2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Empire

Empire is itching to play after having only one game last season (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

4A Gila: Empire

2020 record: 0-1 before COVID-19 protocols canceled the rest of the season.

Head coach: George Kelly, 1-10, third season at Empire and overall. Kelly earned a Master’s Degree at Arizona in Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services after achieving a bachelor’s degree in Multi-Disciplinary Studies while playing football at UTEP in 2007 and 2008. He played at Pima College before that from 2005 to 2006 after graduating from Robert Service High School in Anchorage, Alaska. He was an assistant coach at Pima for four seasons before his hire at Empire in 2019.

Key returners:

  • QB Miles Kinney, 5-11, 185, Sr.
  • WR/SS Hyrum Tanner, 6-0, 185, Jr.
  • LB/RB Jake Lambert Jr., 6-2, 210, Sr.
  • RB/LB Braden Peglow, 5-8, 162, Sr.
  • DE/WR Caleb Rodriguez, 6-0, 190, Sr.
  • LB Tariq Sherriff, 5-11, 180, Sr.
  • G/DT Cody Mowen, 5-9, 220, Sr.
  • TE/DE Michael Cosetino, 6-1, 200, Jr.
Senior running back/linebacker Jake Lambert (25) is one of the top returners in Southern Arizona (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/defensive coordinator: George Kelly
  • Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Derek Weissenberger
  • Defensive line/offensive line/special teams: Magnus Magnusson
  • Running backs/linebackers: Jake Lambert Sr.
  • Defensive backs/wide receivers: James Kelly
  • Offensive line/defensive line: Brendan Ivy
George Kelly is entering his third year at Empire (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Barring any postponements or cancellations from COVID-19, Empire will play only its second game in the last 22 months when the Ravens play at Sahuarita on Sept. 3. … RB Yani Brown has exhausted his eligibility and is with Arizona Christian. Brown rushed for 668 yards on 70 carries with six touchdowns in 2019. He also tallied 26 tackles as a cornerback in 2019. … LB/RB Jake Lambert Jr. is also an accomplished wrestler. He intends to play football at NAU, where both his mom and dad earned degrees. Lambert’s dad, Jake Sr., a Salpointe grad, is the running backs and linebackers coach at Empire … Empire was scheduled to end its season at home against Palo Verde on Nov. 12 but the Titans have canceled their varsity season. If the Ravens can’t fill the schedule, their regular season would end Nov. 5 at home against Catalina Foothills. … QB Miles Kinney showed a good touch on his mid-range passes in a scrimmage against Tombstone recently.

Hyrum Tanner celebrates after a touchdown reception for Empire against Tombstone in a scrimmage (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)




ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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