CASA GRANDE — This football season was one for the record books as the 4A Conference championship game came down to Casa Grande Union and Poston Butte; and the two Pinal County teams did not disappoint on the biggest stage at Sun Devil Stadium.
It’s only fitting that the biggest offensive threats for both teams grab the top honors in PinalCentral’s all-county team.
PinalCentral’s Player of the Year goes to CG Union quarterback Angel Flores as he helped lead the undefeated Cougars (13-0) to their first ever state championship in the Arizona Interscholastic Association playoff era.
Flores posted a 76% completion rate (149 of 195) in 13 games with 2,671 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and four interceptions. The senior also posted impressive stats on the ground as he rushed for 1,292 yards and 19 touchdowns, including seven 100-yard games.
Runner-up for Player of the Year is Poston Butte running back Octavious Joe. Joe was a wrecking ball against opposing defensive lines as he rushed for 2,067 yards and 21 touchdowns. The senior finished second in the state in rushing yards and averaged 159 rushing yards per game in 13 games.
The rest of the skill position players, on the all-county first team offense include Apache Junction’s Isaiah Savoie at running back, at the wide receiver and tight end position are Apache Junction’s Garrett Garcia, Combs’ Hunter Clare and CG Union’s Demetrius Garrett. At flex player is Poston Butte’s Drew Dalmacio.
In his sophomore season, Savoie led the ground attack for the Prospectors as he rushed for 1,702 yards and 24 touchdowns. He averaged 170.2 yards per game and had nine 100-yard games.
Savoie’s teammate in Garcia was also part of Apache Junction’s three-headed monster which also included quarterback Gavin Limongello. Garcia was the only receiver in the county with over 1,000 receiving yards (1,361). The junior averaged 17.2 yards per catch and had 13 touchdowns.
Clare was a bright spot for a Coyotes team that struggled this season. The junior had 46 receptions for 800 yards as he averaged 17.4 yards per catch with 10 touchdowns.
CG Union’s Garrett was the savior of the Cougars’ title hopes as he was the one on the opposite end of Flores’ 57-yard pass on fourth and 10, which set up the game winning touchdown run. Garrett finished the season with 37 receptions for 747 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 20.2 yard per catch.
Dalmacio provided a lot of spark for the Broncos’ offense as he tossed 1,096 yards and had a 62% completion rate to go with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. On the ground he ran in 19 scores on 725 rushing yards. He was also named to the 4A Conference First Team as a long snapper.
The first-team offensive line features CG Union’s Nick Anaya, Poston Butte’s Cade Alisa, Sequoia Pathway’s Raymond Sampaga as well as Santa Cruz Valley’s Robert Maldonado and Tanzor GIl.
Anaya spent his whole career on the Cougars’ varsity team and was a big reason CG Union managed to grind out over 3,000 rushing yards as a team. The 5-10, 295-pound center snagged first team all-conference honors in 4A.
Alisa, a 6-5 and 310 pound junior, was a force for the Broncos at offensive tackle. Like Anaya he was also named to the 4A all-conference first team.
For the Pumas, who played in their first AIA post season, Sampaga at 6-4 and 265 pounds was an honorable mention in the 2A Conference.
Throughout their whole careers as Dust Devils, Maldonado and Gil are two players opponents hate to see on the other side of the ball. Maldonado was name to the all-conference second team on offense and Gil was first team in the Rillito Region. Both were equally as impressive on the defensive side of the ball as Gil made first-team all conference and Maldonado was second-team all conference.
Switching over to defense, first team honors for the defensive linemen go to Bobby Gaitan of Poston Butte, Kyrese Banks of Sequoia Pathway and Brodee Tucker of Combs.
Gaitan had 59 tackles for the Broncos and a staggering 23 tackles for a loss. He led the team with eight sacks for 66 yards and recovered a fumble. The junior was named to first team all conference in 4A.
Banks who is just a sophomore racked up 66 tackles, 17 of which for a loss. He had seven sacks for 36 yards and recovered a fumble for the Pumas. He was an honorable mention in the 2A conference.
Finally a senior, Tucker has been an integral part of the Coyotes program his whole career. While he finished his final year with 63 tackles, it’s the 30.5 tackles for a loss stat that’s a real eye opener. Tucker had 16 sacks for 124 yards and also had one fumble recovery as he was named first team all-conference in 4A.
At linebacker, the all-county first team includes Sequoia Pathway’s Norien Banks, Maricopa’s Ian Palm, Combs’ Connor Wiles and Poston Butte’s Riley Nolan.
Norien Banks led the Pumas with 111 tackles, the sophomore averaged 11.1 tackles per game and had 42 tackles for a loss. He averaged 1.5 sacks per game and finished the season with 15 for 94 yards. He also had one interception for 49 yards and recovered three fumbles for 62 yards, and blocked a punt.
On a young and inexperienced Rams team under a first-year head coach, Palm was a staple on defense with 92 tackles, 17 were for a loss. The junior led the team with 6.5 sacks for 46 yards and recovered two fumbles.
Wiles led the Coyotes in tackles with 99 and averaged 9.9 per game. He was second on the team in sacks with four for 27 yards and had one interception for 46 yards. The junior also recovered a fumble and blocked a punt.
Nolan, a senior, had 104 tackles, including 15 for a loss. He had 2.5 sacks for 13 yards and also had one interception and a fumble recovery. He was named second team all-conference in 4A.
In the secondary, the all-county first team includes Amari Gilmore of Poston Butte, Andon Diaz of CG Union, Jalil Bishop of Coolidge and Devon Elliot of American Leadership Academy-Ironwood.
Gilmore led the Broncos with 109 tackles while averaging 7.8 per game. He snagged three interceptions for 55 yards and was named first team all-conference in 4A.
Diaz was a hawk in the secondary for the Cougars as he set a new school record for interceptions. The junior grabbed 10 for 147 yards and also had a 23-yard fumble recovery.
For the Bears, Bishop had 68 tackles and forced three fumbles. The sophomore had five interceptions for 82 yards and was named first team in the 3A Central region.
In their first successful AIA season, after many winless ones, the Warriors finished with a 4-6 record. Elliot helped lay down the foundation on defense during his two season on varsity. The senior racked up 68 tackles and also had five interceptions for 102 yards.
At the defensive flex position, Sequoia Pathway’s Jyrie Gamble was an all-around playmaker. The safety had 36 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery and four interceptions for 114 yards in his senior season.
The first team special team unit includes Poston Butte’s Juan Castaneda at kicker, Coolidge’s Tad Lynch at punter and Sequoia Pathway’s Tre Lacey at return specialist.
Castaneda was 2-for-2 in field goal attempts with a long of 23 yards, and he hit 52 of 57 extra-point attempts.
Lynch who was a threat at many positions for the Bears, averaged 45.1 yards per punt and had four fall inside the 20-yard line. He was named first team all-conference as a punter in 3A.
Lacey’s speed was critical for the Pumas at running back and it also came in handy on special teams as he averaged 49.8 yards per kickoff return. He had 518 kick return yards for three touchdowns, with his longest being 99 yards.