Authors Articles byScott Bartle

Scott Bartle

Scott Bartle
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InMaricopa’s publisher began his career in sports marketing, producing and marketing Association of Tennis Professionals Tour events in Indianapolis and Scottsdale. He served as marketing coordinator for the Super Bowl XXX Host Committee prior to joining the Maricopa County Sports Commission where he spent four years as its assistant executive director. Since 2000 Scott has served as president of Outside the Box Marketing, Inc. Scott is former president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board and IU Alumni Club of Phoenix and a member of the Knights of Columbus and Sigma Chi Fraternity. Scott is a graduate of Indiana University, Valley Leadership, Project CENTRL and the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy. A native Hoosier, Scott has lived in the Phoenix area since 1977 and in Maricopa since 2004.

The first high schoolers at MHS started as freshmen in 1955 and graduating in 1959. They had a 50-year class reunion in the current gym in 2009. Courtesy of Maricopa Historical Society/Patricia Brock

By Adam Wolfe

Maricopa High School will be celebrating its 60th anniversary during this year’s Homecoming festivities.

The school, which started with 28 freshmen in 1955, now teaches over 1,800 students. According to “Reflections of a Desert Town” by Patricia Brock, Maricopa students had to drive or take a train or bus to Casa Grande to attend school before the high school was built. Students would often miss school due to poor weather or road conditions, and fed-up parents decided the town needed its own school.


Sophomore, juniors and seniors were bused to Casa Grande.

“Casa Grande High School continued to bus the older students for the next three years. In 1958, it was decided not to bus the Maricopa seniors,” Brock wrote in the book she published in 2007. “This left a few seniors with the option of providing their own transportation to Casa Grande High School, or attending a three-year high school in Maricopa with no hope of graduating until the following year. Some students elected to join the junior class in Maricopa, and others simply did not graduate.”

The first graduating class of Maricopa High School received diplomas in 1959. As the first class, they chose the school colors and mascot and first painted the “M” on Pima Butte.

Since that inaugural class, 56 more graduating classes received diplomas from MHS, and the school, along with the city, has seen tremendous growth. The school remains at its original site, but the buildings have been replaced.

In an effort to honor the past, Merry Grace and other members of the Homecoming Committee are tying in the school’s long history to this year’s celebration.

“Nothing is set in stone yet, but we are going to celebrate the 60th anniversary,” Grace said. “We are hoping to showcase the alumni for the 60th anniversary with a tailgate and a pep rally, possibly have a bonfire and parade as well. We’d like to host a district-wide spirit week so all the schools can get involved, and we will ‘paint the town red’ and have local business decorate their stores in red and black to celebrate the school.”

Grace is hopeful the “Paint the Town Red” event will be celebrated by many local businesses. Mayor Christian Price will proclaim during the Oct. 6 City Council meeting that Oct. 19-24 will be “Paint the Town Red Week” in honor of Homecoming. The business that has the best decorations will be announced before the Oct. 23 football game against Vista Grande High School.

For the second straight year, the Tortosa subdivision and UltraStar Multi-tainment will host a laser tag competition as well. Grace said the plan is to have a showdown between adults and youth.

The Homecoming Committee is still waiting to gain approval for various events throughout the week, but the group hopes to get as much of the community involved as possible.

“The community has really embraced making this a community event and not just a school thing,” Grace said.

To learn more about Homecoming plans or get involved find “Maricopa High School 2015 Homecoming Community Committee” on The next Homecoming meeting will be on Sept. 14 at MHS in the library at 5 p.m.



Anytime Fitness class instructor Norma Rodriguez (from left), manager Shell Abbott and area manager Lauren Fulks gather in the current gym as the business prepares to move. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Raquel Hendrickson

After keeping its members on the go for 10 years, Anytime Fitness is on the move.

Maricopa’s oldest workout gym has a new home waiting just up the block on the north side of Bashas’ at 21116 N. John Wayne Parkway. The move will take place sometime in October, possibly during one weekend to limit the impact on members, manager Shell Abbott said.

Weighing the cost of remodeling its current location at 20924 N. John Wayne Parkway against moving to a new space, owners Brent and Brad Richardson saw a clear path.

“It’s about the same size as this one,” Abbott said. “With the paint and the lighting, it will be a lot brighter, and there will be two walls of windows.”

Anytime Fitness opened its Maricopa gym in 2005. It was one of the first 50 franchises in the company. Now there are more than 2,000 across the United States and another 700 in nearly 20 other countries. Melanie Isaacs has been a member since the location opened.

“I came from New York and I was used to running and dancing,” she said. “When I got here there was nothing to do.” With her tough schedule as a nurse, the gym’s 24/7 open doors have been a big convenience, she said.

“And I like the company here. It’s like a whole big family,” Isaacs said.

Abbott said the family atmosphere is an important aspect. A big portion of Maricopa’s population is comprised of working families. Abbott said the two biggest challenges for those trying to get in shape or stay in shape are time and motivation.

“Finding the time for themselves, and then finding friends and family for a support system can be difficult,” she said.

Abbott said the gym maintains 800 to 1,000 memberships even as other fitness centers have opened around town. That includes the city’s own Copper Sky facility. The Richardsons bought the business in 2013 from Brian Mullins, who opened the Maricopa location a decade ago. They also own Anytime gyms in Bullhead City and San Tan Valley. Abbott has been a member since 2006 and became manager in Maricopa in 2013.

Area Manager Lauren Fulks said the lease on the current location runs out at the end of October, and Anytime Fitness may use the entire month to complete the move up the street. They will keep the same exercise equipment, which include the brands Precor, Hammer Strength and Octane.

Abbott said the new location, which was once Blockbuster, will also have a weight room, a cardio room and a classroom. Anytime Fitness has four to five classes a day, with five people teaching various levels of fitness skills. Classes include yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, Rio, 55+ Cardio, body sculpt, Body Blast and the Silver Sneakers program.

The gym has two personal trainers on staff. Abbott said the clientele has always been made up of a variety of people at a variety of fitness levels.

“We have beginners, we have seniors, we have college-bound kids getting in shape to play ball. We have lots of people who are maintaining. We have people who are dealing with cancer or have fibromyalgia. There are a lot of different things going on with our people.”

In anticipation of the move, Anytime Fitness is providing special deals until Oct. 1. 520-568-5226


The varying speed limits on Honeycutt Road will stay as they are for now. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

After public backlash, the Maricopa City Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) re-examined the speed limit change and decided to leave the current limits in place.

In early August, the city posted signs stating the speed limit on Honeycutt Road would change from various 35, 45 and 25 mph zones to 35 mph all the way through. However, after the public lashed out against the idea, the Maricopa City Council took the issue under advisement.

After nearly a month of consideration, the council’s TAC chose to approve staff recommendation and leave the speed limit as it is now, and remove the bike lanes east of White and Parker Road.

“Bike lanes were recently added to Honeycutt Road during routine maintenance,” Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown said in a statement. “Due to the width of the road on the bridge over the Faqua Wash the bike lanes became very narrow. Based on safety standards, Honeycutt Road in the area of the Faqua Wash would have required the speed limit to be reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph. After researching the issue and hearing from residents, TAC and staff made the final decision to remove the bike lanes.”

The development of the bike lanes was part of the city’s 2040 Vision. According to the 2040 Vision, the plan is to eventually have bike lanes on all possible roadways throughout Maricopa to “create safe and functional pedestrian ways and bicycle routes throughout the City of Maricopa.” However, the initial installation of the bike lanes was not received well by the Tortosa and Sorrento communities. Members were concerned about the safety of both drivers and bikers in the area.

“While Honeycutt is a large road and a large path, some of it has been widened to accommodate a bike lane specifically, while a bike lane from White & Parker down to the Tortosa subdivision would not necessarily be safe for the bikers or the motorists because of how narrow the road is,” Sorrento resident Joshua Babb said during the City Council meeting on Aug. 4. “I don’t believe a bike lane is safe for anyone on that stretch of road until the road is widened.”

The changes to the speed limit were also thought to be beneficial for the residents. City officials made the decision to lower the speed limit in order to create safer driving conditions and speed limit consistency for residents who use Honeycutt Road. Since the road changes from four lanes to two lanes in some areas, the addition of the bicycle lane further narrowed the drivable area, and a speed reduction was deemed necessary.

However, the removal of the bike lanes also removes the need to lower the speed limit in certain areas.

