The Marcos de Niza Padres registered a historic season in 2022, going 9-2 overall with an undefeated record over the 4A Desert Sky region. However, their season came to an unfortunate ending in the first round of the playoffs to Thunderbird of Phoenix.
The Padres are returning key veteran players, such as quarterback Braesen Leon and defensive captain Jamari Johnson, who played running back in 2022. While the off season for others may have been a time to decompress and go on vacation, it was strictly business for both Braesen and Johnson.
“It’s been all football,” Braesen said. “Even when I did go out of state it was for football camps and stuff like that. This year I’m making sure I do all the right things so I can go have a great senior season.” Part of Braesen’s grind has been to pack of weight and get stronger, which he says he has gained roughly 10 pounds from last season. The goal is to redeem last season’s failures and win 14 games, as coach Anthony Figueroa says, which includes the state championship.
Braesen’s veteran leadership qualities will play a major role in this year’s squad with many key position players having graduated. But, nonetheless, he says the roster should be great and is excited to kick the season off in less than a month.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jamari Johnson is looking to make a splash in his final season, and it starts with chemistry – an element that made the Padres 2022 team so special. “Outside of training we have to get together as a brotherhood because that’s what they (last year’s team) were,” Johnson said.
The chemistry built outside the gridiron will a major factor in what the 2023 team can accomplish. But the that still doesn’t diminish the grind, he says. “It’s senior year, we all just locked in,” Johnson said. “It was all just football and grinding. I just want to play ball and make it to the next level.”
And of course, expectations remain the same with all eyes focused on the playoffs and ultimately hoisting the 4A state title.