Aztec Fast Offense on Full Display at Snapdragon Stadium

CB Jakson Berman (41) intercepts a pass intended for TE Gabe Garretson. (Don De Mars/EVT)

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Sean Lewis at the Aztec Fast Showcase. (Cedric Jones/EVT)

It was a beautiful, sunny, 72-degree, cliche day in San Diego as head coach Sean Lewis and his squad took the field at Snapdragon Stadium.

This was the first time Aztec fans could see the highly anticipated 2024 team in action.

The Red and Black began their spring practices on March 12th. The new coaching staff has been busy implementing new systems on both sides of the ball. Lewis brings an exciting new offense to San Diego, touted as Aztec Fast. On the defensive side of the ball, Eric Schmidt is bringing the 4-2-5 to The Mesa.

This year’s Spring Game looked different than past years, which isn’t a surprise with new coaches.

“It’ll be more of an open practice than it is per se a game,” Lewis eluded to the format of the Aztec Fast Showcase at his Tuesday presser.“We’re just going to divide the team offensively and defensively, create some one-on-one situations early on to get the competitive juices flowing. We’ll do some different sections of the 7on7 throw game…and then we’ll put the ball down in the second half of the scrimmage and play out some regular down and distance situations; we’ll get some work in between the 40s, and then we’ll finish the day up in the high red zone area.”

Jude Wolfe races for a touchdown. (Don De Mars/EVT)

The Aztec Fast Showcase

Many of the players were entering Snapdragon Stadium for the first time.

“Man, I love the stadium,” Dalesean Staley expressed with a smile on his face afterward. “My first impression when I got here on my official visit was, I have to play here. I gotta see how it is when it comes to game time. The stadium is so beautiful, it’s newly built so I knew it was going to be a good attraction when it comes to the fans.”

The day started out with the team meeting on the logo at the fifty-yard line and running some Oklahoma drills as the whole team huddled around and cheered their teammates on. They would then transition into some individual and group drills, from one-on-one matchups between DBs and WRs to offensive line vs defensive line individual rushes.

This Aztec Fast Showcase was unlike previous years’ games, which followed a more game-like setting while keeping score. But the day definitely did not lack in fight. Fans were able to see different levels of competition throughout.

The Aztec Fast offense got the best of the new 4-2-5 defense. AJ Duffy continued to see first-team reps capping off the opening series, a 7-play drive, with a beautiful pass down the middle to Colorado State transfer Louis Brown for a 36-yard touchdown. Brown would end the day with the best stats for a wide receiver as he hauled in five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

A surprising change in the quarterback rotation saw Javance Tupou’ata-Johnson come in as the second signal caller instead of Danny O’Neil. Early in the drive, Baylin Brooks made a key catch on an underthrown ball by Johnson for a 35-yard gain to keep the drive going. Johnson capped off his first drive with a touchdown to Gabe Garretson, a fresh face on The Mesa from Butte College. Despite the change in rotation, Lewis affirmed after the Showcase that Duffy and O’Neil were still ahead of Johnson and Kyle Crum.

“The two of them are a little bit ahead of the rest of the pack right now,” Lewis explained. “They’ve been the most consistent guys that we’ve run through. There’s still lots of room for them to grow, and as they move through, they’ve grasped everything as quickly as anyone in the room.”

O’Neil and Crum both had lackluster days, as Duffy and Johnson made the most plays with the ball. O’Neil would finish the day 2 for 6 with 15 yards passing and one interception. Crum would end with a slightly more impressive 5 for 7 for 36 yards and one touchdown.

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Despite the quarterbacks getting plenty of game-like reps in the stadium, Lewis still isn’t ready to name a starter.

“As soon as possible,” Lewis emphasized when asked when he would want to commit to one guy as his quarterback. “I’m not going to be rushed to make a decision in that regard. But the sooner, the better so that the guys know who the leader of the team’s going to be.”

Lewis stated the Showcase would feature a vanilla offense, and fans saw the ball run double the amount it was thrown. The Red and Black rushed 46 times for 118 yards and a lone 1-yard touchdown by Lucky Sutton. The running back group is looking solid this year but could use help from the offensive line that is one of the main areas of concern for the team heading into the summer. Those needs could be filled by the transfer portal.

Offensively, three of the five touchdowns were scored by fresh faces. Jude Wolfe, Louis Brown, and Gabe Garretson all transferred to San Diego State and have made big impacts. Sutton and WR Jordan Napier accounted for the other two touchdowns.

Wolfe, who transferred from USC, made plays in the passing game but also made key blocks for the Aztec running backs.

“It’s critical,” Lewis said while raving about Wolfe’s ability in the passing and run game. “If you have a tight end that’s multifaceted and he can detach and be a threat as a wide receiver, he can be an inline blocker, or he can be a fullback. Now it puts stress on a defensive coordinator, and those personnel packages where do you treat that guy as a true inline tight end, do you treat it like an 11 personnel or 10 personnel because he can stretch a vertical seam. So having that guy who can do a lot of different things allows you to be creative as a play caller and designer, and it puts a little bit of extra stress on a defensive play caller.”

LB Jake Sinz (54) and RB Cam Davis line up for a tackling drill. (Don De Mars/EVT)


While the Aztec Fast offense did outshine the defense, there were some positives on that side of the ball. Senior Cody Moon was one of those bright spots, flying all over the field and making disruptive plays. He capped off his day by leading the defense with five tackles. Davaughn Celestine, Owen Chambliss, Chris Fewell, Dominic Oliver, and Brady Anderson all had four tackles.

Near the end of the showcase during red zone drives, walk-on transfer Jakson Berman made a great play through traffic to intercept O’Neil for the only interception on the day.

“They did their job,” Staley remarked about the offense. “They got the ball out, they caught the ball, they ran the ball, they were pushing our defense. But our defense was answering back.”

The special teams specialists prior to the AztecFast Showcase (Don De Mars/EVT)

Special Teams

The kickers got to experience kicking in Snapdragon Stadium today and answered the challenge well. They attempted field goals from 29, 40, 45, and 48 yards to start the day. Gabriel Plascencia was 2 of 4, missing wide right from 45 and 48. Abraham Montano was 2 of 4 as well as he missed from 40 and 48 yards. His 40-yard kick hit off the right upright. Nick Lopez was 3 of 4, only missing from 48.

During the scrimmage portion, all three kickers converted on a 26-yard field goal. Plascencia connected from 42, while Montano was good from 43 yards out, and Lopez drilled a 35-yarder.

Despite the windy day, the kickers were able to connect on most kicks.

“I think the unique thing about this place that I learned today is how the wind can move around in here and just feeling that for the first time,” said Lewis about the kicking game at Snapdragon Stadium. “Me learning that and knowing how that’s going to impact our decisions in the fall was one of the biggest things for me.”

AJ Duffy (Green) runs away from a pair of defenders. (Don De Mars/EVT)


The fans got a first look at this team themselves but the coaches and players were pleased with how things progressed.

“Since practice one to practice fifteen it took a lot of hard work every day,” Brown explained about the offense’s progress, adding, “We definitely can do better and I felt like we are a step or two to where we want to get but we are getting there.”

“I really like where we’re at,” Lewis announced of his thoughts on the offense’s progression. “All things considered and all the times I’ve done this at my various stops, I’m very pleased with where we are. I like the course and the direction we’ve taken, and now we’ve really got to refine it and continue to develop and grow and get everyone where they need to be from a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint so we can go operate this thing.”

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