azcentral Sports Awards Boys Athlete of the Week, 2021-22 season

·15 min read
Arizona High School Sports Awards
Arizona High School Sports Awards

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The I AM SPORT Award is a contest created to honor high school student-athletes who are committed to giving back to the youth in their area. Go to iamsport.azcentral.com to enter someone from your community.

Jan. 13, 2022

Anthony Batson, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, Basketball

In its current five-game win streak, Notre Dame Prep has had no shortage of stars. Batson, though, has been atop the list. Across this week’s three wins, he averaged 26.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

His best performance came when it mattered most. Against Glendale Cactus, the Saints were pushed to their limit in a double-overtime thriller. Batson responded with an astonishing 47 points to go with 10 rebounds, lifting Notre Dame Prep to a 83-80 win.

“I just wanted to give my team what we needed to win," Batson said. "Whether it be scoring, defense, or rebounding, winning was all that mattered in my mind that night.”

Jan. 6, 2022

Mason Knollmiller, Basketball, Gilbert Highland

Tucson High entered Tuesday night with a sparkling 13-0 record and was ranked as The Republic’s No. 6 team in 6A. Thanks to Knollmiller, Highland put an end to that. After trailing by nine early and two at halftime, the Hawks eventually won, 65-48.

Knollmiller made his first 11 field goal attempts and finished with a game-high 28 points on 13-of-15 shooting, spurring the comeback charge to move Highland to 11-3.

“Mason has the ability to get to the basket,” Highland coach Todd Fazio said. “He did a really good job of finishing through some contact and over contesting defenders. He is at his best in the open floor and was able to create some transition baskets with his defense as well. He had a really solid game on both ends of the floor.”

Dec. 16, 2021

Devon Dampier, Football, Scottsdale Saguaro

For five years, Chandler had dominated the Arizona high school football scene, winning five consecutive state championships. On Saturday, Saguaro put an end to that reign, beating the Wolves, 20-15, at Sun Devil Stadium to claim its first Open Division crown.

For the fifth-seeded Sabercats, the win completed a shocking sweep of Arizona Avenue. They beat No. 1 seed Chandler Hamilton in the semifinals.

Dampier, Saguaro’s junior quarterback, was at the center of both wins. Against Chandler, he accounted for 306 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. With 4:25 to play, he found sophomore Jaedon Matthews for a 45-yard game-winning touchdown.

“Everybody here tonight saw that he's a dynamic playmaker,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “The thing that makes him so special, he's such a natural, charismatic leader. He lets stuff roll off his back and he makes the next play.”

Dec. 9, 2021

Nason Coleman, Football, Chandler

Chandler tight end Nason Coleman played the hero in the team's semifinal playoff win Dec. 3. The senior tight end only had five receptions for 48 yards on the night, third most on his own team, but he made the play of the game on the first possession of overtime against Liberty.

Facing a critical fourth down, quarterback Blaine Hipa threw the ball up to Coleman in the end zone. Coleman was draped by a Liberty cornerback but reached around him to make a stunning, acrobatic, one-handed catch and give Chandler a 27-21 win, sending it to the Open Division championship game.

“I just saw that it was a good mismatch and I was hoping Blaine would put it up and he did,” said Coleman, who is committed to Princeton . “He put it in a perfect spot where I could get it. I'm just glad I made the catch.”

Dec. 2, 2021

My’Keil Gardner, Football, Peoria Liberty

All season, Chandler Basha was one of the state’s most dynamic teams. Led by quarterback Demond Williams Jr., the Bears went undefeated in the regular season.

So, in last week’s Open Division quarterfinal matchup, Basha was expected to knock off No. 6 Liberty. Gardner and fellow junior defensive end Anthony Ruiz put an end to that notion.

The pair combined for seven sacks, with Gardner picking up 4.5 of his own to bring his season total to nine. After missing last season with a torn meniscus, he’s been one of the state’s most dominant pass rushers as a junior.

“We kinda expected (Williams) to run around a little bit more but our game plan worked,” Gardner said. “We had been practicing for the last two weeks and just keeping him in the pocket or flushing him to the opposite side of his right. So just him being in the pocket, it just gave me more time and coverage sacks, too.”

Nov. 24, 2021

Gavin Smith, Football, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep

Entering last weekend, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep vs. Glendale Apollo was set to be among the most competitive games in the 5A first round. Instead, the Saints jumped out to a 14-0 lead within the first five minutes and never looked back.

