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Behind great defense and balanced scoring, Legacy Traditional School girls’ junior high basketball team recently won the Arizona Charter Athletic Association AZCAA Division B State Championship, defeating Leading Edge Academy 34-10.
The Legacy Lions came out roaring, taking an early 10-2 lead in the first quarter. By the end of the half, Legacy had pushed the lead to 22-6 through a combination of good passing and defense. The Lions never looked back in the second half, cruising to a 24-point win.

Elisabeth Eames led the Lions in scoring with 8 points, followed by Aundria Littlejohn, 7, Ieisha Smith, 6, Tailor Goods, 5, Sydnee Akers, 4, and Ki Beattie, 4. The balanced scoring contributed to securing Legacy’s first AZCAA state championship.

Eames, a 7th grader at Legacy, was named the most valuable player and was also invited to participate in the AZCAA junior high all-star basketball tournament. Joining her on the all-star squad were Tailor Goods, Brandon Holcomb, and Jared Barney.

Legacy welcomes all students from 6th to 9th grade to participate in its various sports offerings. If you have any questions about Legacy Traditional School or its sports programs, call 520-423-9999.

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Teacher Details:

Name: Jennifer Stefanow
School: Desert Wind Middle School
Grade level or class taught: sixth grade Language Arts

How long have you taught in Maricopa?

This is my second year with the Maricopa Unified School District.

Where did you teach prior to this?

Previously, I’ve taught with the Apache Junction Unified School District, as well as Sun Valley High School (an alternative school in Mesa), Excalibur Charter School and the Antietam School District in Reading, Pennsylvania. I’ve also worked in behavioral health with Pennsylvania Counseling Services.

Why did you become a teacher?

I wanted an opportunity to help change children’s lives. I didn’t have the easiest time growing up, and if it weren’t for the inspiration and support I received from some of my teachers, I don’t know where I’d be. Two of the people I most admire are Mr. Daniels, my junior year honors English teacher at Governor Mifflin High School in Shillington, Pa, and Dr. Bonser, literature professor at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pa. And since they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…if I can help out just one of my students the way those two teachers helped me, well, it will all be worth it!

Why did you decide to teach in Maricopa?

I love the town of Maricopa. I’ve met some genuinely wonderful people here in our community. I want to give back to the city of Maricopa in any way I can, and I can think of no better way than in teaching our kids.

What is your approach to teaching?

Since I also have a background in behavioral health, my classroom management style is to first and foremost create an environment that is nurturing, where students feel safe expressing themselves (in an appropriate way, of course). I like to describe my approach as strict when it comes to the subject matter, and sensitive when it comes to students’ behavior. I try to remind myself daily that there’s a reason children act the way they do, and it’s better to try to address the root of the behavior and teach the child a better way to behave, rather than just punish.

What makes you unique?

In addition to teaching English, I’m also a writer. I try to give the students who have a desire to do more with their writing a bit of insight into the publishing world. I’m very proud to be in charge of our forthcoming Desert Wind literary magazine, Tiger Teenz.

What do you like to do when you are not teaching?

I love to write, obviously. I also enjoy learning new things, and I’ll read anything. I enjoy running with my dog, Kojak, camping, hiking, and singing karaoke (badly).

Do you have any children? If so are they in the district?

I don’t have kids.

What is the most memorable teaching or life experience you have had?

I was teaching at Sun Valley on the morning of September 11, 2001. One other teacher and I had to somehow hold ourselves and 60 seventh and eighth graders together as we watched the tragedy unfold on our classroom television. It was without a doubt the most difficult day of my teaching career.

Anything else you would like to add?

No, except…GO TIGERS!

Photo by Michael K. Rich

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Maricopa High School honored the memories of Matt Huffman and Krystin Diehl recently with a baseball and a softball tournament at Maricopa High School. 

The eighth annual Matt Huffman tournament, which benefits the Matt Huffman Scholarship, was held March 11-13. In pool play, the Maricopa Rams baseball team ran 2-2-0. The Rams faced some tough competition, according to head coach Daron Connelly.

“Five of the nine teams play in the 5A Conference (the highest classification in the state), so the competition was strong,” Connelly said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.” 

