The Arcadia High School football team lost its season finale last year and finished the season 7-3, just shy of the playoffs.
The Titans dropped three of their last five contests while playing a tough final half of the season. Two of the losses came against Chaparral High School (finished 2014 with a 9-4 record) and Paradise Valley High School (10-2).
Arcadia head coach Leonard Abt says he hopes the Titans can play more consistently in 2015.
“We like to be consistent throughout the season,” Coach Abt said in a June 17 phone interview. “In the later part of last season we had tougher games but we competed well with them. The goal is to be strong from the beginning of the season to the end of it, and hopefully make a run into the playoffs.”
The 2015 Titans are going to be quite different from the 2014 Titans, as Arcadia must replace a starting quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver.
“We expect a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of speed on the field and a lot of effort, to make up for a little of the inexperience,” Coach Abt said. “We’re going to go out there, we’re going to hustle every play and lay it out for four quarters and hopefully, at the end of the day, the scoreboard is favoring us.”
Heading the list of outgoing seniors for the Titans is former quarterback Jake Sheedy. Sheedy led the Titans last season with 1,540 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air.
Between former wide receivers David Hubbard and Devon Ferguson, the Titans graduated over 1,200 receiving yard and 19 touchdowns.
Former running backs Elijah Salcedo and AJ Bates combined for over 1,000 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns.
Coach Abt says the younger players will be asked to fill the voids.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have a lot of younger guys that we’re asking to step up- from kids that basically played a back-up role last year to some of the JV players.”
Coach Abt says there are new players joining the Titans this season, like senior Riley Erickson, who he expects to step up. There also players changing positions this season to help the team make up for the loss of last year’s seniors.
“We’re expecting a lot from the kids who have been working hard this summer,” Coach Abt said. “We’re losing probably 98 percent of our offense, so we need a lot of kids to step up and take those roles over for us.”
Senior running back Jaylen Israel is one of those players who will be asked to take on a bigger role.
Israel, who rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns last season, says the summer workouts and passing leagues are helping him adjust to his new role.
“The passing league helps mentally prepare you for the season,” Israel said in a June 17 phone interview. “It helps you remember the routes, helps you remember the plays, and allows you to bond with your team as well.”
For Israel, mastering the cognitive side of the game is important.
“I’ve just got to stay mentally tough and keep the team up and make sure they’re doing everything they’re supposed to do,” Israel said.
The Titans currently have a battle for the starting quarterback position between last year’s junior varsity team back up and freshman team starter. Coach Abt says he is not ready to name a starter yet.
Leading the Defense
While the quarterback on offense is not decided yet, the leader of the Titans’ defense seems to be set in stone heading into the 2015 season.
Arcadia’s leading tackler, Dylan Turelli, will be back for his senior year at middle linebacker.
“He’s our quarterback on the defense,” Coach Abt said. “All our calls pretty much go through him. He’s a leader out there, by example, off the field and on the field. We expect a lot from him, especially with such a young defense coming back as well. He’s our anchor there in the middle.”
Despite leading the defense with 67 tackles a year ago, Turelli does not feel pressure to match the numbers this year.
“Obviously I feel pressure to play well because of the position I play,” Turelli said in a June 18 phone interview. “But there’s no pressure for statistical numbers for me to get.”
Turelli says the defense will help the young offense early in the season.
“I think that we’re going to come back and we’re going to have a great defense like we have had the past couple years,” Turelli said. “I think it will put our offense in great position to succeed, so I don’t think that the youth will show as much in the beginning parts.”
Arcadia’s offense averaged 38 points per game last season, and Coach Abt says the program-wide offense should help the Titans hit their stride.
“We run the same offense through all three levels so, for the most part, we expect the same,” Coach Abt said. “We feel like, with the talent we have and what we’ve seen so far and past history, we’d like to put those types of numbers up again.”
Coach Abt says he does not have an exact goal for scoring, but it is important.
“We like to put pressure on other team’s defense or offense to score,” Coach Abt. “It’s hard to say a set number but, obviously, we like to score a lot of points.”
The Titans open up their 2015 season in Prescott Valley against Bradshaw Mountain High School, a team that finished last season 7-4.
Arcadia will look to grow up quickly this season and avoid a faltered finish similar to last season.
Turelli says the key to avoiding a similar ending to 2014 is focus.
“We just have to stay focused,” Turelli said. “Last year we were on such a high that we kind of went in to every game thinking that we could blow every team out. We lost focus of our goal which is playing hard every play and getting a win.”