“As we continue maintenance projects on our city roads we will evaluate if a bike lane makes sense for that particular roadway and will make the appropriate changes,” Public Works Director Bill Fay said in a statement. “When constructing, maintaining and improving our roadways we always strive to follow best practices and the industry standards to keep all those using our roads as safe as possible.”

Donald Grace shows off the results of giving blood. Photo by Merry Grace


The Maricopa High School National Honor Society (NHS) hosted a Red Cross blood drive on Thursday where 29 units of blood were donated.

Since 2013, the MHS NHS has hosted eight blood drives collecting 316 units of blood.

NHS advisor Katherine Persitz stated: “I am so proud of our students for having such wonderful and giving hearts. I hope this trend continues for many years to come!”


Thanks to the contributions of others, Jesse Ramirez will at last receive a pair of eSight glasses. Photo by Jake Johnson

By Adam Wolfe

After nine months of fund-raising, legally blind U.S. Navy veteran Jesse Ramirez has reached his goal and will receive a pair of eSight glasses to help restore his vision.

Over the last eight years, Ramirez has been piecing his life back together following a car accident that left him with a broken back, fractured neck and severe head trauma and nearly completely blind. He has had to re-learn nearly all of his basic motor skills without the benefit of being able to see what he was doing. Sometimes, the adjustment is hard for Jesse to handle.

“Since he can’t see what’s going on around him, he often feels paranoid that someone is following him,” said Jesse’s friend and care taker Joe Matrishion.

Last November, Jesse was given the opportunity to try on a pair of eSight glasses. The glasses, which combine a camera and hands-free computing system to deliver real-time video to people with vision loss, gave Jesse the opportunity to see the world around him for the first time in years.

“It was amazing,” he says of his test run with the glasses. “I could see everything. I could see all of the colors. I could read fine print.”

Since that experience, Jesse and Joe have been trying to raise $15,000 for Ramirez to purchase a pair of his own. For the first six months, fund-raising efforts moved relatively slow. The duo was only able to raise about half of the money they needed. Then, they caught a break when a used pair of glasses became available for only $10,000. This put their fund-raising goal within reach.

“We needed to try to get those funds together as soon as possible,” Matrision said. “There were people out there with money who wanted to help; we just needed to find them.”

Little did Jesse and Joe know the people who wanted to help already had a plan.

Jesse had received private donations and donations from groups such as the American Foreign Legion who donated $450. He had even had events such as the pancake breakfast hosted by the Knights of Columbus of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Maricopa that raised $1,775 to help Jesse see.

Those groups offering large enough donations to push his fund-raising efforts over the edge were few and far between.

Then, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stepped in. The group voted to give Jesse $1,000 in hopes of kick starting a community-wide effort to get Jesse to his goal.

“Everyone was nickel and diming him and he wasn’t getting anywhere,” VFW Commander Mike Kemery said. “So we took a vote and gave him $1,000. After that, people jumped on and helped.”

After the donation from the VFW, Jesse was within $2,000 of his goal. It was a figure Harrah’s Ak-Chin was happy to cover. Jesse and Joe received word the casino will cover the remaining cost of his glasses and host a celebration for him to receive them.

“Jesse is extremely excited,” Matrishion said. “The glasses will come a few days before the event so Jesse can adjust them, but he will actually get the glasses during the event.”

Jesse’s event will be held in the ballroom at Harrah’s Ak-Chin on Monday, Sept. 14, from 6 to 7 p.m. According to Matrishion, Jesse is expected to receive the glasses during a presentation, and monitors will be connected to the glasses for the audience to see what he sees for the first time in eight years.

“He’ll be excited to see anything and everything,” Matrishion says. “It has been so long since he could that he just wants to see it all.”

Expect a lot of overcast days, though temperatures will continue to edge over 100 degrees. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

Similar to the last few weeks, afternoon storms are possible throughout the week.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a 20-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms through Thursday. The majority of the storms are projected to roll in each afternoon, but the forecast calls for overcast skies, so storms are possible throughout the day. The storm system is expected to break by Friday and usher in sunny days for the weekend.

Tuesday is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high near 102 degrees. There is a 10-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and evening. The wind is expected to stay calm near 8 mph throughout the night, and the overnight low is expected to drop to 81 degrees.

Wednesday is expected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 97 degrees. The chances increase to 20 percent for rain and thunderstorms for the afternoon and evening. The wind is once again expected to be calm near 9 mph during the day and drop to 5 mph overnight. The overnight low is expected to be 79 degrees.

The storm system is expected to begin moving out on Thursday. There is still a 10-percent chance of thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and evening, but the sun could begin to break through. The projected high is 99 degrees, and the wind is expected to be near 5 mph throughout the day. The overnight low is expected to drop to 79 degrees.

Friday is expected to see a return of the sun and triple-digit temperatures. The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high near 102 degrees. The wind should remain calm throughout the day as well.

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday calls for mostly sunny skies with highs in the low 100s. More information will be available as the weekend approaches.




What can ou whip up with pecans?


Wednesday is the deadline for Maricopa food establishments to sign up to participate in the Pecan Pride Celebration during Stagecoach Days.

Visitors and new residents are often surprised when they learn that Maricopa was once a fertile farming area adorned with hundreds of acres of pecan groves. In recognition of Maricopa’s deeply rooted agriculture history, the Pecan Pride Celebration will take place during the City of Maricopa’s Stagecoach Days, celebrated Oct. 10-25.

Local food establishments are invited to participate in the Pecan Pride Celebration by featuring products/menu items that include pecans. The featured item must be made available for purchase during the regular business hours from Oct. 10 through Oct. 25. Everything from pecan pies, butter pecan frappuccino, pecan feta salad, brown sugar pecan scones and pecan pepper jelly to salted caramel pecan shakes can be promoted for sale during the celebration. This is a limited time feature that will drive the community into your business.

Stagecoach Days is a two-week series of activities held annually in October to commemorate and celebrate the founding of our community and its rich cultural history. Organizations come together to promote cooperation and volunteerism, generate community spirit, recreation and enhance the economic welfare of the community.

To register your feature item and business as a participating merchant, contact Karie Karpes, recreation specialist, events & general, at, 520-316-6848.

Passengers board an Amtrak train at 5:45 a.m. at the Maricopa station. Trains generally stop for 10 minutes, blocking SR 347 in the process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Raquel Hendrickson

When an Amtrak train pulls into the Maricopa station, it does not stop just once.

The platform is only long enough to allow access to one baggage car and one passenger car. The train stops the first time for the first access, and then it pulls forward and stops again for access to more baggage and more passengers. And then it does so again.

It is a 10-minute procedure. For most of that time, the train is stopping the traffic flow on State Route 347.

It is why a proposal for moving the Amtrak station is an integral part of planning for an overpass across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at SR 347.

The start of construction on the grade separation is at least five years away, but the plan has several moving pieces. Arizona Department of Transportation has its responsibilities, and the City of Maricopa has its tasks.

Among the latter is the Amtrak station, which will be in the path of the overpass, whatever the final design of the grade separation. Public Works Director Bill Fay said the move has two components. One is the concept plan for track alignment near Garvey Avenue, where the new station will be located. The other is the design of transportation center and alignment of Garvey itself.

The first component dealing with the railroad tracks is at about 30 percent design completion in manpower. Fay said on a typical road project, 30 percent is the last chance to make big changes.

“I’ve never been through a railroad right-of-way project that is entirely within the railroad’s right of way,” he said. “I don’t know that there are very big changes that one can make.”

Though the move of the Amtrak station west to the city’s Estrella Gin property involves Amtrak property and UPRR right of way, the early stages of design fall to the city. Amtrak officials consider the Maricopa staff to be spearheading the project and will say little to nothing about the plan.

Union Pacific has review powers but is equally reticent in the early stages. “UP is consulting on the track design, but other than that, we don’t have much to add,” said UPRR spokesman Francisco Castillo Jr.

“Hopefully at 60 (percent) but no later than 90, it will go before Union Pacific to review,” Fay said. “We would love for them to review it now, but their policy is 90 percent.”

UPRR has “relatively strong” veto power, Fay said. “But this makes sense. They don’t want to review it while it’s still in preliminary stages. But 90 percent is pretty deep in the process. The problem is their review can take up to 18 months. So that’s a little hard to swallow when you’ve got to get to 90 percent design first and then wait 18 months for them to review.”