Trevor Browne High gained victory in bracket play. Alhambra’s shortstop, Julio Alguno captured the Matt Huffman Never Quit Award. Other competing high schools included South Mountain, St. Johns, Tempe, Betty H. Fairfax, Westwood, and Raymond S. Kellis.

The third annual Krystin Diehl Softball Tournament was held March 12-13. The Diehl tourney was also a huge success, according to Rams softball head coach Rob Henderson.

“We had good, competitive softball and all of the teams enjoyed their experience,” Henderson said. “Our team had a good weekend. We were 3-2, coming in 5th place overall (out of 10 teams). The girls continue to improve – our defense continues to get better. As our young team continues to gain experience, they will get more competitive at the 4A level. We look forward to our region games coming up.”

Cesar Chavez seized the P-Nut award as the most passionate, noisy, unique and tenacious team.

Krystin Diehl, former Maricopa sophomore class president, perished in a tragic auto accident just outside of Maricopa on State Route 347 on May 2, 2006. Matt Huffman, a former catcher for the Maricopa varsity baseball team, collapsed during a run on Jan. 3, 2002.

Shannon Hull, athletic director for Maricopa High School, knows the tournaments keep the players’ memories alive.

“These were two amazing students on and off the field,” Hull said. “They are examples of the type of student-athletes that we want in any program. Our students will learn about both Krystin and Matt each year, so that they may know the importance of these two to Maricopa High School and the Maricopa community.”

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Senior Terrance Motley’s basket in the final seconds of the game sent the Maricopa High boys’ varsity squad into overtime against Tempe, but Rams could not capitalize, falling 74-63 in 4A-II East Sky basketball action Tuesday night. The home loss evened Maricopa to 9-9 overall on the season. Tempe improved to 6-4 in conference play.

The Buffaloes stormed out to a big lead in the first quarter on the strength of a series of three pointers. But Maricopa fought back, with seniors Jarvis Gonzales and Lester Gonzales keying the comeback to pull within three, 13-16 by the at the end of the period.

Maricopa picked up the pace in the second quarter and took the lead at halftime, with senior Jace Dickerson launching a three-pointer to put the Rams up at 26-25. “They did a very good job of coming back,” said Rams head coach Andy Branchik.

The Rams played well on both offense and defense in the second half, matching the Buffaloes basket for basket. The score at the end of the third quarter found Maricopa down a point, 41-42. It would be more of the same in the fourth.

With only 3.2 seconds left on the clock, Motley tied it up 58-58, sending the game into overtime. In OT, the Rams could not stop Tempe’s scoring, as the Buffaloes stampeded to victory.

“One of the things I’m trying to teach these young men is how to play the game from start to finish with the same intensity,” Branchik said.

Photo by Chuck King

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A team composed of Maricopa high school boys has been crowned Indoor Soccer Champions.

The local club team, Maricopa Teakwood’s, had a rocky start with only one victory and 3 losses but went on a six-game winning streak to finish second in their division and go on to play two games in three hours to secure the championship.

Most of these same boys can be seen this winter during the Maricopa High School soccer season that begins December 1st.

“The boys are excited for this upcoming season to be playing on the new artificial surface at the high school,” said Jack Berg, coach of both the club and high school soccer teams.

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Members of the MUSD governing board, parents and Rams football players were at the high school lecture hall Tuesday evening to meet and ask questions of newly hired football coach Gary Mattes.

Athletic Director Mike Larsen introduced Mattes, who removed his blazer as he walked on stage, transforming his professional appearance to his ‘get down to business’ shirtsleeves.

Mattes talked about his days as a high school quarterback and his 30 plus years as a football coach. He emphasized the hard work and sweat required to win his five Division 1 titles and his coach of the year award.

Mattes said his first challenge for the players would be “not to look back at the past, but instead to focus on the future.”

Regardless of previous positions under past coaching regimes, Mattes said he plans to play the best players who prove themselves on and off the field and to get as many players as possible in the game.

