The preseason high school football All-Southern Arizona team continues today with No. 8 on our list of 22 players.
Check out a video clip on KVOA (Channel 4) tonight at 10.
The team was chosen by the Arizona Daily Star and the staff at KVOA and will be revealed daily through Aug. 22.
Johnny Peña • RB • 5-9, 185 • Salpointe Catholic, So.
• Who he is: The question is not so much about who Peña is, but whether he can continue to be who he was in his debut. As a freshman last season, a rare opportunity dropped in Peña's lap: Salpointe senior running back Bobby Way went down with a season-ending ankle injury in the preseason, and thus began the Lancers' search for a dominant rusher. Three weeks went by before coach Dennis Bene gave Peña a shot, but when Bene did, it was clear Salpointe had its man. In his first game action, Peña rushed seven times for 57 yards, including a 29-yard burst. So in the next game, against 5A rival Ironwood Ridge, Peña was the go-to guy, getting 23 carries and turning them into 172 yards and a touchdown. The rest is history. Peña went on to average more than 100 yards per game for the rest of the season, and even eclipsed 200 on Oct. 16 against Rincon/University.
• Proof he's good: Peña understands that his prior success means nothing unless he can duplicate it this season. As a freshman, he had almost no pressure at all. Even had he failed to make an impact, he still had three years to prove himself. But now, he's expected to be a standout, especially since the Lancers are coming off a one-year playoff ban for a recruiting violation. So while a 9-1 record last season went unrewarded, the sky is the limit this year, and Peña is expected to be a huge chunk of the Lancers' success. To that effect, he's certainly coming in prepared. He was listed at 165 pounds last season. He says he now tips the scales at 185, partially thanks to a strict off-season workout regimen that has Peña in the best shape of his young life. Plus, like any sophomore, he simply feels much more comfortable now as a student and a teammate.
• He said it: "I feel like I have to prove myself again, now that everyone knows who I am. … I feel pretty confident. … My footwork is better (and so is) my vision. Also, now that I know my linemen, I can talk to them and we can communicate better."
Michael J. Craven
• What: Day 8 - Johnny Peña
• TV: 10 p.m., Ch 4