He said UPRR reserves 18 months for review but does not always take 18 months. There is also the possibility Maricopa could submit its design plans before they are at 90 percent completion. In the meantime, ADOT and the city can be moving forward on the overpass project, Fay said.

Amtrak trains are not as long as the far-more-numerous freight trains on the UPRR lines but can hold up traffic even longer than the longest freight train.

Maricopa is the Phoenix station for Amtrak, a stopping point for lines between Los Angeles and New Orleans, or L.A. and Chicago (or just about anywhere else in the East if you make the right connections). Amtrak trains stop in Maricopa early in the morning – commuting time for many residents – and in the evening.

Fay said a preliminary project could be a temporary fix until the station is moved. That project would extend the asphalt platform east so it would be long enough for the train to pull off of SR 347.

The new station to be located at the Estrella Gin site on Garvey will be in what is currently being called a transportation center and a transit hub. The conceptual plan for that is at about 15 percent design, Fay said.

The civil conceptual design is contracted to a Phoenix firm.

“The piece that isn’t in there is, what is the new train station going to look like?” Fay said. “The city has money budgeted in its Capital Improvement Program (CIP) potentially to relocate the existing station to the new location.”

However, in the past some council members and some members of the Maricopa Historical Society have expressed an interest in creating a station that is a better aesthetic fit in the Heritage District. Though station design plans go to Amtrak at some point, Fay said Amtrak has expressed it “really does not care what the station looks like.”

If the city council does decide to go with a new building, the process of hiring an architect and other related tasks would be built into the timetable for the move. Ideas for a historic-looking station are mostly inspired by photos of the former station in Maricopa.

The ideas have been included in the Maricopa General Plan, and city staff has been asking for public feedback.

“The better info we get from the public the more reinforcement staff can portray to our leadership and say, ’Hey, the public wants to see this,’” senior planner Rudy Lopez said.

Lopez said when the project moves forward, the city should be working more closely with the historical society. “They’re a great organization and growing, so obviously that’s to our advantage,” he said. “We’re having this discussion now for the next generation of the city.”



Bobbie-Jo Brasfield is a survivor of ovarian cancer. (Submitted photo)

By Bobbie-Jo Brasfield

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is one I pay attention to because ovarian cancer has affected my life. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008 shortly after my second child.

Wow, what a scary time. I knew nothing about ovarian cancer but I was about to learn real fast. With an amazing team of doctors, surgeries and treatment I am so very proud to say that I am six years ovarian cancer free! Every woman is at risk of developing ovarian cancer, and because there is no early detection test, many women are diagnosed when the disease is in an advanced stage.

However, there are symptoms associated with this disease, as well as factors that can increase or decrease a woman’s risk. I hope every woman will take a few minutes to educate herself about ovarian cancer this September. One excellent resource is

So every Tuesday in September is Teal Tuesday to show your support and awareness for ovarian cancer survivors, those who have lost the battle and those who are still fighting.

Ovarian cancer whispers; it’s time to listen.

Bobbie-Jo Brasfield is a resident of Maricopa.

Loren Aragon of Maricopa and his clothing and jewelry designs have been invited to New York Fashion Week. Photo courtesy of Loren Aragon

By Raquel Hendrickson

A mechanical engineer from Maricopa is going high fashion.

Loren Aragon caught the eye of a fashion marketer with his unique designs at a Native American festival this summer. As a result he was invited to New York Fashion Week.

Loren Aragon
Loren Aragon

“It was excitement all around,” Aragon said. “Fashion Week is the ultimate goal, but I really, honestly, didn’t expect it.”

His designs are expected to be showcased Sept. 12 for PLITZS New York City Fashion Week. PLITZS touts that it democratizes fashion by giving emerging designers an affordable platform to reach merchandisers, the media and the public.

Fashion Week includes dozens of platforms, with several venues hosting many designers and models. Designers usually earn an invitation by paying for it or winning a competition.

Aragon grew up in the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico. The son of a seamstress, he gravitated to art at a young age. He created illustrations in pencil and colored pencil.

Though he earned a degree in engineering at Arizona State University, he had a side business creating greeting cards for Christmas. He graduated in 2004 and moved to Rancho El Dorado in 2006.

His wife Valentina knew Loren was not just about his engineering career.

“Slowly, my wife encouraged my art and gave me tools to play with,” Aragon said.

About six years ago, he jumped back in. “I went back to my drawing. I got back into my own culture and starting working with pottery,” he said. “My wife encouraged me to try other media.”

He began incorporating wood burning, gourd art and sculpture with his ink drawings to expand his repertoire beyond wall hangings.

“Fashion is not really a big thing back home,” Aragon said, “but I thought we could do something high-end.”

His mother created clothes for dolls, then for herself and then for other people. Aragon creates designs for clothing and jewelry.

In clothing he works mostly with silks and his customized prints. He wants the prints to keep the value of the fabric and his Acoma culture. His jewelry is silver, copper, aluminum, gourd, plastics and wood.

His uncle, a silversmith, took him on as an apprentice until he could discover his own style.

“I thought, ‘Why can’t I represent my culture?’” he said. “I started small, doing our traditional stuff. Places like Walmart are always selling native-like things, but I wanted to represent Acoma. I had my own textiles printed for me. I wanted to get out of that traditional attire and start designing my own designs while keeping the traditional elements.”

Three years ago, he started marketing his designs.

While his engineering skills took him to the General Motors proving grounds, he began maturing as an artist and reaching back into his culture for modern ideas.

The combination of art and engineering “feeds both sides of my ambitions,” Aragon said. “Problem-solving plays a lot in the way I design and finding easier ways to make patterns.”

He was noticed at the Survival of the First Voices Festival in Kirtland, New Mexico, at the end of July. That is one of the purposes of the festival, to provide the opportunity for emerging talent to get noticed.

New York Fashion Week is another opportunity.

“I am excited for him and his accomplishment to represent our small town and his tribe,” Valentina Aragon said.

See some of Aragon’s work at

The Drifters are scheduled to perform at Harrah's Ak-Chin.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the goings-on in Maricopa Sept. 6-12.

It’s Labor Day! Expect government offices, banking institutions and many service industries to be closed.

Maricopa High School Volleyball varsity team hosts Catalina Magnet at 6 p.m. in the MHS gym.

Maricopa Lions Club meets at 7 p.m. at Sequoia Pathway Academy library, 19265 N. Porter Road. The growing service club meets the second Tuesday and fourth Wednesday of each month.

Creative Sisterhood Meeting is from 9 a.m. to noon at Copa Center, 44585 W. Honeycutt Road for Maricopa residents 55 or older who enjoy arts and crafts.

Maricopa High School Girls’ Golf team hosts Poston Butte at 3 p.m. at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado, 42660 W Rancho El Dorado Parkway.

Weekly Chamber Golf Social has a shotgun start at 4 p.m. at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado, 42660 W Rancho El Dorado Parkway. Pre-registration of $15 per player includes nine holes of golf, golf cart and two beverage tickets.

Advanced Dance Class in Hip Hop starts at 7:45 p.m. at Desert Sun Performing Arts, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Advanced Dance Class in Lyrical starts at 8 p.m. at Desert Sun Performing Arts, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Patriot Day Flag-Raising is planned for 8 a.m. at Maricopa Veterans Center, 44240 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to commemorate the attacks of 9/11.

The Drifters, one of the biggest selling bands of all time, perform at 8 p.m. in The Lounge at Harrah’s Ak-Chin, 15406 N. Maricopa Road.

For more information about these events and others, or to post your own, go to

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Jalen Lee (3) and Johnny Johnson celebrate during the Maricopa Rams victory at Shadow Mountain. Photo by Willy Lange

By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School Rams used special teams and defense to dominate the Matadors of Shadow Mountain High School Friday night. The Rams were coming off of a game that saw their offense explode for nearly 700 yards against Agua Fria High School last week. This week was a different story. Senior quarterback Aaron Owens appeared unable to find a rhythm, and the offense that looked so dangerous just seven days ago looked flat and uncoordinated. The offense still managed to control the game and score 31 points, but the defense and special teams carried the Rams to victory Friday night. “It was an ugly win, but at the same time, I never felt like we weren’t in control,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “We’ve got good seniors. We have a core group of just 12 guys, but they’ve played a lot of football and they know how to lead. To do what we did tonight, I’m proud of them.”