Mattes also laid out his intention of starting a Total Package Football Program for the city of Maricopa, looking for potential football stars from middle school on up and encouraging them to start looking at the possibilities of playing on higher level teams. The coach plans to recruit students who should be playing by using current players’ recommendations. “Each player gives three names of individuals they believe would be an asset to the team,” said Mattes.

While Mattes is dedicated to football success, he added that grades and being active in the community would be a focus for the players as well.

June Celaya, MHS principal, said she is excited about the new head coach. “Coming from a love of sports, I can’t wait for the new season to start.” She said she has no doubt that the new coach, new changes and new program will create a football program the Maricopa community will be proud to be part of.

Darnell Simons, father of one of the freshman players, said the new coach is from his hometown in Ohio, and he knows the type of football he’ll bring to MHS. “I am very excited for the team and the community football program.”

Several of the players said they are also very excited about their new coach, and the seems to be dependable and confident about his techniques and strategies to turn around the Rams football team.

Mattes announced Aug. 10 as the first mandatory practice, which will allow him to view skills and talent to determine what type of offense and defense he will run.

Photo by Tomel Griggs

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It was a tough night on the home mat for the Maricopa High School boys’ wrestling squad. The Rams lost their matches in a four-team tournament Wednesday, Jan. 27, involving Tempe, Camp Verde and Apache Junction high schools.

Maricopa has struggled to win this year, which has been challenging for Rams head coach Eric Reed and his wrestlers. “We’ve worked hard, and really, the boys who have been wrestling have won just about as often as they’ve lost,” Reed said. “We’re about .500 in that regard.”
Reed attributes the team’s 5-42 prior to the tournament to forfeitures. “Many of the kids become injured, are ineligible or just don’t show up for practice.”

The tournament opened with Maricopa locking up with Apache Junction. The Prospectors defeated the Rams 53-30, but the home team wrestled well, which raised some hope for a comeback later in the tournament. That hope soon faced; however, as Camp Verde overpowered the Rams 54-5. Maricopa’s fortunes didn’t improve their last match of the day, as the Rams fell to the Tempe Buffaloes 62-15.

The Maricopa Rams next take the mat at the regionals, which will be held Feb. 6 at Tempe High School.

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Maricopa Youth Football League (MYFL) doesn’t just play football and win championships. In addition to building teamwork, strength and discipline, they strive to build character in their players.

On Saturday, Nov.22, at the Ak-Chin ball fields from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the league will be holding its first ever canned food drive in conjunction with the end-of-the-year awards ceremony and celebration.

All MYFL families are being asked to bring at least one non-perishable food item to donate. The food will be sent out to various local churches to help Maricopa families who may be experiencing difficult times due to the state of the economy.

According to Greg Johnston, head coach of the champion Junior Pee Wee Vipers team (see related story), “The reason we would like to do this is to do our part as a league to help build our community and help people less fortunate during this holiday time.”

“We at MYFL believe that your heart beats at its best when it’s beating for others. We want show our youth that giving to others and not always receiving is the way to live and is one more step towards becoming well-rounded, productive citizens who impact their communities, ” said championship winning Cougars head coach Larry Davis. (see related story)

MYFL acknowledges the tremendous support they have received during the past year. Now they are taking their turn and giving back in support of their community.

Community donations may be dropped off at the Ak-Chin ball fields on Nov. 22 or earlier at the Mail & Copy Plus in the Bashas’ Plaza.

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The students of Maricopa Wells Middle School were taken around the world Friday with a “Culture Quest.” The event, held on campus, was meant to celebrate the diversity of the student body and was put on by the Culture Club.

The quest started with the student body sitting in the multi-purpose room to watch an Irish presentation. Next, some of the students shared their American heritage with a song and dance medley from the musical “Oklahoma.”

After a performance by the dance team, the students broke into groups to experience the exhibits of different cultures.

At one exhibit students learned about the ancient art of paper folding from Chinese representatives. Each student folded their own wallet. Students then had their names painted in Chinese symbols, learning that the Chinese language is not characterized by letters, but by symbols that represent a sound.

The middle schoolers also learned about a culture much closer to home, the Ak-Chin Community. Students were able to look at an exhibit displaying pieces of that culture. The grandmother of one of the students, Mrs. Armida, showed students the basket-weaving process.

