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These Arizona Running Backs Will Be Key in Run for the Gold Ball

As the regular season winds down, teams are positioning themselves for a deep run into the postseason. While the quality of quarterbacks has garnered most of the attention here in Arizona, a strong ground game will be key, as teams make a run for glory and the gold ball.

Drake Anderson – Chandler

One team chasing a state championship for the third time in four years is Chandler (6-2). One of the leaders for the Wolves this season is running back Drake Anderson.

Anderson (5’11” 180 lbs), who missed the previous two seasons due to surgeries on both hips, is having a breakout year. In 8 games, the senior ranks 3rd in 6A with 1,093 yards and has scored 17 td’s, while averaging 136.6 yards per game and 9.2 yards per carry. On October 6th against Perry, a game seen on Yurview, Anderson ran for 236 yards and 4 touchdowns. Drake has offers from Nevada and New Mexico State, and has drawn interest from California and Oregon State.

Jawhar Jordan – Hamilton

Down the street from Chandler is Hamilton (7-1), who hasn’t won a state title since 2012. The Huskies, who are the number 1 ranked team in 6A, will rely heavily on Jawhar Jordan if they are going to climb to the mountain top once again. Jordan (5’11” 185 lbs), ranks 4th in 6A with 945 yards rushing in just 7 games. The three year starter gained a career high 254 yards against Desert Ridge. The senior has scored 16 touchdowns, including a 5 touchdown performance against Boulder Creek. Jordan had double digit college offers, including Oklahoma State, Arizona, and Missouri, and has committed to Syracuse. Last week Syracuse knocked off Clemson, the #2 ranked team in the country and defending national champions.

Zidane Thomas – Centennial

Another one of the state’s perennial powers is the 5A’s top ranked team Centennial (7-0), who will also be looking for their third state title in the last four years. The Coyotes are led by senior running back Zidane Thomas, who has rushed for 1,033 yards and 12 td’s, while averaging 147.6 yards per game and 10.5 yards per carry.

Thomas (5’10” 205 lbs) had his name and game thrust into the national spotlight with a big performance against St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida) on September 29th. In the match-up, broadcast on Yurview, Thomas rushed for 114 yards, including a 56 yard touchdown run in the game’s final two minutes, to clinch a 12-0 victory over S.T.A. The Raiders were ranked #3 in the country at the time. Zidane has verbally committed to Boise State, after also receiving an offer from Iowa State and drawing interest from Utah.

Cole Fisher and Jake Smith – Notre Dame Prep

Another team making noise in 5A, is Notre Dame Prep (8-0). The Saints are currently ranked 4th, and led by their talented tandem Cole Fisher and Jake Smith. Fisher (5’11” 195 lbs) has rushed for 908 yards and 14 td’s in 8 games. The senior has an offer from Adams State. Smith (6’1” 185 lbs) has gained 761 yards and scored 10 td’s, while averaging 10.3 yards per carry. The junior, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, has seen his recruiting explode in the last month. Smith has 13 offers including Penn State, Wisconsin, Washington State, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt.

Draycen Hall – Higley

Higley (7-1) is trying to break through in the 4A ranks, and the player leading the way for the Knights is the reigning Gatorade state player of the year Draycen Hall. The senior running back who gained 2,298 yards and scored 29 touchdowns last year, has 1,062 yards and 20 td’s in 8 games this season. Hall (5’8” 174 lbs), who had 287 yards and 4 td’s last week against Cactus, has offers from Arizona, Navy, Air Force, and numerous Ivy League schools.

Kris Jackson – Mesa

There have been many other running backs that have stood out this season. Mesa’s Kris Jackson leads 6A in rushing with 1,791 yards and scored 13 td’s in 9 games. The senior ran for 341 yards versus Basha on September 22nd.  Jackson (5’11” 210 lbs) is drawing interest from Washington, Oklahoma State, BYU, Arizona State, and Arizona.

Aaron Wood – Skyline

Skyline junior Aaron Wood ranks #2 in 6A with 1,121 yards and 14 td’s through 8 games. Wood (5’9” 175 lbs) ran for 301 yards and a score versus Hamilton and 280 yards and 5 td’s against Mesa.

Tyrese Green – McClintock

Senior Tyrese Green has put a charge in the McClintock offense this year running for 1,320 yards (3rd in 5A) and 18 td’s.

Elijah Carey – Canyon Del Oro

Canyon Del Oro’s Elijah Carey (5’11” 200 lbs) leads 4A in rushing with 1,464 yards and 14 td’s in 8 games. The senior is the younger brother of Chicago Bears running back Ka’Deem Carey, a CDO alum. Elijah’s numbers are even more impressive considering he plays 75 percent of the defensive snaps as well. Arizona is keeping close tabs on Carey, whose older brother also played for the Wildcats in Tucson.

Christian Velasquez – San Manuel

In the 2A ranks, San Manuel’s Christian Velasquez has been shredding opposing defenses. The senior set a 2A single game state record with 514 yards rushing and 9 td’s against Tombstone. A game the running back averaged 32.1 yards per carry. Velasquez (5’6” 186 lbs) leads all classes with 1,933 yards and has scored 31 td’s. He is averaging 241.6 yards per game and 12.6 yards per carry.