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MHS

MHS volleyball team at Mesquite for play-in. Photo by Jennifer Ford.

Except for one athlete, Maricopa High School wrapped up its fall sports season last week.

Evelyn Corliss, a sophomore runner on the cross country team, ran a personal best 21:37 in the 5K at the Division II Section IV meet Friday. She finished 15th, which qualified her for the Arizona State Championships, which are Nov. 4 at Cave Creek Golf Course. The top 25 runners in each section advanced along with the qualified teams.

“She ran her heart out,” coach Heather Abel said. “She really deserves it.”

Senior Alondra Borbolla Gonzalez finished 27th in 22:36. Freshman Alyssa Frarck was 69th in 25:39. Sophomore Juni Hall was 74th in 26:42. Freshman Kaitlyn Crean was 84th in 30:07, and junior Hayley Mase was 85th in 30:29. Among the boys, junior Alec Kramarczyk was team leader in 31st place in 18:27. Senior Chet Carroll, who won the Maricopa Mud Run the following day, ran 70th in 20:01. Freshman Jovanni Fentes was 79th in 20:53. Sophomore Carlos Chavez ran a personal best 20:55 to finish 80th. Junior Diego Riva was 84th in 21:48. Junior Orion Martin was 91st in 23:19. Senior Gio Hernandez was 92nd in 23:20.

Thursday, the volleyball team, ranked 20th in 5A, competed in a play-in game for a chance to qualify for the state tournament. The Rams fell to No. 13 Mesquite in three, 25-14, 25-18, 25-18. That ended their season with an official overall record of 12-7 and second place in 5A Metro.

Friday, the MHS football team ended its season at home by defeating McClintock in a down-to-the-wire contest. This season, junior Tylen Coleman led all of 5A in sacks with 12, a total was 10th across all divisions in the state. Junior Jacob Cowing was second in 5A overall and first in 5A Metro in receiving yards with 1,081. Senior Alec Smith was third in 5A Metro in passing yards with 1,632, which was 10th in 5A overall. A running quarterback, he had 2,030 total yards. Senior Kemo Akins was third in 5A Metro in rushing yards with 1,040, 17th in all of 5A.

 

Photo by RaquePhoto by Raquel Hendricksonl Hendrickson

 

After a Jekyll-and-Hyde season, the Maricopa High School varsity football team went out with a bang Friday night.

The Rams put a choke hold on McClintock in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, preventing a field goal that could have won the game for the Chargers. Instead, Maricopa came out with a 21-20 victory.

That gave the Rams a 6-4 record.

“We overcame a ton of adversity for a one-point win,” head coach Chris McDonald said. “And it shouldn’t have been that.

“It took a fumble inside the red zone, another hold inside the red zone on two different drives and then a snafu on the punt for it to be a one-point game.”

McDonald said while he believes the Rams were a better team, the McClintock coaching staff has done a “phenomenal” job with the 6-4 Chargers. Maricopa’s defense had its hands full with McClintock’s senior running back Tyrese Green, but were able to corral him enough to keep the Rams’ game together.

“We had a lot of energy to start off the game, because of course it was Senior Night, and everybody was amped up and ready to go,” senior quarterback Alec Smith said. “And then we kind of hit a couple of rough spots toward the end of the game, but the defense held strong and let us get the W.”

The fact of Senior Night was motivating enough to allow the Rams to shake off two hard-luck losses that pushed them out of playoff contention. At moments, Friday’s game looked like it would follow the same path.

“It was a great game. We got the win, but we just got to finish,” Maricopa senior running back Kemo Akins said. “That was a big key of what we needed to do, just execute and get the job done.”

Akins scored the first of Maricopa’s three touchdowns and the first score of the game just seconds into the second quarter. That lead lasted about three minutes before McClintock tied the score.

However, junior Jacob Cowing took the subsequent kickoff and returned it all the way for a touchdown. Though the point-after kick failed, Maricopa was ahead 13-7.

Just before halftime, the Rams had a messy series that left them at fourth-and-21 and an obvious punt situation. But the hike soared out of arm’s reach, and McClintock landed on it on the 4-yard line. That quickly turned into a touchdown and gave the Chargers the 14-13 lead at the break.

During the time in the locker room, McDonald told his defense if they could hold McClintock to just one more touchdown, the Rams could win the game.

“I think our team, I think Maricopa itself, we’ve always been good at facing adversity. We’ve always been underdogs, no matter what it is,” senior lineman Taylor Belcher said. “Seems like everyone’s out to get us, but we don’t get discouraged by any big-name schools. We always just fight back, no matter what’s happening.”

