The Sonoran Sidewinders will attempt to start 2-0 this season when they face the Gila River Hawks in Gilbert on Saturday night.
Last week,, the Sidewinders were efficient in all phases in a 47-28 win over the Arizona Christian University developmental team at Santa Rita High School, their home site.
One of the big keys to that victory was a suffocating defense that kept the Firestorm offense at bay for most of the game.
At the forefront of the defense was a relentless pass rushing attack led by Rashaud “R.J.” Armstrong.
Armstrong is not accustomed to playing the defensive end position. In fact, he hadn’t played there since his junior year at Buena High School.
“Coming back to defensive end, I would say I knew what I was doing,” Armstrong said. ”It was like instinct. I played it for my junior year so I just came out this year and it was the same thing for me.”
Sonoran Sidewinders vs Gila River Hawks
— Hohokam Junior College Athletic Conference (@HJCAC) September 10, 2022
Most of his playing time was at wide receiver for the Colts his senior year under head coach Joseph Thomas.
In his final high school game against Marana Mountain View, he caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Armstrong played like he remembered everything about playing defensive end as he was constantly in the Firestorm backfield and even caught an interception.
Sidewinders head coach Hal Reeser said that making the move back to the end spot may have been a reluctant choice for Armstrong but did so for the betterment of the team.
“You can out him at the Y, you can pit him at the X, he’s gonna tear it up no matter where we play him,” Reeser said after last week’s game. ”That’s kind of the tough spot, is where do we put R.J.? But our defense really needed him.”
It was before the start of the season when coaches began looking at Armstrong as an asset on defense.
“I think it was during fall camp one of the coaches came up to me and asked me if I had ever played defensive end before,” Armstrong said. ”I told them, ‘Yeah I have,’ but I told coach Reeser that I could play anywhere on defense. I don’t mind playing it (defensive end) because I’m a team player and I just wanna get in there and have fun.”
Once some injuries on the defensive line clear up, Armstrong says that he will have more looks at either the wide out position or tight end spot.
“I talked to coach Reeser and he said he would love to see me more at the X and Y,” Armstrong said. ”Hopefully you should see me there soon.”