The Rams took an early 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game. McDonald planned to establish his running game more in this game, and that’s exactly what the Rams did. Despite losing starting center and team captain Nikolai White to an injury for the game, the Rams front line opened holes in the defense and offered plenty of protection for Aaron Owens. After a few short runs, sophomore running back Cameron Sanders gashed through the Shadow Mountain defense for 25 yards and a touchdown.

After the defense held for the second straight series, the Rams blocked the Matadors’ punt attempt. The recovery gave Maricopa excellent field position inside the Shadow Mountain 20 yard line. After a short run, Aaron Owens dropped back and heaved the ball to the corner of the end zone trying to find his brother, junior wide receiver David Owens. The pass did not carry far enough and was intercepted by the Matadors. Shadow Mountain tried to run the ball up the middle and pass the ball to the outside, but the Rams defense stayed strong.

The Matadors were forced to punt again. Maricopa was able to drive down the ball inside the Shadow Mountain twenty yard line, but after Aaron Owens was unable to find an open receiver, the Rams were forced to settle for a field goal. Senior kicker Luis Elizondo hit a 30-yard field goal down the center, and the Rams took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter.

Shadow Mountain responded quickly with a touchdown on the next drive. Junior quarterback Darion Spottsville threw a short pass to senior wide receiver Destin Nasr. Maricopa senior defensive back Johnny Johnson Jr. appeared to have Nasr wrapped up after a short gain, but instead of completing the tackle, Johnson tried to strip the ball out of the receiver’s hand. Nasr was able to break free and outrun the defense for a 63-yard touchdown.

The teams exchanged punts before Maricopa drove down the field and scored again. After breaking down the Matadors front line with runs up the middle, Aaron Owens connected with David Owens for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Rams scored again just before halftime to extend their lead to 24-7. Defense dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half.

The scoreless third quarter was ended when Shadow Mountain senior quarterback Conor Merrill connected with Nasr for a 60-yard touchdown. The game quickly turned back into a defensive battle with both teams exchanging punts. However, after Maricopa’s defense forced Shadow Mountain to punt from deep in their own territory, Johnson returned the punt for a touchdown.

Maricopa entered the fourth quarter with a 31-14 lead. The Rams defense held the Matadors scoreless for the rest of the game. Jalen Lee blocked a second Matador punt attempt, and the Rams recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. Maricopa scored one more time on a 19-yard run from senior quarterback Isaiah Pedro and left North Phoenix with a 45-14 win over Shadow Mountain. “I’m disappointed in the offense tonight,” McDonald said. “I just felt like we didn’t have any gas tonight. It seemed like they were playing at three-quarter speed. Our game plan coming in was to run the ball against these guys, but there was no rhythm to it. One drive we’d pop plus-five gains, and the next one we couldn’t. We just weren’t executing.”

Aaron Owens was 18 for 26 for 136 yards passing. Sanders and D’Angelo Edgerton led the rushing yards with 58 each.

The offense may have been flat and out of sync, but the saving grace for the Rams was the dominance of their defense. With the exception of two long pass plays that led to touchdowns for the Matadors, the Rams defense completely shut down Shadow Mountain’s potent passing attack. Most drives for Shadow Mountain ended after just three plays, and Darion Spottsville, who had over 500 yards passing entering the game, was connected on only four of his 22 pass attempts.

The Rams also dominated the special teams portion of the game. Last week, the special teams unit struggled to place kicks and contain kick returns. This week, Maricopa defenders swarmed to ball carriers, and the addition of Elizondo to  kicking game allowed the team to have confidence their ability to pin their opponent deep in their own territory.

“Tonight was definitely all about the special teams and defense,” McDonald said. “I thought we played pretty sloppy on offense. Just think of what we could accomplish if we could actually execute on a semi-good rate.”

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Aaron Owens (#6) will definitely be using his tickets to a Cardinals game this fall.

Maricopa High School quarterback Aaron Owens was “flattered” when he heard he was being honored by the Arizona Cardinals for his performance Sept. 4 against Agua Fria.

Aaron Owens
Aaron Owens

“Just working hard and getting to this point is really a blessing,” he said. Owens’ total of 537 yards was tops in Arizona and second-best in the country last week. That earned him the Wells Fargo Player of the Week honors from the Cardinals. “I didn’t know I was going to throw for that many passing yards,” Owens said. “I have to give it to my line. They did a good job, and the wide receivers made big plays.”

Adam Richman, community relations coordinator for the Cardinals, arrived during lunch Friday with cheerleaders Kristen and Kaileigh bringing a glass trophy and “goodies” for Owens. The goodies included two Cardinal shirts and a hat plus two tickets to a Thursday game Dec. 10 against the Minnesota Vikings. At that game, Owens will be honored on the field by the Birdwell family, Richman said.

Tamara Owens, Aaron’s mother, said she was excited for him when he told about the honor, but now she wants to see him work even harder as the Rams go into their second game, a road contest against Shadow Mountain tonight. Richman said Phoenix sports media and Cardinals staff members choose Arizona’s top high school player and top high school coach every week. He and members of the cheer squad make two trips every Friday for the presentations.

By Raquel Hendrickson

Three men are running for two seats in the next election to hit Maricopa. Though it impacts property owners in the city boundaries and then some, fewer than 250 people typically vote in board elections.

The Maricopa Flood Control District is rarely in the spotlight, despite its purpose of controlling drainage and easing the impact of floodwaters, primarily through the Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz washes. Its duties and authorities are also important to Maricopa’s ability to grow.

The city of Maricopa’s 2040 Vision process ruffled some feathers at MFCD. Other actions at the city level have also caused irritation, and all of that has made the Oct. 7 board election unusual.

Of the three candidates, Bruce Neely is the only incumbent and the current president of the board. Dan Frank is a former city council member and chaired the 2040 Vision Steering Committee. Brad Hinton was formerly on staff at City Hall as the development manager and now works for El Dorado Holdings.

Neely has been on the board for eight years. His family first bought property in Maricopa in 1953.

“The reason I got on the board was basically because adjacent to my property a dike was being taken down, it was taken down 14 feet, and nobody knew who did it,” Neely said.

Over the years, he has seen major floods that created many problems (1983, 1993) and smaller, persistent, inconvenient runoff. He has seen raw sewage in the district’s washes, and he has seen special interests intrude on logical decision-making.

“There was a lot of the stuff we saw happening that was not good engineering,” Neely said.

Engineering comes into a lot of discussions with the flood control district.

“I think there is definitely a need here for somebody who is highly qualified,” Frank said. “There needs to be great oversight management.” Frank has worked as a civil engineer for 20 years focusing on drainage and flood control.

Hinton said he entered the race “because flood control is important and has a big development role. I like to think I have a pretty good grasp of those issues.”

Since the district was created in 1958, only 12 people have sat on the three-person panel.

The district is responsible for maintaining 12 miles of drainage channels in Maricopa. Its boundaries have not changed since they were established in 1959. With the turn of the century, Maricopa land use quickly changed from farms to developments and houses, putting more work on the backs of the MFCD board.

“It was much more than they ever bargained for,” District Manager David Alley said.

MFCD is a taxing authority with the ability to condemn property and procure grants. It is maintaining a tax levy of $350,000.

Though it has the highest assessed valuation among flood control districts in the county, it has the second lowest property tax rate. That tax rate just dropped from 0.2060 to 0.1964 per $100 assessed valuation.

“Most people don’t realize they’re paying it, it’s such a small amount,” Alley said.

MFCD’s relationship with the Pinal County Flood Control District and the city of Maricopa is vital to fulfilling its responsibilities. All three entities share the priority of protecting residents, but they do not always agree on the issues under that wing.

Frank said a key issue for MFCD is public support. He said the district can be more proactive in educating the public on what the district does, what its limitations are and what it can do.

The fact the 2040 Vision Committee listed flood mitigation among its goals showed it is an important issue, though Frank said “the wording could have been a little better” in identifying one of the city’s strategies as “Take control of the Maricopa Flood Control District.” Alley requested a change by the city council, but the language stayed.

The wording had an unintended tone, Frank said, but it “stemmed from a lot of remapping” when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) placed more properties in the flood plain. Frank said that was not MFCD’s fault, but there is a level of distrust that better transparency could resolve.

City Manager Gregory Rose said the growth of Maricopa will naturally lead to the city taking more flood-mitigation duties. It is unknown how that will evolve in the next 25 years, he said, and there is plenty of time to work through the legal issues.