The Rams battled through a back-and-fourth third quarter. They finally found themselves with first-and-goal on the 1. Then second-and-goal on the 2 and third-and-goal back on the 1, before Smith broke past the Chargers to score. He then ran in the two-point conversion, and Maricopa was on top, 21-14.

The teams traded penalties, punts and turnovers the rest of the game. McClintock scored on an 8-yard run midway through the fourth, but an attempted two-point conversion failed. The Chargers had another chance with 53.4 seconds left and tried for a field goal.

The kick went awry, and the Rams celebrated a game that was a near-perfect synopsis of the season.

“This season was really a test of keep going no matter what the circumstances,” Belcher said. “At the beginning it was just great. We were mowing people over, but we faced some adversity midway through the season. But we just got to keep going. Just got to tell yourself to keep going no matter what.”

“It was a bumpy road – a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” Akins said.

McDonald, too, said the team had to learn to handle adversity in a season that was “a roller-coaster ride.”

“Football’s going to come and go,” the coach said. “But these young men have got to go out into society, and they’ve got to be productive and they’ve got to be able to handle adversity. Some of them still need to learn how to handle adversity a little bit better, and we addressed that.

“I hope that they leave, and 10 years from now they come back and they’ve got families and they’ve got good jobs. That’s more important.”

Members of the team were already putting the season into that rear-view mirror perspective despite a rough season of disappointments.

“Coming out of the Senior Night with a W is just something I’ll always remember,” Belcher said. “I’m thankful for all my underclassmen working their tails off. They know they’ll be here next year, two years from now, working just as hard. I’m proud of my team and everything that we’ve come to do.”

“I love my team,” Akins said. “I really do.”

Diego Villareal and Sara Earle were honored by Maricopa Rotary at an Oct. 25 meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board as Students of the Month. Pictured behind them are Rotarians Alma Farrell and Joanne Ortega and MUSD board President Patti Coutre. In back are school board members Joshua Judd, AnnaMarie Knorr, Gary Miller, Superintendent Steve Chestnut and school board member Torri Anderson. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

Outstanding students in the Maricopa Unified School District were highlighted for their academic efforts during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

Maricopa Rotary Club Youth Coordinator Alma Farrell and Joanne Ortega presented Maricopa High School senior Diego Villareal and Desert Wind Middle School Sara Earle with Rotary Students of the month for October.

Farrell said Villareal is an honors student with a 3.861 grade point average.

“His guidance counselor nominated him for this award,” Farrell said. “She reports that she admires his diligence to do his work and as well as the respectful and kind demeanor that he has.”

Villareal is a member of the National Honor Society, is involved in the school’s Book and Media Club, and active in his church as a youth pastor, Farrell said.

Earle, DWMS eighth grader, was lauded by school staff in Farrell’s report for her sense-of-humor and her work ethic.

“Not only does she excel in each subject area within the Blended Learning program, she goes above and beyond teacher expectations for a student,” Farrell quoted one teacher as saying.

Earle is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and the Tiger volleyball team.

The MUSD Governing Board also approved the early graduation of MHS senior Andrew Bounsone during the meeting.

Bounsone’s guidance counselor Chris Lathan requested the board approve Bounsone’s December graduation.

Lathan said Bounsone, who was not present at the meeting, intends to walk during the graduation ceremony in May before enlisting in the military.

“One of the reasons he wants to graduate early is because he’s going to be servicing in the Army, so one of the things he would like to do is work and get extra money and work out a little bit and get himself ready for basic training,” Lathan said.

Board Member Gary Miller clarified with the board that Bounsone would still be eligible to attend prom in the spring.

The board voted unanimously to approve Bounsone’s early graduation.

This is Red Ribbon Week at Maricopa High School

A local high school is spreading drug-awareness through a series of week-long events.

Students at Maricopa High School are participating in Red Ribbon Week, a national annual drug prevention campaign from Oct. 23 through Oct. 29.

MHS Prevention Coach Yolanda Ewing said children whose parents talk to them about drugs and alcohol are less likely to use the addictive substances.

“Substance abuse awareness education helps support those parents who are making the effort to talk with their kids as well as fill in the vacuum being left by those who don’t,” Ewing said.

According to the Red Ribbon Week Campaign website, only a quarter of teens nationwide report having these conversations.

The awareness week comes at the height of a national opioid epidemic. Although the increased abuse of prescription medication is cause for much concern, Ewing said “alcohol is still the most widely abused drug nationwide by teens and by Maricopa teens.”

