Rising Above: Thatcher Eagles Embrace Youth and Grit Amidst Grueling Schedule

Wyatt Nicholas corrals an interception against Show Low in the semifinals. (Stan Bonifacio photo)

I’m not sure rebuilding is the term for Thatcher football this year, but maybe it’s a retooling season for the Eagles. Thatcher will have to find the answers after losing 96% of their offensive firepower to graduation last season. However, the Eagles JV squad went undefeated and should help fill in the holes on the Varsity this season.

Players to watch:

Brett Jones – Jr – QB/MLB (6-1, 215)

At this point Jones is penciled in as the starting quarterback for the Eagles. He filled in last season for a few games when Brandon Napier was out with an injury, but this will be his first full season as a starter at QB. Jones stood out on defense last season as a sophomore as the team’s 2nd leading tackler with 68 and according to Coach Jones, he is the best linebacker in 3A.

Wyatt Nicholas – Jr – WR/DB (6-1,165)

Nicholas stood out on defense down the stretch last year for the Eagles. He has 28 tackles, 2 interceptions and 8 pass deflections in just 11 games as a sophomore. Coach Jones said that Nicholas had a great off-season and is ready to be a “phenom” this year.

Zac Salazar – Sr – OL/DL (6-5, 245)

Salazar will be one of just 3 offensive starters that return this season for Thatcher. He will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines. Last season on defense he recorded 11 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 quarterback hurries. Coach Jones said the team will rely on the leadership of Salazar on a young OL/DL.

Kody Bingham – Jr – RB/DB (5-8,155)

Bingham made a name for himself on special teams last year for Thatcher. He averaged 41 yards per kickoff return. He also tallied 122 yards on the ground with 2 touchdowns. He had 23 tackles and an interception on defense. Coach Jones said Bingham is fast and dangerous in every direction.

Christian Carter – Sr – RB/DB (5-9, 160)

Carter had a limited role on offense last season but will be asked to take the bulk of the handoffs this year for Thatcher. Carter led the team last season with 21 passes defended and had 34 tackles as well. As a returning starter he will be asked to carry a heavy load this year, but Coach Jones calls him a tough competitor and will be featured on both sides of the ball.

Thatcher has what many say is the toughest schedule in 3A. Their opponents had an 80% winning percentage last season. The Eagles will have a tough schedule right out of the gate as they travel to Paradise Honors and then will get newcomer Crismon in week 2.

2 Questions with Coach Jones

Where is your team at right now? Very young, but dynamic and if we gel will be a problem down the stretch. 

With such a young team, what’s the approach early on? After having such a deep and experienced team last year and all graduated. Batting inexperience and coming together as a team will be the keys we focus on.