Casteel players making a name for themselves SanTan Sun News

Casteel players making a name for themselves

September 15th, 2017 | by SanTan Sun News
Casteel players making a name for themselves
Youth
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By Greg Macafee, Staff

 

Over the past two years, the Casteel High School football team has started to get some notice.

As a freshman program in 2015, the Colts finished 8-1. Last year, their first as a varsity program, they outscored opponents 501-97, finished 9-2 and earned a berth in the Class 3A state playoffs for the first time in school history.

Now, after an early exit from last year’s playoffs, the Colts have set out to prove that they belong among the best.

Through three games, the Colts have scored a total of 203 points and have yet to give up a single point. They have beaten all three teams by 60-plus points, utilizing a fast-paced, high-tempo offense that carries over from their daily practice routine.

“Our goal is really to get off as many plays as we can,” junior quarterback Gunner Cruz said. “Our philosophy is the faster we go – especially with a lot of teams in 3A having a lot of people going both ways – that helps our defense out because it tires out some of their players and then it just opens things up for us as the game goes on.”

The Colts’ philosophy has proved successful. After a sophomore year in which Cruz threw for 2,600 yards and 30 touchdowns, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback already has passed for 778 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017.

Head coach Spencer Stowers said his goal from the very beginning of the program was to install a two-platoon system. It’s something that he adopted from former Chandler Hamilton coach John Wrenn while at a coaching clinic.

“It was our belief right away to be a two-platoon team, where guys are not playing both ways,” Stowers said. “We do the best we can as coaches to maximize our potential on both sides and try to input players into specific positions that suits them and suits the team.”

Cruz has been one of the major standouts of the program, earning scholarship offers from Arizona State, Northern Arizona and South Dakota State. But others have been a crucial part of the Colts’ success as well.

Running back Mack Johnson ran for 939 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, and receivers Brandt Goodwin and Zach Nelson combined for 1,638 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. While their offense has been high-scoring, the defense has been impenetrable in 2017. Stowers believes it comes from the bond they share.

“Defensively, we just have a unit that loves one another and trusts one another and have been together, this is their third year now and that’s unique to see,” Stowers said.

The entire Casteel football team is unique to watch because most of the players have been with the program since their first year. They have shared a bond for three years, and Cruz believes that’s what has contributed to their success the most.

“It’s a unique opportunity here, especially because we’ve had these coaches ever since we were freshmen, and that’s not something you get at a lot of other high schools,” Cruz said. “So, it’s been cool to watch our whole team grow as a group because we’ve had a core that’s been together since freshman year. Just to be able to experience the success, we’re lucky.”

The Colts opened their season with matchups against Globe, Payson and Empire, three teams that hold a combined record

of 2-6.

Next week, the Colts will take a trip to California to take on Monte Vista (1-1), following in the footsteps of the bigger Chandler Unified School District Schools that have played on the national stage.

“I am excited to see what our kids do and how they handle the natural adversity that comes with traveling out of state,” Stowers said. “Also, the competition with the players they have. They [Monte Vista] are a talented football team and they are big up front, so I am very excited to see what we do on the road against a team like that.”

Following their trip to California, the Colts will take on Show Low (1-1) on Sept. 22. Then, on Sept. 29, Casteel will have the opportunity to get some revenge on the team that handed them their only two losses last season, Yuma Catholic.

– Contact Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com or at 480-898-5630.

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