In the high school football universe where Enoch Watson lives, he’s living the dream at American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek, Arizona.

His team is seeded No. 7 in the “Open” state playoffs, a breakout division of the highest-rated football programs in Arizona. He is committed to sign at BYU. His head coach is former Heisman Trophy winner and BYU legend Ty Detmer. His offensive coordinator and QB coach is Max Hall, the winningest quarterback in BYU history from nearby Mesa at Mountain View High.

“I love it, it’s been fun,” said Watson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior who will graduate in 2024. 

Detmer and Hall rank No. 1 and 2 in BYU’s career passing ladder. Combined, they threw for 26,396 yards and 215 touchdowns during their college careers. Both love coaching high school kids, embrace the challenge and are having fun.

American Leadership Academy coach Ty Detmer talks to his team following a game during the 2023 season. The former BYU great and Heisman winner isn’t the only former BYU great on the football staff. | Josh Hemsley

American Leadership Academy will play Arizona powerhouse Basha High this week in the second round of the Open Championship, a division where the state high school activities association collected the best schools in 6A for championship competition.

To date, Watson has completed 65% of his passes for 2,450 yards and 28 touchdowns with three interceptions. He has rushed for 292 yards and seven TDs for ALA, a team that is 7-2 on the season and recently beat rival Queen Creek, 42-15.

Against defending champion and No. 2 seed Basha, Watson will go against Arizona-bound star QB Demond Williams and future BYU teammate, Basha safety Thomas Prassas.

Detmer said Watson is a big part of why ALA has won games.

“He’s a great kid. He’s always got a smile on his face and he works hard at it,” said Detmer.  “He’s really athletic, a big kid. He’s elusive and got some wiggle to him and he’s made some great plays for us this year, some of them when he’s used his legs.”

Earlier this year, Detmer remembers Watson dropping back with 20 seconds left in a game and throwing a pass that hit a lineman and ricocheted into the air. “He scoops it up and runs it about 20 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds left, and we won the game on the extra point. So, he’s definitely a playmaker.”

As head coach, Detmer leaves play-calling duties and coordinating the offense to Hall as he works with running backs and special teams.  

“Oh, we’re good,” said Detmer of how they tag team as high school coaches.

“Max runs the show on offense. I try to be a sounding board, but really kind of stay out of his way. I don’t want to be the guy who interferes with play calling and all that during the game. I kind of let him do his thing and he’s been great at it. We’ve had a great time and, like I said, I’m just kind of a sounding board. We’ll sit down and talk about the game plan and share thoughts, but he runs the show over there.”

On the day Detmer provided an interview, he said Hall was in his office cutting up his play-call sheet and creating another for this week’s game against Basha. “He does a great job,” said Detmer, who once rewrote the NCAA record book for career passing yards and touchdowns.

Two of a kind

Hall and Detmer are intensely competitive personalities, as evidenced by their athletic careers in high school, college and the NFL. They both bring a different energy to ALA and the players, who benefit from their unusual backgrounds.

American Leadership Academy offensive coordinator Max Hall, a former BYU great, celebrates a big victory. | Josh Hemsley

The last time this pair was in LaVell Edwards Stadium, they were playing in an alumni game at the end of spring football practice for BYU. In that game, Hall ruptured his Achilles tendon.

When Watson came to ALA from a small high school in Flagstaff, he was a raw talent running a simple offense. Hall took him under his wing and has taught him what will be required to play at the next level.

“He’d never taken a three-step drop, but everything was play-action rollout. He’d never made an RPO read, never run the spread offense. He was just raw and talented,” said Hall.  

“He has a great arm and can throw at different arm angles and he has a strong arm. He ended up being a lot more athletic than I thought. He’s elusive and good at running the football. He’s a big threat running around. He not only keeps his eyes downfield, but when he has run the ball he’s made a lot of big-time plays with his feet.”

Hall says he’s been working his tail off with Watson, demanding a lot of him, throwing the kitchen sink at him during and after practices the past eight months.

“We’ve been working on getting his footwork right and his timing right, everything you need in more of a spread-type offense. There’re still times in games where you can tell he’s a little raw, where his feet get lazy, but the improvement he’s made has been phenomenal. I demand a lot out of our quarterbacks.”