Alley said he has heard some people calling the board members anti-progress, but he thinks that is inaccurate. “I’ve never seen that,” he said.

“In 2003 we had a joint venture with Rancho El Dorado that basically sparked Maricopa’s growth,” Neely said.

Because the land use changed from agriculture to housing so quickly, the board’s caution came from “just not knowing what to do,” he said. The board historically has been comprised of farm owners trying to be very careful with tax money while protecting properties and residents.

“We want to run really lean and solve more problems than we create,” Alley said.

Frank said anyone coming onto the MFCD board needs to respect the agricultural history but also understand “there are lots of developments built in harm’s way.”

The flood-plain status of many lots is a concern for developers, Hinton said. He said more work to remove more property from the flood plain will allow more development, more jobs and more population. He said some companies have not come to town because Maricopa “does not quite have the population base” they need.

Hinton, too, said better communication between the city and the district is important in improving the relationship.

“From a staff perspective, I would say our relationship is good,” Rose said. “I think it could be better, and perhaps better through greater communication between the two entities.”

Rose specified capital improvement projects as an area for better communication.

Alley said MFCD’s main concern is the condition of the levy on the Santa Rosa Wash. A recent evaluation by the county resulted in question marks about its condition. Pinal County inspects the levy about every six months.

“It is possibly a very expensive fix,” Alley said. “There’s no indication of imminent failure, but there was an area that seems a little off, that’s not exactly straight.”

It could cost $120,000 just to evaluate the situation. Losing accreditation on the levy would place a lot of Maricopa land back into the flood plain on the FEMA map.

The city and district have a shared goal of getting more property out of the flood plain. While MFCD is focusing energy on the Santa Rosa levy, the city is set on North Santa Cruz channel improvements. “They don’t know it will work,” Alley said.

But Hinton disagreed.

“I believe they don’t quite understand the benefits of that channel,” he said of the MFCD. “It is very important to the economic development of the city.”

Rose said the project has been on the books for years and the city worked hard to get property owners on board. “We’re very happy with it and think it will certainly work for us.”

He said there is potential for MFCD to be more heavily involved in projects on the Lower Santa Cruz and Upper Santa Cruz.

Neely said the district has worked well with the Gila River community to form an agreement for flood waters to be carried to the reservation, if velocity is tolerable. Widening the wash is a point of debate.

“I think the North Santa Cruz solution will work if they widen the wash,” Neely said. “I don’t think it would cost very much more to do that.”

The election is Oct. 7. The Maricopa Flood Control District will begin sending out early ballot materials Sept. 11 for voters who request them. The last day to register to vote is Sept. 8. Voters must own property within the flood control district.

For those who will vote in person, the poll is at 41630 W. Louis Johnson Drive and is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What: Maricopa Flood Control District Board Election
Who: Dan Frank, Brad Hinton and Bruce Neely are running for two seats
When: Oct. 7, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: 41630 W. Louis Johnson Drive
Info: Contact 480-980-0531 for an early ballot by Sept. 11.

Raquel Hendrickson

By Raquel Hendrickson

While its Non-Profit Funding Program is on suspension due to budget constraints, the city of Maricopa is wisely taking another look at the process.

City staff want to modify the application procedure, but this is also a good time to re-evaluate the program. Council members’ highest responsibility is public money, and the NPFP is exactly the kind of program where that accountability is under a microscope.

The NPFP is an act of public generosity. Every nonprofit seeking money from taxpayers proclaims a good cause, but how programs are selected has been a work in progress.

Two primary questions are raised every cycle: Is this the best use of taxpayer money? If so, is the current program using the money in the most beneficial way?

Every cycle since 2012 has ended up with good results and dissatisfactory results.

Through the NPFP, the city gives up to $25,000 each to nonprofits it deems worthy of taxpayer money. The nonprofits that can benefit the most Maricopa residents or fill the biggest need should be at the top of the list.

In the past that has been the recycling outfit Environmental Concerns Organization, which was used citywide and was twice an NPFP recipient. But ECO, after being granted $25,000 last year, had its city contract ended and gave back the money it received through the NPFP.

Community Alliance Against Substance Abuse (CAASA), too, has benefited twice from the program, and for good reason. This year, organizers were frugal enough with their $25,000 to have funds left over to continue its Youth Mentorship Program beyond the fiscal year and they are pursuing other avenues of funding.

But there was dissension last year over Barcelona Soccer, with the city council going against the advice of its own evaluation committee and giving the club $15,000 rather than $5,000. Other clubs sniped about the merit of Barcelona. The debate left Barcelona needing to doubly prove itself, which put everyone in a difficult situation.

The Non-Profit Funding Program still needs to prove itself as well. The council’s selection process – and how accountable the council is for its selections – should be part of any evaluation of the NPFP while it is conveniently on hiatus.



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Julia Gusse

By Julia Romero Gusse

Just a few weeks ago two women (Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver) made history in completing the Army’s elite Ranger School. They underwent the same training as their male counterparts. Women did not officially serve in the U.S. military until 1901, but hundreds of women disguised themselves as men and served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.

While Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Haver made history by earning the Ranger tabs, neither one can ever serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment because it is still male-only.

The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 excluded women from combat positions and it was not until 1993 that these exclusions were lifted for women aviators. In 1994 the Pentagon declared “service members were eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the grounds.”

In 2012, a review of pentagon policies resulted in the lifting of restrictions on 14,000 military positions. Women remained ineligible to serve in 238,000 positions, about a fifth of the armed forces. On Jan. 24, 2013, the Combat Exclusion Policy was lifted, meaning both men and women are eligible to serve in front line combat operations.

Women serving in the U.S. military in the past have often seen combat despite the Combat Exclusion Policies. If you believe the history books, women have been serving in combat for over 585 years; in 1430 Joan of Arc was a French combat hero until she was captured and subsequently executed. In 2003 during the invasion of Iraq, Arizona native Lori Ann Piestewa was the first Native American (Hopi) woman in history to die in combat while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Lioness is an award-winning documentary that tells the story of a group of women in direct combat roles, although it was made in violation of “official military policy.” Women have been contributing in the U.S. armed forces for years, in many fields and during all conflicts.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as of January 2015, there were over 2 million female military veterans and 54,221 in the state of Arizona alone. In 2011 Col. Adele E. Hodges retired after 33 years of service – she was the first female colonel to command the Marine Corps Base of Camp Lejeune in its 65-year history.

It is projected that by 2040 close to 18 percent of all living veterans will be women. I believe it is just a matter of time before Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Haver (and the women after them) will be let into the all-male regiment. After all, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s motto is “Rangers Lead the Way,” and that is exactly what these women will do.

Julia Romero Gusse is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and lives in Maricopa.

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Rams senior Elizabeth Gallon. Photo by William Lange

By Adam Wolfe

After losing in straight sets on the road against Horizon Honors high School to start the season, the Maricopa High School Rams volleyball team has won two straight at home without dropping a set.

The Rams most recent win came Thursday night against Flowing Wells High School (Tucson) in straight sets. The game was close throughout, but the Rams were able to close out the Caballeros by a score of 25 to 23 in the first set, 25 to 19 in the second, and 25 to 23 in the third. The win improved the Rams to two wins and one loss on the season.

According to head coach Lashieka Holley, the effort and tenacity of seniors Elizabeth Gallon and Annalyn Concepcion are a driving force for the Rams.

On Monday, the Rams began their season at Horizona. The road trip to Phoenix was tough on the Rams, and they dropped straight sets to the Eagles. The young team came out timid, but was playing much better by the end of the game. The final score for the Eagles’ win was 25-3, 25-12, 25-23.

The Rams were given a chance to redeem themselves right away as they took on Kofa High School (Yuma) at home the next night. Maricopa came out much more aggressive than they had the night before and controlled the match from the start. They beat Kofa in straight sets by scores of 25-10, 25-23 and 25-19.

The team’s offense shined against Kofa. As expected, Gallon led the team with 10 kills and seven blocks. Freshman MacKenzie Ford also had a great game with eight kills and two aces.

On defense, senior Annalyn Concepcion took charge with four digs. She also added five aces to her balanced performance. Junior Morgan Peters distributed the ball well and ended the night with 14 assists.

After the game, coach Holley said, “The team did great tonight. Seniors Elizabeth Gallon and Annalyn Concepcion were the standouts amongst the group, although it really was a team win.”