For that, they had Gavin Smith to thank. Smith opened the scoring with a 53-yard punt return before taking a screen pass 85 yards to the house four minutes later. He finished off his three-touchdown day with a 50-yard rushing score in the third corner.

With that, Smith single-handedly scored as many touchdowns as Apollo in Notre Dame Prep’s eventual, 56-21 win. He finished with over 200 all-purpose yards.

“It feels great,” Smith said. “We always go in trying to get on top early and have early momentum and being able to do that for the team feels awesome.”

Next up, the Saints face No. 2 seed Tucson Salpointe Catholic in the quarterfinals Friday night.

Nov. 18, 2021

Russell Davis II, Football, Chandler Hamilton

Russell Davis II recorded three sacks in Hamilton's win over Chandler on Friday.
Russell Davis II recorded three sacks in Hamilton's win over Chandler on Friday.

Over the final three quarters of Arizona’s biggest regular season high school football game of the year, Hamilton held Chandler scoreless. Led by their defense, the Huskies emerged 21-14 victors, ending the Wolves’s winning streak at 45 games.

At the center of those efforts was senior defensive end Russell Davis II. Davis, who made The Republic’s All-Arizona team last season, recorded nine tackles, three tackles-for-loss, three quarterback hurries and three sacks in the win.

With 16.5 sacks this season, Davis broke Hamilton’s single-season school record. He is committed to play at Arizona next year.

“Friday’s win against Chandler was definitely a highlight of my season,” Davis said. “They’re a well-coached team with talented players. Chandler always brings their A game and my team and I were able show that we are just as good as they are and we came out with the win.”

Thanks to the win over Chandler, Hamilton enters the Open Division playoffs ranked No. 1 in the state. The Huskies open their postseason against American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek on Nov. 26.

Nov. 11, 2021

Demond Williams Jr., Football, Chandler Basha

Entering Friday’s matchup against Mesa Mountain View, Basha had never finished a regular season undefeated. With a 44-30 win that stamped the Bears’ place as third-favorite entering the Open Division playoffs, that changed.

Basha’s 10-0 season was made possible by talent on both sides of the ball. But perhaps most important was sophomore quarterback Demond Williams Jr.

This season, Williams Jr. has 3,033 all-purpose yards, along with 33 touchdowns to go with just three interceptions.

“(Williams Jr.) is extremely athletic, throws a great ball,” Basha coach Chris McDonald said. “Ball's very live out of his arm. (He) leads his team. (He is) a kid that teammates really like, really gravitate to.”

Against Mountain View, Williams Jr. culminated his outstanding regular season with 342 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-27 passing. He also added 83 yards and a score on the ground.

Nov. 4, 2021

Trivium Prep quarterback Luke Willingham has led the Crimson Knights to five consecutive wins.
Trivium Prep quarterback Luke Willingham has led the Crimson Knights to five consecutive wins.

Luke Willingham, Football, Goodyear Trivium Prep

After an 0-4 start to the season, Trivium Prep used a 5-0 finish to sneak into the 2A playoffs, which start Friday, as the No. 15 seed. To get there, they needed a healthy dose of heroism from senior Luke Willingham.

Over the final five games, Willingham — a dual-threat quarterback — ran for 895 yards and 14 touchdowns. In last Friday’s regular-season finale against Wellton Antelope, he put up his best performance yet, rushing for 221 and four touchdowns while catching a 26-yard receiving touchdown on a double pass.

“I am happy to play for a coach (Michael Spencer) that gives me the green light to make plays using my skill set as well as putting us in a position to succeed,” Willingham said. “I have never played for a team with a greater will to win than this brotherhood we have at Trivium Prep.”

On Friday, the Crimson Knights will face a stiff test in their bid to keep their season alive as they face 9-1 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, the division’s No. 2 seed. If they can pull off the upset, they’ll likely have Willingham to thank.

Oct. 29, 2021

Jacob Ratkus holds seven individual school swimming records at Estrella Foothills.
Jacob Ratkus holds seven individual school swimming records at Estrella Foothills.

Jacob Ratkus, Swimming, Goodyear Estrella Foothills

Swimmers at Estrella Foothills compete in eight individual events. Jacob Ratkus, a senior at the school this year, holds records in seven of them: The 50 yard freestyle, 100 yard freestyle, 100 yard butterfly, 100 yard backstroke, 200 yard freestyle, 200 yard individual medley and 500 yard freestyle. The only individual record he doesn’t hold is the 100 yard breaststroke.

