Note: This article includes schools in the writer’s area of coverage, which is as follows: from Fountain Hills west through Scottsdale, all of Phoenix (except for Ahwatukee), the southwest, northwest and northern sections of the metro area. Other locales include northern, northeast and northwest Arizona. Most of this information was obtained from e-mail questionnaires returned by the coaches.
In the west-central Arizona community of Bagdad, there is more to football than football.
There is camaraderie, closeness, being like a family. You look out for others. You have their back and they have yours.
This year’s Sultans already have made their mark, even before their 66-18 opening-game whipping of Division VI (eight-man) power Joseph City.
The players helped load up two large trailers of goods for distribution to victims of the fire in Yarnell, not too far away.
On the field, the win over Joseph City served notice that Bagdad has a legitimate chance to win a state championship.
Bagdad reached the state semifinals in three of the last four seasons, but did not reach the title game.
Glendale Joy Christian won the title, defeating Pima, but has moved up to 11-man Division V.
Bagdad had a strong finish in 2012, and defeated another northern Arizona power, Heber Mogollon, in the quarterfinals at Mogollon. This summer, Bagdad won passing-league competition up on the Rim.
This year, Bagdad’s top player is defensive end/wide receiver Kody Low.
Coach Dalton Mills said Low “is an impact player on both sides of the ball. You have to account for wherever he is on the field.’’
James Loveall also is a versatile player, excelling as a receiver/cornerback/kick returner.
Fullback/tight end/linebacker Justin Pacheco is the strongest player in the program, according to Mills.
Clay Low anchors both lines as a center and nose guard, and Lakin Yargus also is strong up front on both sides of the ball.
*Joseph City is still reeling after losing two of its key players, Conner Neal and Troy Poudrier, in an auto accident. Neal, a running back and middle linebacker, had a serious brain injury and a broken jaw, and Poudrier had a broken jaw.
John Bryant, who has led the Wildcats to state titles in three of his four seasons as coach, will use versatile senior Wyatt Johnson at quarterback.
*Salome is looking to improve after going 6-2 in the first two seasons under coach Michael O’Boyle. The Frogs earned their first playoff win in nine years last in 2012.
Quarterback Kade Scott leads the way for the Frogs, who defeated Ash Fork 52-0 in the opener. He passed for 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore and 2,000 yards and 27 TDs a year ago as a junior.
Other key players are guard/linebacker/fullback Jesse Long, tight end/defensive back Manuel Mendoza and Mike Best, who can play several positions.
Among other D-VI players from the area: Surprise Arizona Charter punter Christian Rojas, Mogollon running back Dallin Despain, Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep lineman Ryan Omais and Phoenix Valley Lutheran linebacker Nick DePaul.