In high school football, scouting reports are coaches’ and players’ best friends.
An accurate report can result in victory, but an incorrect or incomplete one can spell defeat. Knowing that, coaches begin on the weekend before the following Friday night’s game compiling scouting reports to distribute to players usually during the Monday practice session.
Great strides have been made in recent years in assembling opponent scouting reports through the use of computers, smartphones and a Web-based video program known as Hudl.
Good scouting reports contain specifics on the opponent’s offenses and defenses and information on skill levels, weaknesses and strengths.
The value of scouting reports has never been in doubt, but assembling the information needed on a team like Wickenburg, who the Longhorns play tonight in PHS stadium, can be frustrating.
That’s because little is known about the Wranglers since the team has a new first-year coach who, Wickenburg sources say, has installed completely new offensive and defensive schemes.
Since the Wranglers have gone through four coaches in six seasons, new coach Craig Johnson, formerly an assistant at Anthem Boulder Creek, has taken over the football program and apparently decided to re-invent it.
He has junked the time-proven Wing-T offense that Wickenburg ran during its glory days of 2005-2008 when Norris Vaughn led the Wranglers to a 47-5 record. Vaughn left to take over at Tempe Mountain Pointe.
In replacing the Wing-T, Johnson installed a more modern spread offense that seems to be the rage among today’s young coaches.
The attractiveness of the “O” is probably due to the success it has enjoyed at the University of Oregon.
Then again, few high schools have players with the talent of those playing at Oregon.
Defensively, Johnson has installed a 3-4 defense also somewhat similar to the “D” used by the Oregon Ducks.
But in the world of high school football a lot of teams do not have the size on the defensive line to play the 3-4 the way they do at Oregon.
While Wickenburg has some 200-plus-pound linemen, the team appears to be one of those that does not have great size on the D-line.
Without good size, the Wranglers might have to run a 3-4 in which they slant their defensive line strong and weak. That will allow the D-linemen to use their speed and quickness.
The stud on the defensive line in early season appears to be senior nose tackle Nathan Wilson (6 feet, 190 pounds).
Since PHS coach Jake Swartwood has indicated he will this year run a power option offense similar to ones Payson used during the school’s two most recent state championship seasons, the goal of those on offense vs. Wickenburg will most likely be to run the football successfully, force Wickenburg’s 3-4 to defend the field both vertically and horizontally, throw only high percentage passes and control the tempo.
If the PHS offense is successful, the Horns most likely will walk off the field with a win.
For the Longhorns to hold the Wickenburg spread offense running game in check, the defensive front must control the action and then rely on great gap control from the linebackers.
Swartwood has not said what his strategy will be for stopping the Wrangler passing game, but if he decides to play man-on-man, he can put his safeties over the top, which will give the defensive line a chance to get to the quarterback and force more difficult throws.
As for Wickenburg’s players, the new coach brought along with him his son, Charles, who is battling senior Conner Jones for signal calling duties.
Sources say Charles might have an early edge because he is more familiar with his father’s system.
No matter who is pulling the trigger, the Wranglers appear to have some sure-handed receivers in junior Cloud Fritts and senior speedster Jake Vandever.
Tight end Chase Ballard is also expected to emerge as a big weapon in the Wrangler arsenal.
Payson will counter the new-look Wranglers with a group that in last week’s three-way preseason scrimmage was manhandled by Winslow, but ran roughshod over Camp Verde.
A welcome surprise emerged in the scrimmage when sophomore Dalton Conway — a center last season — showcased considerable running back skills that could earn him playing time tonight against WHS.
At quarterback for PHS, Miguel Mendoza is expected to begin his quest for postseason honors.
Also for the Horns, Dakota Harold, the starting center and a Mike linebacker, is expected to return to the lineup after sitting out last week’s scrimmage due to shin splints.
Swartwood says he also expects big-time contributions tonight from the team’s three-pronged running attack of Brian Skinner, Trevor Anderson and Wyatt Chapman.
Wide receivers Tyus Sarnowski and Jared Varner are also expected to be vital cogs for the Horns as is 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound tight end William Youngberg.
Up front, Swartwood is counting on Steve Perry, Jesus Apodaca and Noah Wood to help control the line of scrimmage.
Kick off tonight is at 7 p.m.