The Rams next match will be at home against Catalina Magnet High School (Tucson) on Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. Then they’ll have the chance to prove they can win on the road as they travel to Cholla High Magnet School (Tucson) on Sept. 10.

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By Arizona Highway Patrol Association

The men and women of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA) are encouraging Arizonans to take extra precautions and drive responsibly when traveling during the Labor Day holiday.

“Holiday travel can present challenges for all drivers on the road,” says Sgt. Jimmy Chavez, president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA).  “Being prepared for a trip will only make the experience much better for everyone.”

If you are traveling by car through Arizona, AHPA reminds you:

1. Buckle-up!  Seatbelts save lives and it is the law.

2. Drive safely. Watch your speed, expect delays and give yourself enough time to travel to your destination.

3. Distracted driving can endanger everyone on the road. Consider hands free devices if using your phone is critical.

4. Consider a safety kit for your car.  Include items like a first aid kit, cell phone back-up battery, flashlight, blanket, snacks, water, jumper cables, flares, warning triangles, and a whistle.

5. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained before a long drive, especially in parts of Arizona where heat can be excessive. Check tire pressure and condition (including spare) and fluid levels before you begin your travels.

6. Get plenty of sleep before embarking on a long drive– fatigued driving is dangerous for everyone.

7. Move over! Help protect emergency personnel on the side of the roads by moving over one lane.  If you cannot change lanes, be sure to slow down.

8. If you see something – say something.  If you notice something suspicious, call 9-1-1.

9. Designate a driver if you are under the influence.

10. If you are involved in a minor collision on the highway, move vehicles off the roadway to a safe location.

A large gathering of law enforcement stood behind MPD Chief Steve Stahl during today's press conference. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

In the last two weeks, two fatal accidents have occurred in Maricopa. In both occasions, the deceased was not wearing a seat belt.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl held a press conference today to address the recent tragedies and discuss driver safety issues heading into Labor Day weekend.

Stahl was accompanied by representatives from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Ak-Chin Police Department, Gila River Police Department, Coolidge Police Department, Eloy Police Department, Apache Junction Police Department, Florence Police Department and the Department of Public Safety during the press conference. The large gathering was meant to show a united front and let local residents know who is there to protect them.

“The agencies behind me and the men and women who serve with these agencies will be out in force,” Stahl said. “I want to emphasize the fact that our primary responsibility is not to punish and not to write tickets. It is to remind people, through visibility and traffic stops and educational opportunities, to drive more safely.”

Stahl referred to the deaths of Nate Ford, 16, and Heidi Johnson, 53, in traffic crashes just a day apart.

“We will never know whether wearing a seat belt would’ve caused life to still be here today,” Stahl said. “We’re not here to throw blame or vilify anything. What we do know is seat belts do save lives. Seat belts are important. Teenagers watch what we model as adults. We need to model good driving behavior.”

Stahl made a point to emphasize the community’s role in keeping roadways safe.

Common issues seen by law enforcement include not wearing a seat belt, texting while driving and driving while under the influence. Stahl also stated alcohol is not the only thing to watch out for regarding DUIs. Drugs use play a large role as well.

“About 50 percent of our arrests involving impaired driving revolve around the use of prescription drugs,” Stahl said. “Those that use prescription drugs, please consult with your doctors to make sure that operating a motor vehicle is appropriate.”

Stahl closed with a simple statement: “The best way to model love to all our family members and loved ones is to remind them ‘driving is a serious event. We love you, and we want you to take that seriously.’”

An increased law enforcement presence will be on the roads and highways for the holiday weekend. The extra manpower and equipment is largely paid for by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Residents are urged to use extra caution regarding the increased amount of traffic that will be present.

A crowd gathered Wednesday at Maricopa Center for the Arts to see Deborah Jay's quilling pieces. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

Dozens of Maricopa residents attended the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship’s reception for local quilling artist Deborah Jay Wednesday night.

The exhibit displayed nearly fifty pieces of Jay’s work during the event. Each piece consists of small, rolled up pieces of paper of various colors that combine to form a masterpiece. Jay’s work ranges from images of animals to three-dimensional dolls. Each piece was framed for display, and patrons attending the event were able to purchase any pieces they awed by.

“I call myself a paper artist,” Jay said. “The very first thing I did was a heart, and after that I was hooked and I just started rolling paper. After I left my position back in Chicago, I came out here and started doing it on a daily basis.”

Her love of art doesn’t stop at quilling either. Jay loves to doodle, knit, crochet and dip her talents into other non mainstream forms of art.

“I love to Zentangle,” Jay said. “It’s a form of doodling that is now being displayed in art museums. You draw the same shape over and over until you form a masterpiece. It’s quite therapeutic.”

The quilling pieces will be on display at MCE for the month of September.

By Adam Wolfe

Don’t break out the winter clothing yet, but for the first time since the spring weekend temperatures will be below triple digits for Labor Day weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a 30 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms through Friday, and a 10 percent chance of storms through Monday. The storm system could bring much needed rain to the region, as well as drop temperatures to a summer low for the weekend. Daily highs are expected to remain under 100 degrees until Sunday.

Thursday is projected to see a high of 99 degrees with gusting winds. There is a 30 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and evening, but according to the NWS, storm activity is not expected until after 2 p.m. The overnight low is expected to drop to 77 degrees.

Friday is projected to be the coolest day of the holiday weekend with a high of just 97 degrees. The wind is expected to be calm near 10 mph, but residents can expect to see rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening. There is a 30 percent chance for the storms to last until Saturday morning.

Saturday is expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 99 degrees. The wind is again expected to stay calm, and the majority of the storms are expected to have moved through. There is still a 10 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms, but they will likely be appearing as afternoon monsoons if they appear at all.

Sunday could see a return of the triple digits. The projected high is 101 degrees, but there is a 10 percent chance afternoon storms could roll in and cool things down a bit. For the most part, Sunday is expected to be a sunny day.

Residents looking to spend Labor Day outside should be in luck as the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies. The high is expected to reach 103 degrees, and the wind is currently projected to be relatively calm. There is a 10 percent chance of afternoon rain and thunderstorms, but the majority of the day is expected to be clear.

A slight chance of thunderstorms and rain is currently projected for next week, but more information will be available as the new week approaches.

Kehinde Ogunjobi (far right) of Ketalog Inc. gives the Maricopa City Council some bling to spread the word about its service.

By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa City Council honored Denyse Airheart for being named “One of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business” by Arizona Business Magazine, and Rocky Brown for being awarded the “Emergent Leader Award” from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.

The majority of the City Council meeting Tuesday night was driven by members of the public. Although Mayor Price and the majority of the City Council who were in attendance debated a few issues, the spotlight was on the public speakers such as Judge Lyle Riggs, Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl and concerned citizen Joe Matrishion, who came forth to address the council on the issues facing the community.

Riggs, who is justice of the peace, gave a moving speech about how the community has handled the recent tragedy involving Nate Ford, a teenager killed in a traffic accident. Riggs was thankful for the officers who took care of the Ford family after breaking the news of their son’s passing, and he thanked the community for rallying around the family and showing such tremendous support.

“We have suffered yet another tragedy in which a young life ended,” Riggs said. “This community has become too familiar with this. While this tragedy is neither greater nor less than the other recent tragedies, it is personal to me. Nate Ford and his family are personal friends of mine and of my family. While I do not pretend to speak on their behalf, I do wish to express my personal appreciation for the way this community responded.”

Stahl addressed the council regarding the planned redevelopment of the Heritage District. The committee for the Heritage District will hold a public hearing to discuss the grant awarded to Maricopa for redevelopment of the area. The grant was awarded for blight and slum prevention, but Chief Stahl made it clear the Heritage District is not viewed in this way.

“The city of Maricopa and the police department are holding a public meeting and hearing to discuss the reaffirmation of the Heritage District as a redevelopment area,” Stahl said. “We do not mean to indicate that the city of Maricopa in any way, shape or form views the Heritage District or any part of the Heritage District as slum or blight, only that it is a requirement of the grant to receive the funding so we can address the safety needs and safety issues of certain parts of that community.”

Matrishion stated he would like to see the timing on the train track crossing arms adjusted to allow drivers more time to stop. He was recently rear-ended while leaving Wal-Mart when he had to stop quickly to avoid hitting the arms after progressing through a green light.

