Over the next 12 days, we will feature our picks of Southern Arizona's top preseason high school football players.
Our countdown continues with Sahuarita's Eugene Santa Cruz Jr., one of the biggest lineman in Southern Arizona this season … and he still has two high school seasons left.
Eugene Santa Cruz Jr.
• The rundown: Eugene Santa Cruz Jr., OL, 6-5, 335, Sahuarita, junior
• Who he is: A 15-year-old junior tackle with experience, who has embraced the weight room, classroom and the idea of slimming down. Santa Cruz's potential is as big as he is. The Sunnyside transfer started 10 games for Sahuarita as a sophomore last year, on a Mustangs team that went 10-1 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Voted a team captain heading into this season, Santa Cruz has embraced his new role as a leader by saying all the right things and holding himself and his teammates accountable over the summer. Coaches want Santa Cruz to develop more of a mean streak on the field, and now there is an aggressive player at practice lining up across from him: defensive end and running back Vincent Palma, a 6-foot 2-inch, 200-pound transfer from Pueblo, who is pushing Santa Cruz.
• Proof he's good: A coach from Oregon doesn't visit anyone, even if it was just to get an up-close look at Santa Cruz's size. Last year's visit from the Ducks was an eye opener for Santa Cruz, who has since performed well at camps held at the UA and ASU over the summer. He also raised his bench press max to 365 pounds before cutting back for the upcoming start of the season, and he should be a dominating force on the line this season.
• He said it: "He's got good feet, he's got good hands, he's got the size, and now he has the want-to behind the tools the good Lord gave him." - Sahuarita coach David Rodriguez