For all the hype and water cooler attention fantasy football gets these days, I thought it best to pick a fantasy football team of my own and share it with our readers.

Since everyone and their mother picks professional players from the NFL in fantasy football, I thought it would be fun to buck tradition and pick amateur football players this season from our biggest three schools in the Verde Valley.


The talent pool is deep, to say the least, with Camp Verde, Sedona Red Rock and Mingus Union high schools football squads ready to begin the 2010 season.


We’ll use a basic fantasy football statistical format to keep stats for these young stars, which was my basis in picking these particular players.

For my starters, senior quarterback Nick Alred leads the way. Alred had a fantastic junior year with 75 completions for over 1,200 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. His legs were useful as well, with 123 carries for 827 yards and seven touchdowns in Bob Young’s option offense.

Senior teammate Juan Gonzalez starts for me at runningback. Gonzalez had 101 carries for 757 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009. Gonzalez wasn’t much of an option in the flat however, catching only five passes last season but those numbers should improve in 2010.

In Camp Verde, junior playmaker Kody Rayburn gets the nod at my other runningback position. Rayburn wasn’t much of a factor in 2009 but is sure to have a standout season in 2010 after he gained five inches and 30 pounds over the summer.

At wide receiver, Sedona junior Bradley Cox is going to have a stellar year in Scorpions purple. In 2009, Cox caught 16 balls for 277 yards and one touchdown, but with new Head Coach Rick Walsworth at the helm, Cox will be a run option on sweep plays, as well as catch passes in the flat, making him a can’t miss pick for my team.

Junior Deshon Tripp had only 18 catches for 258 yards last season but should be more of a focus this season in Camp Verde with Ty Wantland and Donovan Kilby having graduated.

At my third wide receiver position, senior Carson Sandoval should have a solid season for Mingus.

At tight end, senior Mingus teammate Nate Westcott should have plenty of opportunity to catch a few passes from Alred this season.
For my kicker, Sedona junior Jack Johnson will get all the reps this season since I didn’t pick a back-up.

As for my defense, I would have to go with the Marauders on this one. The boys in red and grey were one of the top defenses in the 4A-II conference last season, if not the state, with more than 35 sacks, 13 interceptions and over 1,100 tackles.

Speaking of defense, not many avid fantasy football players get a chance to pick defensive players but I thought, why the heck not?

At defensive back, I must go with Gonzalez for Mingus, who is one of the more ligit safeties in Arizona high school football. Gonzalez had 140 tackles, 10 sacks and three interceptions to lead the defense for the Marauders in 2009. Gonzalez is a surefire All-State selection come December.

At linebacker, I will go with senior Tanner Rezzonico, who should have a great season for Camp Verde in 2010. Rezzonico had 75 tackles and one sack in 2009.

On the defensive line, junior Jordan Pickett looks to have a good season for Sedona, clogging up the middle and making tackles.

On my bench, there were several players pushing for a starting job beginning with Mingus linebacker Matt Chavez. Chavez had 80 tackles, 9.5 sacks and three passes defended in 2009.

Johnson, for Sedona, is an easy pick for the back-up quarterback on my team while Camp Verde wide out Jake Spleiss and tight end Chris Zellner should have solid seasons for the Cowboys.

Camp Verde would be my selection for the back-up defense and Sedona newcomer Ashor Samano will fill in nicely at runningback if Gonzalez or Rayburn gets injured.

Samano is a junior transfer from Chicago and is already one of the best players for Sedona this season.
Below is my roster of players explained in this article and an explanation of the statistical point system for 2010.

If interested in giving me your own fantasy football team for our local high schools, send me an e-mail and I’ll take a look. At the end of the season, I’ll print the results of the top fantasy football team.