“Jacob Ratkus is an incredible swimmer and a great addition to the team,” Estrella Foothills coach Katie Stover said. “He has helped me by encouraging the younger and new swimmers to try their best. I am very excited to watch him swim next weekend at the state meet. He has qualifying times in all of his events, but is thinking he will be swimming the 200 (yard individual medley) and the 100 yard freestyle.”

This weekend, he and his teammates added yet another school record, this time with a 1:34.02 in the 200 meter freestyle relay.

As the team’s best swimmer, Ratkus swam the anchor leg. Nate Wright, Noah Amenhauser and Tanner Sheffert completed the other three legs.

This weekend, the Wolves’ relay teams have an opportunity to break school records in their other two relay events — the 200 meter medley relay and the 400 meter freestyle relay.

And, as always, they’ll be anchored by Ratkus.

Oct. 22, 2021

Camelback quarterback Max Martin passed for four touchdowns in his debut for the Spartans.
Camelback quarterback Max Martin passed for four touchdowns in his debut for the Spartans.

Max Martin, Football, Phoenix Camelback

In its first five games this season, Camelback got out to a middling 3-2 start, never scoring more than 27 points in a contest.

All that, though, came with quarterback Max Martin on the sidelines. Martin transferred to Camelback from Peoria Liberty this offseason and was first eligible for last Friday’s game against Phoenix North Canyon.

The junior made the most of his opportunity, passing for 305 yards and four touchdowns on 28 attempts. His performance boosted the Spartans to a 53-44 win as they enter the back half of their season.

“Max Martin performed beyond my expectations for his first game but didn’t surprise me,” coach Brandon McNutt said. “His work ethic, leadership, and character on and off the field has prepared him for this moment and will continue week in and week out.”

Oct. 15, 2021

Catalina Foothills freshman Finn Meister finished in first at the Flowing Wells Boys Tournament of Champions last weekend.
Catalina Foothills freshman Finn Meister finished in first at the Flowing Wells Boys Tournament of Champions last weekend.

Finn Meister, Golf, Tucson Catalina Foothills

Catalina Foothills may have finished in second place as a team at this weekend’s Flowing Wells Boys Tournament of Champions, but Falcons freshman Finn Meister was the star of the weekend.

Meister won the tournament by five strokes, shooting a two-under 138 across two days at Silverbell Golf Course in Tucson. He displayed remarkable consistency, with a one-under 69 leading the field both days.

“It was awesome to get the win at the Flowing Wells Tournament of Champions last weekend,” Meister said. “My ball striking was excellent and I hit a few close for birdie, made some good putts and got up and down when I needed to. I’m really happy that our team moved inside the top 12 and with a few matches left, we have a chance to make the state tournament.”

Meister was the Junior Golf Association of Arizona player of the year in the age 13-14 bracket in 2020, but this was his first tournament win. He had finished in second place in three different tournaments over the past two years.

Oct. 8, 2021

Trevor Querciagrossa, Cross Country, Phoenix Sunnyslope

Across the board, the times at the Glendale Showcase on Oct. 2 were much slower than those a week earlier, at the Desert Twilight XC Festival.

Trevor Querciagrossa won two meets this season for Sunnyslope.
Trevor Querciagrossa won two meets this season for Sunnyslope.

That didn’t stop Sunnyslope senior Trevor Querciagrossa from bringing home first place for the first time in his career. After finishing seventh among all Arizona runners with a 15:24.4 at Desert Twilight, he posted a 15:31.7 at the Glendale Showcase, finishing nearly a full minute ahead of all other runners.

Despite the slow track, the time was the 12th fastest among Arizona runners this season.

“Every single race I am feeling more confident,” Querciagrossa, who finished 33rd at last year’s state championship meet, said. “At the Glendale Showcase, I felt relaxed and fast.”

Oct. 1, 2021

Grady Hickey, Scottsdale Chaparral, Football

Before Friday’s rivalry game against Scottsdale Saguaro, Chaparral junior running back Grady Hickey had been primarily used as a receiver, with 298 receiving yards and 150 rushing yards through three games.

On Friday, his biggest impact came on the ground. Hickey was again involved in the passing game, catching five passes for 84 yards, but he ran for a season-high 102 yards on just four carries.