The Culture Quest also included an exhibit from Brazil.

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For the most part, the Maricopa defense always seemed to be positioned in the right spot, ready to slow the Higley ground game Friday night.

But wrapping up and bringing down the Knights’ agile ballcarriers wasn’t so easy.

Higley scored its first five touchdowns on runs of 30 yards or longer — mostly on broken tackles — and the Knights went on to deal the Rams a 48-20 setback in the 4A East Sky Region opener at Higley.

Three Higley running backs rushed for more than 100 yards each, led by Kelvin Fisher’s 148 yards and four touchdowns.

“They used their key players in the right places and we just weren’t able to get to where we needed to be and make the tackles we needed to,” said Maricopa coach Eric Reed. “If we had to play it over again I think things would be different. They still had a wonderful game. Things just didn’t go our way.”

The Knights (1-3) scored 21 unanswered points to start the game, while the Maricopa (2-2) offense sputtered and never reached Higley territory until its fifth possession when Rams’ running back Davon Snell beat the pursuit to the sideline, turned the corner with a stiff arm, and raced 65 yards to pay dirt.

Snell finished with 125 yards rushing on 19 carries. He also hauled in a 24-yard scoring-strike from quarterback Patrick Davis late in the fourth quarter.

Davis added a touchdown on a 1-yard keeper in the third quarter to cut Higley’s lead to 35-14.

That score was set up when Davis connected with receiver Spencer Wilson, who had slipped behind the secondary near midfield, for a 54-yard gain. Wilson dragged the defensive back 10 yards, down inside the 5.

In addition to Fisher, Higley got 100-yard rushing performances from Ken Mitchell, who made the most of his seven carries with TD runs of 80 and 55 yards, and Emmanuel Caro Del Castillo, who finished with 125 yards.

Despite the loss, Reed said he has been proud of his team’s effort in the face of numerous distractions. Reed took over the program two weeks ago when health issues forced Gary Mattes to resign as head coach,

“It would just be nice if the kids could play, without the outside drama, without anything else,” Reed said. “When it’s in the paper and around school, it’s hard for a 15- or 16-year-old to deal with. But these are really good kids, and they’re coming along with their knowledge of the game.”

Maricopa is on the road again next week, taking on Coronado High School (2-2).

Photo by Dan Miller

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Maricopa High School freshman Sky Murcek placed sixth in his weight class at the Division III State Wrestling Championships.
Murcek earned his medal by winning three of his six matches at 103 pounds in the tournament that was held Friday and Saturday at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott.
After losing a 10-0 major decision in his opening-round match against Marcus Salnicky of Tucson Amphitheater, Murcek beat Paladin Scott of Cottonwood Mingus by a 5-3 decision. In his third bout, Murcek rallied to pin Cris Esparza of Peoria Liberty.
Murcek then took a 2-0 decision over Donnie Borrego of Lakeside Blue Ridge before falling in his final two matches against Tempe’s Daniel Navarro (by an 8-3 decision) and Amphitheater’s Salnicky (by a score of 8-0 in the match to determine fifth and sixth place).
Maricopa coach Conroy Bowman said the key for Murcek was his come-from-behind victory over Esparza.
“Sky was behind like 10-2,” Bowman said. “He happened to pull kind of a desperation move, knowing he had to do something different. He did a roll when he was on bottom and he happened to catch the kid in a reverse half. He held him as long as he could to get the pin.”
Murcek, who finished the season with a 33-14 record, was one of six Maricopa wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament. Also competing at state for the Rams were junior Adolfo Franco and seniors Shakeil Becker, Louis Ochoa, Joey Kelly and Sean Dodge.
“I think they appreciated the opportunity to represent themselves and the school,” Bowman said. “I think they were rather impressed by the amount of competition that they had.”
Franco (140 pounds) lost his first-round match by pin against Tim Hart of Safford. Franco, who finished the season with a 30-19 record, then scored a 15-4 major decision over Tyler Collins of Liberty before falling by pin against eventual fourth-place finisher Anthony Chavez of Amphitheater.
Becker (145 pounds) lost in the first round by an 11-2 major decision against eventual fourth-place finisher Jawuan Pugh of Phoenix Thunderbird. Becker (32-15) edged R.J. Hughes of Fountain Hills, 3-2, before falling by a 7-6 decision to Brad Brevik of Lakeside Blue Ridge.
Ochoa (152 pounds) lost a 14-6 major decision in the first round against eventual third-place finisher Bradley Cutliffe of Thunderbird. Ochoa finished the season with a 5-5 record after falling 9-7 to Jakob Lund of Chino Valley.
Kelly (171 pounds) began the tournament by pinning Dion Bailey of Kayenta Monument Valley. In the second round, Kelly (32-14) lost a 10-1 major decision against eventual state champion Felipe Mabante of Rio Rico. Kelly’s third match was a 4-3 loss against Taylor Rayburn of Scottsdale Saguaro.
Dodge (215 pounds, 32-17 record) lost by pin against eventual fourth-place finisher Hunter King of Buckeye and then was defeated by Ryan Ortega of Goodyear Desert Edge.
The Rams finished tied with Gilbert Campo Verde and Fort Defiance Window Rock for 32nd in the team standings with 15 points. A total of 48 schools were represented in the Division III field.
Thunderbird finished as the Division III team champion, edging second-place Mingus by a single point at 158.5 to 157.5. Rio Rico finished third with 127 points, while Safford was fourth with 103.5 points.

