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2022 Southern Arizona high school football preview: Empire Ravens


4A Kino: Empire

2021 record: 5-6 overall, 3-1 4A Gila (second)

Head coach: George Kelly, 6-16, fourth 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.

Empire its entering its fourth year of the George Kelly era (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

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Key returners:

  • WR/SS Hyrum Tanner, 6-0, 184, Sr.
  • CB/WR Ace Weissenberger, 5-9, 175, Jr.
  • QB Ethan Goodall, 6-0, 170, Jr.
  • DE/T Michael Consentino, 6-2, 250, Sr.
  • RB/LB Luke Lambert, 6-0, 176, Jr.

“We’re there but we’re not there. We’ve got a lot of weaknesses. … We’re going to be honing on those and work on what we need to correct to be ready. As far as plays and those things, we’re okay, we’re good, but we’re not where we want to be. … We have a good group of guys. They’re young … It’s about bringing a mentality. In order to get that mentality, we have to coach it.” — Kelly

“Obviously, every team has their kinks they have to work out, plays they’ve got to perfect. I feel that if we keep showing hard work and dedication at practice, as we have been, it’s going to translate out on to the field. We’re not going to get tired. We’re going to make the plays when it’s time to make the plays, when it matters.” — Tanner

“Ready. It’s gametime. I’m excited. … We’re going to perform. I’m not scared at all. We’re ready to be honest.” — Goodall

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

Notes: Empire was hit hard by impact players graduating last year, including RB/LB Jake Lambert, who was one of the best two-way players in the state last year rushing for 1,042 yards on 213 carries and producing an amazing 158 tackles, 16 for loss (five of them sacks). He is on Hastings (Neb.) College’s traveling team as a freshman … Also exhausting their eligibility were QB Miles Kinney (102 completions out of 176 attempts for 1,585 yards and 18 touchdowns) and top WR Jacob Puentes (41 receptions for 748 yards and 12 touchdowns). … Lambert’s brother Luke physically looks like he will be in the same mold. He is a solid 6-foot and 176 pounds as a junior linebacker/running back. … Empire is scheduled to play two competitive teams from Phoenix — Sierra Linda (8-2 last year but did not qualify for the playoffs because of its power rating) and Glendale Deer Valley (7-4 last year with a first-round loss in the 4A state playoffs to eventual champion Casa Grande. The Ravens host Sierra Linda Sept. 16 and travel to Deer Valley a week later. … The Ravens are also transitioning from the 4A Gila to the 4A Kino, which means they are now playing region opponents Mica Mountain, CDO, Pueblo, Douglas and Vista Grande.

Keep an eye out for: Senior WR/SS Hyrum Tanner, an athletic 6-foot and 184 pounds. With Puentes graduated, Tanner is expected to get the bulk of the receptions. He could realistically reach similar numbers as Puentes but will need new QB Ethan Goodall, junior, to grasp the offense in his first year as a starter.

EMPIRE (2-1, 0-0)

Ravens compete in the 4A Kino. *Region game. Games are at 7 p.m.
DateOpponentW/LOvrReg
9/2Rincon/UniversityW, 20-01-00-0
9/16Sierra LindaL, 14-121-10-0
9/23@ Deer ValleyW, 6-02-10-0
9/30Sahuarita
10/7@ Rio Rico
10/14@ Mica Mountain*
10/21Vista Grande*
10/28@ Douglas*
11/4@ CDO*
11/10Pueblo*

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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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