High School Fantasy Football Roster


QB    Nick Alred    Senior    Mingus Union
RB    Juan Gonzalez    Senior    Mingus Union
RB    Kody Rayburn    Junior    Camp Verde
WR    Bradley Cox    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
WR    Deshon Tripp    Junior    Camp Verde
WR    Carson Sandoval    Senior    Mingus Union
TE    Nate Westcott    Senior    Mingus Union
K    Jack Johnson    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
DEF    Mingus Union
DB    Juan Gonzalez    Senior    Mingus Union
LB    Tanner Rezzonico    Senior    Camp Verde
DL    Jordan Pickett    Junior    Sedona Red Rock


QB    Jack Johnson    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
RB    Ashor Samano    Junior    Sedona Red Rock
WR    Jake Spleiss    Junior    Camp Verde
TE    Chris Zellner    Junior    Camp Verde
DEF    Camp Verde
DP    Matt Chavez    Senior    Mingus Union

Statistical categories

Passing:    20 yards passing    1 point
Completions    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Interceptions    -2 points
Rushing:    10 yards rushing    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Fumbles lost    -2 points
Receiving:    10 yards receiving    1 point
Catches    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Kicking:    Extra points    1 point
Field Goal [1-19 yards]    3 points
Field Goal [20-29 yards]    3 points
Field Goal [30-39 yards]    4 points
Field Goal [40-49 yards]    5 points
Field Goal [50+ yards]    6 points
Defense:    Tackles    1 point
Take aways    1 point
Touchdowns    6 points
Individual Defense:    Tackles    1 point
Interceptions    1 point
Sacks    1 point
Passes defensed    1 point

The 2010-2011 school year is sure to have plenty of exciting games to watch, players to cheer and story lines to cover over the next 10 months.

It seems like the first day of school gets earlier every year, but Mingus Union High School, Camp Verde High School and Sedona Red Rock High School are all a week or so away from their respective start dates.


Being the Midwest corn-fed boy that I am, this starting school before Labor day business is a little strange, especially when two of the three schools start classes in the middle of next week.
August brings excitement for me to tell you the truth.

Not that the two-plus months of summer aren’t fun in June and July, but it seems the hotter it gets, the fewer sporting events there are to cover.

This fall, all three high schools have their own exciting story lines that should unfold as time goes by, some of which are more interesting than others.

For starters, the biggest questions surround the Marauders football team in Cottonwood.
With almost everyone returning, can Mingus get back to the state championship game like it did in 2008 and this time finally win the big one?

Santa Rita High School ended Mingus’ season last year in the state semifinals, handing the Marauders their only loss of the season as they finished 12-1.

With most of the players coming back as seniors this year, it’s quite possible the boys in red and gray will bring home a title.

Sticking with Mingus, Athletic Director Mike Boysen hired a new swim coach this summer, Erin Estes, who is looking to continue the great work Rick Heisley did in bringing home a Grand Canyon title for the girls.

Out on the trails, can Jim Bostwick and his cross country team repeat what they did in 2009 when they took home a 4A-II state championship?

Over in Camp Verde, the Cowboys football team graduated a few seniors, including All-State quarterback Mike Boler, but Head Coach Luke Steege always has a few tricks up his sleeve.

In soccer, Dave Miller and his boys are certainly going to be in the mix for a 2A state championship this season, having lost in the state quarterfinals last season with many young players who are coming back.

Of course, Sedona is never missing from any water cooler discussions at this time of year.

The defending 2A-3A state swimming champs are back for the Scorpions this season, and the girls cross country team under the tutelage of Head Coach Harry Schneider could win a state championship this season at the 3A level.

In volleyball, Head Coach John Parks led a strong group of girls to the school’s first final four appearance but lost to eventual state champion Monument Valley High School.

Although Sedona lost a few seniors, the program is strong, and the Scorpions are primed for another run in 2010.

As for football, the Scorpions haven’t been the strongest team in recent years. In fact, they’ve been downright horrible, but with new Head Coach Rick Walsworth running the show all summer, it seems a new era is about to begin, even if it doesn’t mean a whole lot of wins in 2010.

It’s good to be back, folks, so get your tickets and enjoy the show because the fall 2010 season is going to be a whole lot of fun.

Since there are no stock car races, go-cart sprints or dirt tracks to cover in the Verde Valley, I guess the only plausible option is to cover the local roundabouts.

