Trio Of East Region Seniors On Top 50 List

Payson's Matt Wilson is ranked at 42

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A trio of East region seniors have been named to the prestigious "Top 50 Football Players for 2008" compiled by azcentral.com.

The impressive list, which features Arizona's most hotly recruited players, contains athletes representing all school size classifications, 1A to 5A.

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Matt Wilson (56) and teammate Bryan Burke harass Round Valley quarterback Hayden Eager during a 2007 game pitting the Elks against Payson. Both Wilson and Eager were named among the top 50 players in Arizona.

The three "small school" or 3A players earning state rankings are Round Valley's Hayden Eager, Steel Armstrong of Blue Ridge and Payson's Matt Wilson.

Wilson holds down the 42nd spot on the rankings and is listed as a 6-foot-5-inch, 265-pound tackle.

For Payson High, Wilson goes both ways playing on the offensive and defensive lines.

Last season, while on defense, he recorded 64 tackles, 41 of them unassisted. Also his eight sacks made the fourth best mark in the East.

Offensively, he is often the lead blocker in the Longhorns' power option attack, which means it is his responsibility to clear the way for running backs and Horn signal caller Ridge Halenar.

He is also a huge part of Halenar's pass protection.

In football circles, Wilson is considered one of the premier blockers and defenders in the 3A conference and is expected to play a huge role in Payson's pursuit of 2008 postseason honors.

Wilson has said he would like to play football in college, but with the season about to get under way, he remains undeclared.

Eager, a 6-foot-4-inch quarterback, is Round Valley's version of Peyton Manning.

In 2007, he threw for 3,617 yards which was the second most in the state. He also completed 55 percent of his passes, threw 34 TDs and was intercepted 23 times.

In the Elks' 26-23 win over Payson last fall, he completed 20 of 37 attempts for 251 yards and three TDs. He was also intercepted twice.

Operating in Round Valley's freewheeling offense, Eager, who is ranked 36th on the azcentral list, is a threat to throw at any time and from any spot on the field.

Armstrong is ranked 50th on the list and is posted as a 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound linebacker.

The Blue Ridge senior attended Payson High School as a freshman and was an all-region performer for former coach Jerry Rhoades.

After a tiff with coach Josh Anderson, who replaced Rhoades, Armstrong departed Payson at the onset of his sophomore season and transferred to Blue Ridge.

His departure stunned many Payson fans because the Armstrong family has produced a long list of some of the Longhorns' finest football players including Armstrong's father, older brothers, cousin and uncle.

As a junior at BR, Armstrong ranked third in the East in tackles with 147. He also had 2.5 sacks. The former Horn played sparingly at fullback rushing 28 times for 153 yards and one TD.

The only other small-school players on the top-50 list are Shad Bride of St. Johns and Yuma Catholic quarterback Matt Inman.

Heading the list of Arizona's finest high school football players is Devon Kennard, son of former Dallas Cowboys lineman Derrick Kennard.

Devon is a 6-foot-3-inch, 257-pound defensive end from Tempe Desert Vista High School. Rivals.com also rates him the No. 1 defensive end in the nation. He is being recruited by Texas, California, UCLA, USC and Arizona State.

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