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The city of Maricopa has closed ball fields one and two, the soccer fields and athletic fields through Nov. 8 for over seeding. Other grass areas of the park are open, but please be mindful of wet ground as these areas were over seeded as well,

“The athletic fields at Pacana Park have been heavily used throughout the year,” Community Services Director Marty McDonald said, “Over seeding is done annually at the park to provide high-quality, safe fields for our community.”

If you have questions about the over seeding project or regarding athletic field use, contact McDonald at (520) 316-6961.

Staff photo

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The south Pacana Park turf/ballfields (also known as the expansion fields) will be closed for field maintenance through Sunday, Aug. 1.

The fields will re-open for public use on Monday, Aug. 2.

The maintenance is needed to extend the field renovation process to a more thorough completion in anticipation of the fields being used six to seven days a week from early August through the end of October.

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Cullen Teller of Maricopa placed third in team roping with partner Troy Nahrgang of Buckeye in the Arizona High School Rodeo.

The three-day competition was held June 19-21 in St. John’s.

Nahrgang, who in addition to his team effort with Teller took second in bull riding and steer wrestling, will now compete in the nationals in July in Farmington, N.M. He is a student at Buckeye High School.

Sponsorship help for rodeo athletes to help with the expense of traveling to nationals can be mailed to the Buckeye Athletic Club, 902 Eason Ave., Buckeye, AZ 85326.

Photo submitted by Richard Hopkins

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As the sun sets at 6:30 p.m. the cars start to pull into the parking lot for the weekly Cruise Night Maricopa held in front of Sonic and Checker Auto Parts.

The event, hosted in the Sonic parking lot every Tuesday, starts at 7 p.m. and gives residents the chance to show off their favorite projects and vehicles of all types and vintages.

“Even if you bring a car you’ve just started working on, it doesn’t matter. Just come out to represent the city of Maricopa,” said the events coordinator, the proud owner of a 1981 Caballista.

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Maricopa Youth Football will hold its final registration for spring football this Saturday, Jan. 17.

Late registration will be on Jan. 24 with a $25 late fee. Please bring with you a copy of your child’s birth certificate and insurance card.

Location: Pacana Park from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Registration Fee: $110 per child
Age Requirement: 7 – 14 (as of May 31, 2009)

The league will provide the following items:
• Game jersey (player will keep)
• Helmet
• Shoulder pads

Parents will need to provide the following items:
• Practice jersey
• Game/practice pants (multi-use one pair or league will provide for $20)
• Mouthpiece
• Cleats

Game dates: March 14 and 28
April 4, 11, 18, and 25
May 2 and 9

The league is also looking for coaches. If you, or anyone you know would be interested in coaching, please contact Larry Davis at (480) 529-5889 or send an email to Any questions regarding registration should be directed to

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