 Like NASCAR, except every day of the week instead of just Sunday afternoons, thousands of cars pass through our local roundabouts and most motorists have figured out how to use them.

 However, some drivers still haven’t mastered the traffic circles, as evidenced when a big black SUV turned left into oncoming traffic, the complete opposite of the way it should be going.

 Ever seen a driver want to turn right with the flow of traffic, but stop, proceed past the middle section and then turn right onto oncoming traffic? I have, and it’s quite laughable.

 Not laughable would be when someone actually uses the roundabout correctly and a big 18-wheel semitruck comes dashing through, taking up every foot of space and squeezing you between him and Nancy’s art displayed center stage within the roundabout.

 Of course, the most obvious violation of our new roundabout madness are the drivers who completely stop while still in the flow of the circle, not only upsetting those trapped behind them but making those at the yield sign escalate to their craziness point and yell, “Your turn…,” add any expletive of your choice to fill in the blank.

 So how do we solve this roundabout madness? Should we invite locals and tourists alike to take a class called Roundabout 101? Should we set up a driver’s education course online for the computer literate?

 How about a written test during the driver’s exam when the young ones get their permits? In fact, how about making it part of the checklist the Motor Vehicle Division employees can mark off while on a road test?

 In the end, there is no exact answer, but to add to the roundabout madness I’m calling for a new sport to hit the streets using none other than … Big Wheels.

 My fantastic idea would not only solve the lack of racing coverage in the Verde Valley, but also give the locals something to cheer about instead of calling out for the man upstairs to fix our roundabout problem all while behind the wheel, drinking a cup of coffee, eating a doughnut and sending a text message to their loved one to find out what’s up.

 Wouldn’t it be exciting to see local business owners and other sponsors fighting to get in line to throw money at their favorite Big Wheel driver?

 Let’s just call it the Verde Valley Circuit. Patent pending.

 Each Verde Valley police department can shut down a certain roundabout when it becomes their weekend for a race for just the afternoon.

 In Sedona, we could hold our first race of the Big Wheel season at the busiest roundabout in town, at the intersection previously known as the ‘Y’ and now lovingly called the ‘O.’

 The city could call it the Red Rock Big Wheel 400 sponsored by ... pick any local business you would like. I think lots of local business owners would jump all over this one.

 Race fans would turn out by the hundreds to see 40 to 50 people strap themselves into a Big Wheel and pedal as fast as possible for an hour or so.

 Of course, there would be prizes for the winners like a gift certificate to a local pizzeria or even a toy store to buy bigger and better Big Wheels.

 How about the pit crew? We must have a pit crew stationed somewhere along the roundabout for each driver and their plastic vehicle with water and sports drink refreshments.

 Before each race gets started we would have the proverbial “Drivers, start your engines.”

 Since the Big Wheels make no sound whatsoever, we could have either the drivers make the sounds themselves or even a loudspeaker play it for the crowd.

 For the national anthem we would have our local talented singer, Courtney Grieco, winner of the Sedona Sunrise Superstar competition. Sedona Mayor Rob Adams could wave the checkered flag to signal the beginning and end of the race.

For Camp Verde and Cottonwood, the theme would be the same, especially in Camp Verde where the Cliff Castle Casino roundabout would bring the gambling crowd.

 Either way, these Big Wheel races sound like a fun alternative to the everyday madness of driving.

 Start your Big Wheels!

While 2010 steamrolls into the summer months, I find it more and more entertaining each time I put together my monthly column and the June edition is no different.

Last week, we recognized athletes for their performances on the field as All-State and All-Region team awards were announced, which were decided by a coaches panel within their respective conferences and regions.

In this column, like I did in the March 3 edition for the winter season, I would like to recognize the high schools I cover here in the Verde Valley by designating top-achieving individuals, teams and coaches for the spring season.

For my “team of the year” vote, I chose the Camp Verde High School baseball team for a fantastic spring.

Despite their 6-5 loss to Bourgade Catholic High School in the 2A conference state finals a few weekends ago, the 21-9 Cowboys came together as a team in late April and made a run to remember in the state playoffs.

