Senior Signing Spotlight: Zach Molina
Late recruitment from Southern Utah becomes perfect fit for Red Mountain WR
This is No. 15 in a month-long series of profiles of Arizona high school seniors that signed with four-year colleges. Here's the full list (currently totaling 289) players from within the state moving on to the next level.
With eight offers, Zach Molina had many options when selecting a college.
The majority of those offers for the 5-10, 175-pound wide receiver from Red Mountain were from Division III or NAIA schools and were partial scholarships. All of a sudden, as National Signing Day approached, a new offer emerged from Southern Utah.
The Big Sky school in Cedar City met all of the criteria that Molina was interested in. He liked the offense it runs, the level of competition he'll face, and it creates a reunion with an old teammate. Molina acted on it and signed with the Thunderbirds (one of six high school players from the state to do so).
"SUU just seemed like the dream opportunity for me and the perfect fit," Molina said in an e-mail interview.
He hasn't been up to Southern Utah yet, but is taking a trip to visit the campus next weekend and meet all the coaches face-to-face.
Red Mountain is a part of the 6A East Valley Region along with all the other five schools in the Mesa Public Schools district. The Mountain Lions have dominated the past two years going a perfect 10-0 in league play. All 10 of those wins have come by 14 or more with an average margin of victory of 28.5.
Beyond that, RMHS has become a perennial contender for state reaching the semifinals twice and the quarterfinals once in the last three seasons.
"Our team the the past couple years has changed the culture at Red Mountain, from not wanting to just be the best in Mesa, but one of the best in the state," Molina said. "We held ourselves to high standards to make sure there was no doubt we were the best in Mesa and competing for the best in the state every year!"
Molina had a breakout season leading the Lions in receiving yards last season with 626 on 37 catches for six touchdowns. In 2017, he mainly played defense (19 tackles, two interceptions) and returned kicks on special teams (900 combined return yards). With the graduations of Gerald Wilbon and Lance Lawson, someone had to step up in '18. Molina did his part.
"Junior year had its ups and downs for sure, but at the end of the day, I had to do what was best for the team," Molina said. "I just love being on the field and special teams is a big part of the game that people don't give as much credit to the impact it can make. It was important both years to just help the team anyway I could and get on the field anyway I could."
Molina was named to the First Team All-6A East Valley Region at receiver. Over the summer, he could see the team would need him more on offense so he talked to the coaches more and figured out what his role would be.
"I put my head down and decided that this is a good thing and I'm going to compete to be the best WR on the team and one of the best in the state," Molina said.
Against Skyline in October, Red Mountain was holding a 21-14 lead with less than three minutes remaining. But, quarterback Darren Smith didn't hand it off to the running back to kill time. Instead, the senior dropped back and began what was the longest play from scrimmage for the Lions all year.
Hanging onto the lead; run the ball? Nope, Smith drops back and finds Zach Molina ahead of the coverage and fires the deep ball. Molina outsprints the defenders and goes 82 yards for a TOUCHDOWN to put it away. 28-14 Red Mountain.— Gridiron Arizona (@gridironarizona) September 29, 2018
Southern Utah is finding itself a pipeline in Arizona. Last year, the school signed five players giving them a total of 11 signees in the past two seasons. One of those in the Class of 2018 was Lawson. Molina is excited to get on the field with his former Red Mountain teammate once again.
"Lance is one of my best friends and having the opportunity to play with him again at the D-I level seems like a movie," Molina said. "Knowing I could go to a school with my best friend who happens to be one of the hardest-working people I know and one of the best players Arizona has seen in a while, I couldn't turn down that opportunity. He will make sure I'm on top of my school and grades and working to be the best me every day."