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Before and after practices, Hall takes Watson in the office and they look at film. “He’s always learning and taking notes and he’s becoming, in my opinion, the best all-around quarterback in the state of Arizona.”

Hall says Basha’s QB is a “phenomenal athlete,” but believes Watson “knows more about the game and how to read and make plays.”  

Hall said he’s been impressed with Watson’s knowledge of the game, especially at the end of the season. 

“We’re just killing it and he’s making the right reads and he’s throwing on time. I give a lot of credit to Enoch on how hard he’s worked to become a pocket passer, make key defender and RPO reads and run basically a normal offense from what many teams run these days.”

Mentoring a future Cougar QB

Hall said he met this summer with BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark to get some protection ideas for his undersized offensive line. 

“I got some ideas on some protection and play actions, moving the pocket so we could use Enoch’s abilities when we need to. It’s been fun. We run a complicated offense. I can take this offense right to college.”

So, since Watson has a pair of college big-play artists in Hall and Detmer coaching him, does he have that same type of game-saving flair?

Said Hall, “Well, let me tell you this, he’s had a couple of games this year where his stats weren’t great and he didn’t play as well as he wanted to, but he made plays at the end of the game to win.

“I said, ‘Enoch, nobody comes to me and says, “Oh yeah, Max, your stats sucked in the Utah games,” because they did. No one remembers that. They remember the plays that won the game.’

“He is a playmaker. I mean bottom line, he is a playmaker and he’s made key plays in fourth quarters to win us games, whether with his arm or with his feet.” — Max Hall on BYU commit Enoch Watson

“He is a playmaker. I mean bottom line, he is a playmaker and he’s made key plays in fourth quarters to win us games, whether with his arm or with his feet,” Hall continued. “So he’s got a little bit of that moxie in him and playmaking ability and instinct at the end of the games to make plays. So yeah, he’s got a little bit of me in him, he’s just a way better athlete.”

Two BYU legends, one vision

Hall calls working with Detmer “a blast.”

When Hall and Detmer started working together, it was evident to both of them that they saw eye-to-eye on almost everything. Detmer had been around the program as the district athletic director and became the head coach.

“He told me he’d help me where he could but we were on the same page and he’d leave me to it. But I’ve relied on him, too, to be more mature as a coordinator. Like in certain situations in a game, he’ll come over and be like, ‘Hey, might want to think about this or think about this situation, don’t force this, there is a tendency here.’

“He’s helped me figure out some of my tendencies. He’s helped me, not so much in play design, but how to be a coordinator if that makes sense. How to make the right decisions in certain situations.  

“We sit down and scheme and game plan together, but I think he’s just allowed me and helped me be more mature as a coordinator. It’s been a lot of fun.”

American Leadership Academy coach Ty Detmer celebrates with players during the 2023 season. | Josh Hemsley

Watson’s parents named him after the Old Testament biblical prophet Enoch. He plans on following the example of his older brother Pierson, a linebacker who signed with BYU in the 2022 cycle, and will serve a church mission after high school.

While he will play basketball after this football season ends, he plans on graduating and doing missionary service before enrolling at BYU. He has two uncles who played at BYU, Aaron and Jadon Wagner.

He believes he’s got the best of both worlds with Detmer and Hall coaching him.

Of Detmer, Watson says, “He’s just such a great person and such a great coach. He’s such a player’s coach and he’s always there for each one of us. But, he also knows when to coach hard and when not to go too hard. So it’s like, you know, the perfect balance. There’s no other head coach like him out there. And I’m just grateful to have him as a head coach.”

As for Hall, Watson appreciates what he’s brought to his personal athletic plate.

“(Hall) is the same thing as Detmer,” said Watson. “He can get on a personal level with all these players and he’s there for each one of us and I’m lucky to call him my coach. He is the best coordinator in the state. You can put him up against any defense and he knows what to do. It’s always great to learn from him. To have two legends, a Heisman winner and the winningest quarterback in BYU history, it’s cool. I got lucky.”

American Leadership Academy quarterback Enoch Watson, a BYU commit, walks off the field following a game. | Josh Hemsley