The Cowboys defeated Williams High School [19-6], Northwest Christian Academy [11-1] and powerhouse Valley Christian Academy [3-1] to reach the finals.

Led by seniors Mike Boler, Curtis Hawk, Randy Justus, Taylor Mathews and Aaron Stutzman, their special run this spring will be something to remember for years to come.

For the runner-up “team of the year” award I have to go with the Sedona Red Rock High School boys track and field team, which claimed a 3A conference state championship May 15 and won a 3A West region title.

The Scorpions might have taken the top team award if it were not for the individual nature of the sport, but that doesn’t take away from what Sedona accomplished in earning its first boys track and field state title this spring.

Also, I would like to give an honorable mention to the Verde Valley School girls tennis team for the “team of the year” award by jumping right into my “surprise team of the year” award, which goes to the Coyotes.

Led by seniors Cassi Kovac and Sarah Jane Slater, the Coyotes went on to defeat Duncan High School in the 1A conference state tennis team tournament, 5-4.

During the process, Kovac claimed her second straight singles state title.

Verde Valley Athletic Director Matt Moran officially called it, stating these girls were fit to win a title, and surprisingly enough, they did.

Not bad for a small private high school nestled somewhere in the Village of Oak Creek that not too many people know about around these parts.

Receiving the runner-up “surprise team of the year” award is the Mingus Union High School girls track and field team.

The Marauders had one of their best seasons in recent memory and claimed a 4A-II Grand Canyon region championship, and also won the Winslow Invitational, one of the biggest meets in Arizona.

Also, the Sedona boys tennis team deserves a little something for their 1A-3A West region championship. I’ll give them the “surprise team of the year” honorable mention award.

My decision for the “coach of the year” award was a difficult one with so many coaches doing a great job this spring.

I believe Sedona track and field Head Coach Harry Schneider is my pick, however, as he led his boys team to a state championship and the Scorpion girls team to state runner-up.

The girls won it all in 2007 under the tutelage of Schneider, and now with a boys title this spring, Schneider has turned the Scorpions track and field program into a powerhouse.

Schneider did receive the 3A West coach of the year award after being selected by his peers.

Runner-up in the “coach of the year” award vote would be Camp Verde baseball Head Coach Steve Hicks, who in his first season worked his magic and took the Cowboys to a state championship game.

Mad scientist anyone?

For my “athlete of the year” award, I would like to congratulate senior Mingus baseball player Hunter Zwart.

Zwart hit .467 at the plate this season with a team-leading nine home runs and 41 RBIs while recording 11 doubles and three triples along the way.

In 40⅔ innings pitched, Zwart was 5-1 while boasting a 2.58 ERA, allowing only 32 hits and striking out 38 batters.

Zwart was selected as the 2010 4A-II Grand Canyon region MVP and will play in the North-South All-Star game which takes place Saturday, June 5, at Surprise Stadium with a first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.

My runner-up for “athlete of the year” would be Sedona senior Kevin Cox who won four gold medals at the 3A West regional championships and won three gold medals at Arizona State University in the 3A conference state championships.

Tieing with Cox for “athlete of the year” runner-up is a classmate of his, sophomore softball superstar Whitney Cooper.

Cooper hit .649 this season with an astonishing 14 home runs and 70 RBIs this season, making her the obvious choice for 3A West region MVP.

Receiving the “athlete of the year” honorable mention award is Mingus senior tennis player Alexander Lineberry who won a 4A-II Grand Canyon region MVP and took third at the 4A-II conference state meet a few weeks ago.

A new idea I had for the spring awards is a “freshman of the year” vote which I would happily give to Mykala Seresun of Sedona.

Seresun was one of the best long distance runners in the state this season in track and field and won the 3,200-meter run at the 3A West regional meet with a 12:50.04 time.

Also in the mix for “freshman of the year” is Sedona’s Shelby Cordova [softball] and Donnie Buss and Amanda Showers from Camp Verde [track and field].

Congratulations to all the teams and their players and we’ll see you in the fall.

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