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April 23, 2013

Desert Mountain duo have special connection

The spring evaluation period is underway and there's a legitimate possibility more high profile college football coaches will be making a stop at Scottsdale Desert Mountain this year than in all other years combined since its doors opened in 1995.

Over the last two decades, Desert Mountain has never had a three-star-or-better football prospect until now. Making that reality more anomalous, it has not one, but two such players this year and they aren't your run-of-the-mill Division I recruits either. The Wolves feature one of the best quarterback recruits in the country, Kyle Allen, and one of the best receivers, Mark Andrews.

Allen is the No. 4 ranked pro-style quarterback and No. 136 overall recruit nationally, while Andrews is the No. 9 receiver and No. 87 nationally. A reasonable case could be made that Allen and Andrews are the two best recruits in an unusually loaded 2014 Arizona class.

And get this, they've been extremely close since kindergarten and yet didn't even start linking for touchdowns on the gridiron until a couple years ago.

"We've been best friends since forever but we didn't always play the same sport," Andrews said. "He's always played football but I only started playing football my freshman year. I've always played basketball. Being best friends since that little, we never really thought it would come to this but it has and it's been a great experience. He's my buddy and I couldn't ask for anything else from him. He's helped me out a lot and I wouldn't want to go through this journey with anyone else. It's a great time in our lives."

Allen, who threw for 3,119 yards and 36 touchdowns last season with a remarkable 72.1 percent completion rate, knows that his value as a prospect and capability as a high school quarterback are enhanced by having a weapon in his arsenal most other quarterbacks could only dream of.

"At an elite level in high school I don't know what it's like to play without a receiver who I can count on whenever we need someone to catch a ball," Allen said. "Whenever we have to make a play I can always throw him a back shoulder ball or get him a jump ball or something like that.

"It just worked out like this. We both picked Desert Mountain for a school and we're not the kind of kids to go to a program because it's an esteemed program that's already there putting out kids like Chaparral. We both come from the mindset that we're going to make a name for ourselves."

Indeed, the Wolves have moved from also-ran to legitimate Division I contender in just a few short years due in large part to the high profile friends. After failing to win a single game in 2010, Desert Mountain was 9-3 last year, losing in the second round of the state playoffs to Mountain Pointe. It should be even better in 2013.

"We lost a lot of linemen this year so we're definitely going to need to re-up our lineman but pretty much all our back seven on our defense is back and more of our skill guys are back except for a couple receivers," Allen said. "So if we can get our line going and do what we're supposed to do we can win a state championship easily I think."

"I think we definitely have that opportunity," Andrews agreed. "A lot of the talk about Desert Mountain is Kyle and I but I think our school is definitely on the rise. We have 30 seniors so we'll have help there and I think we can definitely do it. We were good last year and fell short but we're going to be better for sure."

The attention that has come with their success has both players hopeful that this will be the foundation that allows Desert Mountain to eventually join the ranks of the elite high schools in the Valley, mentioned in the same breath as the Hamiltons, Centennials and several others.

"The attention has been definitely humbling," Andrews said. "It's really good for Desert Mountain. It helps out a lot of kids who wouldn't have been able to get seen otherwise. I definitely can't say anything else other than it's great for our school and both of us."

Allen, who is spending April on a recruiting tour that includes Texas A&M, Wisconsin and UCLA, has been overjoyed by how his passion has developed into life altering opportunity for the future.

"It's a dream come true," Allen said. "I've been playing football my whole life, our family has been watching football our whole lives. So it's almost surreal to see what's happening now. I've watched college football my whole life and thinking how I'd love to do but never really thinking about how possible it was until high school and now it's working out. I've obviously worked incredibly hard to get to this point and now it's just a weird feeling seeing it coming together.

"It's surreal but then you also have to deal with it as a professional. You obviously feel super blessed and just humbled by it but then you've still got to sit down and say, 'I know I have all these offers and it's wonderful but I've got to pick out the pros and cons of each one and be methodical about it.' You're not a kid any more when you're going through this process."

Andrews said there are some days in which he receives more than 100 pieces of mail from college coaches. After catching a jaw-dropping 81 passes for 1,494 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, it's easy to understand why. He too is on a national college tour this month, making stops at Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

"It's definitely been crazy," Andrews said of his roughly two dozen BCS offers. "I just came in trying to play the sport as a fun thing and something new to me. It's humbling and crazy and I never expected it at all. But I really appreciate it.

"Right now it's so wide open and I'm not trying to limit myself to any schools. I'm going to go through the spring and see where things are at. I think I'll narrow it down after that but for right now there's probably a good 20 schools I'm legitimately considering."

As a quarterback, Allen knows he'll have to make a decision sooner than most other players because college tend to take just one recruit at his position per class and the dominoes start to fall quickly. While he isn't making a decision based on Andrews' criteria or school list, Allen said that they have schools in common and there's a decent chance they could again team up in college.

"We've talked about it before," Allen said. "Obviously I'm 100 percent sure I'm going to make a decision before he does. He's going to see it through all the way but I don't really have the luxury of doing that. Wherever I go I'm going to recruit him hard to that school and be on him. It's not like I'm going to see him every other week or month, I'm going to see him every day, so I'm going to stay on him about it. But I'm also going to let him do his own thing is that's what it comes down to because there are places he's interested in that I'm not really interested in. I'm sure I'll have a lot of influence though."

Allen's decision will likely come after an additional round of visits in June, while Andrews is unlikely to have a verdict until at least taking some January official visits.

"We definitely have been blessed to be able to play with each other and we feed off one another 100 percent," Andrews said. "We've been very lucky to have both our talents and we talk about it weekly and it's something that means a lot to us. To be able to continue playing together in college would be pretty special. I don't know what the odds of it happening are, but I know I would love it if that worked out to be what happens."


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