The City Council, working on a short agenda for the night, approved a contract with Devau Services Inc. to provide payroll services for the Census workers. In doing so, the city hopes the process will run a bit smoother and the workers will be compensated with ease and efficiency. The Council also approved the purchase of two new street sweepers for a total cost of $485,494.69. However, the city is responsible for only about $40,000 of the total. Approximately 95 percent of the costs will be covered by an air-quality grant.

The only issue that hung up the council Tuesday night was the contract renewal with Albert Holler and Associates for Transaction Privilege Tax services in an amount not to exceed $36,000. Some members of the council were confused by the need for the contract, but due to extreme understaffing by the State of Arizona, there aren’t enough state personnel to take care of the issue. Instead of potentially losing more tax revenue due to delays by the state, the city will pay the contract and potentially receive near $150,000.

The next City Council meeting will be Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall.


Aaron Owens was second in the nation in passing yards last week. Photo by William Lange

Two Maricopa Rams football players have received national recognition from for their performances on the field last week. MaxPreps tracks high school sports across the country, and weekly posts the outstanding stats.

Maricopa High School senior quarterback Aaron Owens was second on the passing-yardage list after the team’s defeat of Agua Fria. Owens was 23 of 28 for 537 yards, six touchdowns in the 53-46 win. He was behind only Alex Huston of Glendale High School in Springfield, Missouri, who had 555 yards passing.

Senior wide receiver Johnny Johnson Jr. was fourth in the country in receiving yards. He had nine catches for 283 yards and three touchdowns. View the MaxPrep stats at

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Johnny Johnson Jr. will back on the field Friday for the Rams after officials reversed a call from last week. Photo by William Lange

Senior wide receiver and team captain Johnny Johnson Jr.’s suspension from Friday’s game against Shadow Mountain has been lifted after an interpretation request for the “Taunting and Excessive Celebration” rule was submitted by Maricopa High School.

Upon further review, the officials felt the rule was misapplied in the situation, and the flag should not have been thrown during the game.

“I received an email from the Commissioner of Officials and he stated the officials felt that the ‘Taunting and Excessive Celebration’ rule was misapplied in that game, and by rule, the flags should not have been thrown,” MHS Athletic Director Mark Cisterna said. “There was not an appeal of the ejection, by Maricopa only an interpretation request.”

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The Maricopa Rams are prepping for their second game without at least one of their captains. Photo by William Lange

By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School Rams will be facing the Shadow Mountain Matadors without the services of wide receiver and team captain Johnny Johnson Jr.

Johnson led Maricopa with 287 receiving yards, an interception and four total touchdowns in the team’s opening game against Agua Fria Friday night. However, Johnson was removed from the game by referees early in the fourth quarter after allegedly spiking the ball following an interception he returned for his fourth touchdown of the night.

According to Arizona Interscholastic Association, the excessive celebration warrants a one-game suspension. The loss of Johnson takes away a deep threat on offense and one of the team’s top defensive backs on defense.

“Not having Johnny Johnson for this game obviously puts us at more of a disadvantage than we could be,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “We’re not at full strength without an impact player like him, so somebody else will have to step up and fill the role. [Shadow Mountain] likes to throw more than they like to run, so it hurts us even more since we’re losing one of our best cover guys.”

Seniors Aaron Owens and Isaiah Pedro will be asked to cover Johnson’s position on defense, but the duo could have their hands full with senior wide receiver Jake Welsheimer. The standout senior for the Matadors has 12 receptions for 262 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

During last week’s game against Browne High School, Welsheimer caught six passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Shadow Mountain is a pass-heavy team, and the potent aerial attack is sure to test the Rams secondary.

SMHS junior quarterback Darion Spottsville has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes on the season, and hasn’t thrown an interception in 45 attempts. In last week’s win over Browne, Spottsville completed 10 passes out of 17 attempts for 266 yards and five touchdowns.

As good as the passing game is for Shadow Mountain; their running game has been a weakness early in the season. Despite beating Browne 49-6 over the weekend, running backs produced only 26 yards on 16 carries. In their season opening game against Nogales, the Matadors pieced together just five yards on 13 carries en route to a 31-18 defeat.

For the Rams, it will be important for the defense to put pressure on Spottsville and contain Welsheimer. Coming off a performance where they gave up over 200 rushing yards to Agua Fria, the Rams will look for improvements along the front line.

“The thing that we need to address is the rushing yards. We gave up way too many,” McDonald said. “Going into the game we knew they would be bigger than us by a lot, but in the scheme of things, when you look at a team like Agua Fria that ran as a spread offense, no huddle, we gave up 350 total yards. The defense really wasn’t the issue. Take away the kick returns and the scoop and score on the 5-yard line and it’s not even a game. The defense didn’t give up 46 points. They played well enough for that game not to be a game.”

Last week, the Rams’ offense showcased a balanced attack against Agua Fria. Aaron Owens completed 23 of 28 passes for 537 yards and six touchdowns, and the running game produced 133 yards on 35 carries. The offense was so dominant that Owens was named the Arizona Cardinals state Player of the Week, and Owens and Johnson were both named American Family Insurance All-USA Arizona Performers of the Week.

Maricopa should expect a tougher time moving the ball against Shadow Mountain this week. The Matadors have given up 529 total yards in their first two games, and the majority of that came when Nogales shredded the Matadors defense for 323 rushing yards in their opener.

The loss of Johnson will adjust the Rams’ game plan, and the passing attack will look to Pedro, junior David Owens and sophomore Longman Pyne to fill the gap left by Johnson’s suspension. The team will also look to the running game to provide relief and balance once again.

“We’re going to get in a lot of three wide receiver and two running back sets and maybe get in an extra fullback and run,” McDonald said. “We’ll still spread them out, but we’re going to go right at them. I think our line can do that.”

The Rams offense may take another blow this week as senior center and team captain Nikolai White is dealing with some health issues. His status is uncertain at this time and he will be a game-time decision.

Despite the personnel setbacks, McDonald still believes he has enough talent on his team to compensate for the potential injuries.

“We can spread you out horizontally and if you take that away we’ll hit you vertically,” McDonald said. “We have enough guys on this roster that if you get them the ball in space, they’ll do some damage. We just need some guys to step up this week.”

The game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Shadow Mountain High School’s stadium is on campus, 2902 E Shea Blvd., Phoenix.



An artist's reception for Deborah Jay is Wednesday, 6-8 p.m., at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship will be displaying the quilling masterpieces of Deborah Jay for the month of September.

The works of art are actually thousands of tiny pieces of paper that are rolled up and put together to create an image or sculpture.

“I call myself a paper artist,” Jay said. “I first went into quilling when I saw an article in Workbasket Magazine in 1992. The very first thing I did was a heart, and after that I was hooked and I just started rolling paper. After I left my position back in Chicago, I came out here and started doing it on a daily basis.”

MCE will host a reception for Deborah Jay at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108, on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Appetizers and drinks will be served.

Jay’s art ranges from animals such as eagles and wolves to cowboy boots and figurines. She said the most unique thing she’s made was a pair of cobras. The owner wanted a portrait of his snakes, so she had to make sure the markings on each were exact so he could tell them apart.

“I always wanted to have my own art show, so this is a dream come true,” Jay said. “This is just amazing. I thank MCE for all the help and encouragement they have given me.”

For the MCE, the choice to use Jay’s art as the monthly exhibit was simple. As long as the art meets the criteria of being local and catching the eye of the MCE staff, the organization is proud to display in their offices, Executive Director Dan Beach stated

“We found it fascinating that [Deborah Jay] rolls up tiny pieces of paper and makes these pictures,” Beach said. “You’d never believe how these tiny pieces of paper can become something so beautiful. Part of art is the magic of making something ordinary become phenomenal. DJ’s art is unique and we wanted to share it.”

A Medical Examiner's report showed meth in the systems of Michael and Tina Careccia. (Instagram photo) Jose Valenzuela is charged with their murders. (PCSO photo)

A coroner’s report on Michael and Tina Careccia indicates the presence of methamphatamine and amphetamines in their systems.

The autopsy report was released by the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Though the cause of death in both cases was a penetrating gunshot wound to the head, the apparent presence of meth may play into the defense case being put together for the man charged with their killing, Jose Valenzuela Jr.

Valenzuela, 38, faces two counts of first-degree murder. According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, the Careccias were killed June 21 at Valenzuela’s home on Papago Road and then buried sometime the next day next to the house with a borrowed backhoe.