Critically, 89 of those yards came on one fourth-quarter run. With the game knotted at 20 and just over five minutes remaining, Hickey took the ball from Chaparral’s own 11-yard line. He burst through the Saguaro defense, taking it to the house and giving the Firebirds a 27-20 lead.

“It was inside zone but I just saw a hole outside and I just took it,” Hickey said.

The touchdown ultimately made the difference in a 27-26 win for Chaparral as Saguaro failed to a convert a two-point conversion later in the quarter.

“My guys just never gave up,” Hickey said. “We knew were going to win tonight.”

Sept. 24, 2021

Hamilton kicker Jacob Medina successfully converted two onside kicks in a Sept. 17 win over Bishop Gorman (Nev.).
Hamilton kicker Jacob Medina successfully converted two onside kicks in a Sept. 17 win over Bishop Gorman (Nev.).

Jacob Medina, Chandler Hamilton, Football

With just over a minute to play on Friday night, Hamilton trailed Bishop Gorman (Nev.), 24-7. As Jacob Medina lined up for a 46-yard field goal attempt, the game appeared all but over.

By now, you know what happened next. The Huskies scored 18 points in one minute to shock Bishop Gorman, 25-24, live on ESPN.

“It really shows the rest of Arizona and the country what Hamilton High School is really capable of,” Medina said.

Medina was at the center of the comeback. His field goal with 1:05 kept Hamilton alive. Still, the Huskies were down 14 and needed a miracle. Medina provided it, converting consecutive onside kicks to give quarterback Nicco Marichol a chance to win the game for Hamilton.

“We worked all season on those,” Medina said of his onside kicks. “We knew it would come down to a big game and we'd use. We executed when we needed to.”

Sept. 17, 2021

Chandler Davis celebrates after a Hamilton win, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 at Casteel High School in Queen Creek, Ariz.
Chandler Davis celebrates after a Hamilton win, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 at Casteel High School in Queen Creek, Ariz.

Chandler Davis, Chandler Hamilton, Football

Hamilton junior defensive tackle Chandler Davis was a one-man wrecking crew on Friday night against Queen Creek Casteel.

Davis finished the night with four of Hamilton’s six sacks, consistently making life difficult for Casteel quarterback Landon Jury. Jury finished with just 97 yards on 28 pass attempts, thanks in large part to Davis’s efforts.

“Being out here doing these things, having a player go down, (senior Russell) 'Deuce' Davis went down, it brings a lot of pressure on me but you gotta take it like a man," Davis said after the game.

Davis also recorded one sack in Hamilton’s season opening 56-7 against Mesa Desert Ridge.

The Huskies are back in action on Friday night with a marquee matchup against Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas.

Sept. 10, 2021

Terrence Keyes ran the second-fastest time in the state for Gilbert.
Terrence Keyes ran the second-fastest time in the state for Gilbert.

Terrence Keyes, Gilbert, Boys Cross-Country

Gilbert senior Terrence Keyes won the Chandler Invitational meet on Saturday, Sept. 4.

Keyes finished first in the senior race at 15:32.40 minutes, the best time among all males and females and every class-year in the meet.

Keyes is starting the 2021 season strongly after his individual third place finish in the 2020 Division II boys cross-country state championship in November 2020, in which he led Gilbert to its first ever team title.

Sept. 3, 2021

Valley Christian football running back/outside linebacker Kaden Majercak
Valley Christian football running back/outside linebacker Kaden Majercak

Kaden Majercak, Chandler Valley Christian, Football

Valley Christian senior running back and outside linebacker Kaden Majercak had the most versatile performance in the Trojans' season-opening home win, 38-24, over the defending 3A state champion Snowflake on Aug. 27.

“We were looking forward to play Snowflake for our first game of the season. It was exciting to play the state champs this early," Majercak said.

Despite not scoring any of Valley Christian's five touchdowns, Majercak was a major factor in the Trojan offense's field positioning toward the red zone. He had 16 carries for 97 yards, two receptions for 26 and 1.5 sacks.

"Our team put in a lot of work all spring and summer long getting ready for this season and we are excited to see some of the rewards with an early season victory over a very good team," Majercak said. "We know that it is just one win and we are back at it preparing for the next team on our schedule.“

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: azcentral Sports Awards Boys Athlete of the Week, 2021-22 season

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