchdown run against Cactus during the first half of their 4A football game on Friday Oct. 7, 2016. (Ralph Freso for West Valley Preps)

By Jeff Edgington, Special to Independent Newsmedia

Chase Cord received his diploma. The rest of the 4A Conference — especially district rivals Cactus and Peoria — can relax.

Not so fast, Coach Steve Decker has a new plan in the works.

Although one quarterback has separated himself recently, the Mustangs could utilize an approach that features junior Keegan Freid and sophomore Alex Giannola both throwing it. At times the offense may even get creative and have them on the field together.

“Keegan has started to pull away when we went to California and here when we went to Prescott. But we have two capable of leading this offense, and 7-on-7 tourneys for us are huge.

It’s everything we will do on both sides of the ball. Our progress is actually a little ahead of where we planned to be at this stage. Going into camp in early July (at Cal Lutheran) I’m pleased,” the second-year head coach said.

The Mustangs will replace 16 of 22 starters. But the youngsters waiting in the corral competed very well in a prestigious San Diego State University camp in mid-June.

Decker said Sunrise Mountain was a few breakdowns away from being right up there with Chandler Hamilton and Phoenix Pinnacle (who played for the Championship).

No sleeping for this bunch. As soon as they returned from southern California they went to Prescott Valley.

The Mustangs were victorious in Bradshaw Mountain’s 7-on-7 Tournament. In order they beat Peoria, Boulder Creek, Buckeye Verrado’s B team, Tempe Marcos de Niza, Casa Grande Vista Grande, and then Scottsdale Horizon for the title.

Then, on June 16, Sunrise Mountain reached the semifinals of the Arizona Football Coaches Association tournament in Maricopa before falling to Hamilton.

This will help the young Mustangs in the near to immediate future.

More depth on the offensive line would be a perk. Coach Decker said the team has five starters who he feels can carry the load. The line returns experienced players. If it holds and the Mustangs can find another piece or two, the offense should have a good foundation.

Replacing some key contributors like Zack Pells and Garret Veldhuizen on offense will be the task for these summer months and tournaments. Decker said he was optimistic about three key pieces.

Receiver Jay Anderson, tailback Drake Flores, and receiver Angel Ruiz seek to move the chains. Anderson and Flores are just juniors.

Defensively, the team loses a wrecking ball at linebacker in Frank Masiano. Gavin Chaddock returns on the veteran-laden defensive line.

But the Mustangs return their top tackler and a vital part of their secondary in Bobby Ramirez. The senior defensive back was excited for the second year under Decker.

“We have to keep grinding every day. Getting bigger, stronger, and faster that’s it. To compete with the Saguaro’s and Higley’s we have to keep focused,” Ramirez said.

As for the relatively difficult schedule, Liberty (week three), Saguaro (week five), Cactus (week seven), and Peoria (week eight) figure to be the four to circle on the calendar.

In an ever improving West Valley Region, winning a fourth straight region title will require building some depth on both lines.

They’ll have a few weeks to rest before the grind of fall practice intensifies in late July as well as thinking about the daunting schedule.

“It’ll be fun playing Liberty again,” added Ramirez with a grin. “I also wrestle and haven’t lost to them. So that’d be pretty cool.”

Editor’s note: Mr. Edgington is a Scottsdale-based freelance writer.

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