When first taken into custody on July 1, Valenzuela reportedly told detectives he had been high on meth at the time. He said the Careccias and his roommate Felix Nunez were also doing meth.

Exactly what led up to the shootings is still not clear. According to PCSO, Valenzuela had been at the Careccias’ home two streets away that day for a Father’s Day celebration. The Careccias then went to Valenzuela’s home that night.

The only witnesses to the crime, Nunez and Valenzuela told investigators there was some kind of fight. Nunez, 38, told detectives Michael Careccia, 44, was shot first.

The men’s stories differ on some points, however, which may also be important in future court proceedings.

The weapon used in the shootings is believed to be Valenzuela’s .22 caliber Magnum.

The autopsy showed the Careccias had consumed alcohol and Tina Careccia, 42, also had traces of tranquilizers in her system.

Valenzuela’s next hearing date is set for Oct. 5 in Florence. He is represented by Pinal County Public Defender James Mannato, who is mulling a challenge to the grand jury proceedings that led to Valenzuela’s indictment.


Clouds drift into Maricopa on the horizon, with a chance for rain every day. Photo by Adam Wolfe

=By Adam Wolfe

The week is projected to feature much of the same weather and monsoons that swept through Maricopa over the weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a 20 to 30 percent chance of afternoon rain and thunderstorms each day this week. The storms are expected to drop the high temperatures from near 110 degrees to around 105 degrees throughout the week. Winds are expected to stay near 10 mph, but strong gusts may occur sporadically.

Monday is projected to be partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of afternoon rain and thunderstorms. The chances jump to 30 percent for rain and thunderstorms as the evening approaches. The high is expected to reach 105 degrees, and the wind is expected to stay calm near 10 mph throughout the day.

Tuesday is projected to be partly cloudy in the morning, with potential storms moving in during the afternoon. There is a 10 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms in the early afternoon, but monsoons are expected in the evening, and a 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms will linger throughout the night. The high is expected to be 103 degrees, but the wind could kick up loose dust with a steady breeze around 13 mph and occasional strong gusts.

Wednesday is expected to be a near mirror image of Tuesday featuring a 10 percent chance of afternoon storms and a 20 percent chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. The projected high for Wednesday drops to 101 degrees and the wind is expected to calm to around 9 mph for most of the day.

Thursday is expected to feature mostly clear skies during the day before the storms roll in toward the evening. There is currently a 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms throughout the night. The projected high is 103 degrees, but the wind is expected to stay relatively calm.

Friday and Saturday forecasts currently call for rain and thunderstorms. The high for both days is expected to be around 100 degrees, but more information on the weekend will be available later in the week.

Deborah A. Jay will be Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship's Artist of the Month, with a reception Wednesday. Submitted photo

Opportunities to enjoy sports, art and music are available this week, and Maricopa High School prepares for a special anniversary.

Homecoming Committee Meeting at Maricopa High School is at 5 p.m. in the school library. Come help plan Homecoming, which is Oct. 23, and mark MHS’s 60th school year.

MHS Varsity Volleyball has its first home match against Kofa High School from Yuma, starting at 6 p.m.

Chamber of Commerce Golf Social starts at 4 p.m. at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado. The Chamber gathers every Wednesday to play nine holes.

An Artist’s Reception for Deborah A. Jay at Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship starts at 6 p.m. Deb is a quill artist and a member of the North American Quilling Guild. Her art will be on display at MCE for the month.

MHS Varsity Volleyball plays at home again, hosting Flowing Wells at 6 p.m.

The MHS JV Football team hosts Shadow Mountain at Rams Stadium starting at 6 p.m.

Tommy Price & the Stilettos play from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. in The Lounge at Harrah’s Ak-Chin. The Stilettos are a high-energy, knock your dancin’ shoes off jump blues and rockabilly band.

For more information about these events and others, or to post your own, go to

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Senior captain Johnny Johnson Jr. was the only player in Division III Section I voted First Team All-Section on both offense and defense. Photo by William Lange

By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School Rams held off a late charge from the Agua Fria High School Owls to claim a 53-46 victory in the opening game of the 2015 season.

Before the game began, the Rams were able to take a moment to reflect on the week they had endured. Just one week ago, senior linebacker Nate Ford died in a traffic accident. Instead of falling into despair, his teammates rallied around the tragedy and found new purpose in playing to honor their friend.

Ford was named the team’s fourth captain for the game. His father, wearing his number 42, stood in his place. A helmet with “R.I.P. Nate” on the front was placed on the bench next to a wreath that read “Nate Ford #42.” To enter the field, the team ran through a banner that read “State for Nate,” and the team carried a red and black flag with a large 42 on it.

A long moment of silence was to remember Ford, and fans wore red, white and blue in his honor.

The most stunning gesture came from the Agua Fria Owls. Friday morning the team announced via Twitter they would swap out player numbers on the sides of their helmets for the number 42 in honor of Nate Ford. Agua Fria’s captains also presented a wreath to the Maricopa captains at the coin toss.

Once the game began, it was clear this would be a shootout. Agua Fria’s Jaylon Green ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. After just 15 seconds, Maricopa was trailing by six.

However, in response, the team marched down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead. Senior quarterback Aaron Owens found his brother, junior wide receiver David Owens, open in the corner of the end zone.

The game went back and forth for the entire first half. Each team would briefly take the lead just before the other snatched it right back. However, thanks to more than 200 receiving yards from senior wide receiver Johnny Johnson Jr. and over 300 yards passing from Aaron Owens, the Rams held a 27-23 lead at the half.

“We have a lot of athletes and we can spread the ball around,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “Tonight was just Johnny’s night. My job is to get the ball into the kid’s hands and Johnny does what Johnny does. I like the personnel we got because you just pick your poison.”

The Rams demonstrated how potent their offensive firepower was in the second half. They outscored the Owls 13-3 in the third quarter and added two more touchdowns within the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.

With just eight minutes remaining in the game, the Rams held a 53-26 lead. Then, in a hurry, things fell apart, and the Owls mounted a comeback. With two quick scores, the Rams’ lead was cut to just 13 points.

With 4:41 remaining in the game, just after Agua Fria had scored for the second time in the fourth quarter, the lights suddenly went out in the stadium. “Nate is here,” fans texted each other. For the next 15 minutes, they chanted “State for Nate” as the lights slowly turned back on.

Then Agua Fria successfully recovered an onside kick and drove to the Rams eight yard line. However, Maricopa stopped them there.

Maricopa used its running game to drain the last few minutes on the clock. The game seemed locked up before a fumble recovery turned into a touchdown for Agua Fria.

After another onside kick by Agua Fria was unsuccessful, the Rams ran out the clock and held on for a 53-46 victory.

“Overall, we got the [win] and we got it on an Agua Fria team that was much larger than us,” McDonald said. “We have a lot of things we can clean up. I’m proud of them, but at the same time, there’s a few things I’m a little disappointed in. As a head coach, my job is to try to maximize these guys, and if I was just a ‘rah-rah’ guy and told them I wasn’t disappointed I’d be doing them a disservice as a coach.”

The Rams were able to pull off the win in large part because of their explosive passing attack. Aaron Owens finished the game with 23 completions on 28 attempts for 537 yards and six touchdowns. Both David Owens and Johnny Johnson Jr. caught nine passes each. Johnson finished with 287 receiving yards and three touchdowns while David Owens finished with 202 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Isaiah Pedro also hauled in four passes for a total of 42 yards and a touchdown, and Longman Pyne caught one pass for 10 yards.

The running game also reeled off 133 total yards during the game. The team’s leading rusher was sophomore D’Angelo Edgerton with 16 carries for 77 yards. Sophomore Cameron Sanders also had a productive day with eight carries for 50 yards and a touchdown.

It wasn’t all good news for the Rams offense, though. Johnson was removed from the game early in the fourth quarter after allegedly spiking the ball following an interception return for a touchdown. The unsportsmanlike penalty could force him to miss next week’s game at Shadow Mountain High School.

On defense, the Rams struggled to contain Agua Fria’s highly touted seniors Chris Cofield and Jaylon Green. Cofield shredded the Rams defense for more than 200 yard of total offense, and Green returned two separate kicks for touchdowns.

The Rams stifled the Owls passing attack for the majority of the game, but the near collapse in the fourth quarter raised some questions heading into next week’s matchup.

The Shadow Mountain Matadors are currently 1-1 on the season but possess a dangerous passing attack that could pose a threat to the Rams inconsistent defense.