Organizers kicked off the week Monday with a “table talk” held during lunch by the Students Against Drunk Driving club.

Tuesday, the Ready for Life program hosted a red ribbon drug awareness “Ram Fest” after school with live music and food.

The MHS Drama Club performed “Your Future is Key, So Stay Drug Free” inside the Black Box Theatre Wednesday afternoon. Students viewed a screening of “Natural High” Thursday and engaged in a discussion with their peers afterward inside the school lecture hall from 2:45 to 5 p.m.

During the MHS Rams Football final game of the season, students will sign a red ribbon pledge and conduct a balloon release.

The week concludes Sunday at Copper Sky with a community outreach event at 2:30 p.m.

“We plan to have fun activities for everyone, free food, live entertainment and a balloon release,” Ewing said.

As part of the campaign, students also entered a Red Ribbon-themed essay and poster contest.

For more information contact Ewing at yewing@musd20.org.

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Submitted photo

The Maricopa High School Marching Rams are in the middle of competition season, earning awards and high ratings.

Led by Director Ivan Pour, the Rams had their second competitive performance of the year at the AzMBA Mesquite “Rainer Classic” on Oct. 7. The Rams took third place in the 4A class and showed significant improvement in scores awarded by the judges.

The band performed on Oct. 21 at University of Arizona Band Day in Tucson. The band earned the second-highest rating of Excellent for their performance. The band earned praise for achieving a good overall ensemble sound and having moments of exceptional execution in both musical and visual performance.

In addition to the rated festival, the band got to hear from student leaders of the “Pride of Arizona” marching band and was treated to a closing performance of the UofA Band prior to the awards ceremony.

“These University Band Days are always wonderful opportunities to expose our students to what musical opportunities are available to continue their music education in college. It is also a way the MHS Band program supports our ‘College and Career’ academic focus,” Pour said. “We are proud to have attended band days at all three state universities in the last three years – UA in 2017, NAU in 2016 and ASU in 2015.”

The Band performs next for the annual powder puff football game on Monday, Oct. 23, the MHS Senior night football game vs. McClintock on Oct. 27 as well as in the ABODA “Marching at the Mountain” Invitational at Mesa Mountain View High School on Oct. 28. MHS Marching Rams take the field at 8 p.m.

Isaiah Crawford takes down Kellis' Ricky Luna in a Maricopa loss Friday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson.

In a defense-heavy 5A Metro contest at Kellis in Glendale, Maricopa High School lost the penultimate game of its football season in nail-biting fashion, 16-14.

The Cougars’ penchant for two-point conversions was the difference in the game Friday night when Maricopa could not pull off a last-second field goal. The Rams, feeling the pressure to win to have hopes of reaching the playoffs, were inconsolable afterward.

“The defense played their butts off,” head coach Chris McDonald said. “They played extremely hard. We left them on the field too much in the first half.”

Junior tackle Tylen Coleman had three sacks in the first half, and senior Zion Saole threw in another.

The teams battered on each other in the first quarter, frustrating both offenses. Kellis drew first blood with a 27-yard touchdown pass followed by a two-point conversion. The Rams, meanwhile, struggled to get out of their end of the field.

“The field position was horrible for us in the first quarter,” McDonald said.

The second quarter, however, started out with an interception by junior Jacob Cowing, which set up Maricopa’s first scoring drive. At the end of a messy possession, Cowing took a pass from senior quarterback Alec Smith 21 yards for the score.

Trailing by a point, the Maricopa defense continued to thwart the Cougars, overcoming a fumble and forcing the ball over on downs twice.

The Rams trailed the Cougars 8-7 at the halftime break.

With Kellis clamping down on Cowing and running backs Kemo Akins and Cam Sanders, Smith started breaking loose for long yardage in the third quarter. That threat helped Maricopa open up its offense on a long drive in the third that ended with Akins scoring from the 16 with 1:46 left in the quarter to go ahead 14-8.

Though penalties increased dramatically in the fourth quarter, Maricopa seemed to be finding its rhythm and taking control. But an interception at the 47 with 1:29 left in the game ultimately sank the Rams. It turned into a scoring drive, and suddenly Kellis was ahead 16-14 with just 54 seconds left.

Maricopa labored to get within field goal range. With just 2 seconds left and the Rams at third-and-15 at the 32 yard line, the field goal unit could not execute, and the game ended.

“The thing is, when you count on Cowing so much, they’re able to stack the box and then they double Cowing,” McDonald said. “We just need some other guys that can step up.”

Maricopa (5-4) closes out the regular season Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. by hosting McClintock (6-3) for Senior Night. As part of Red Ribbon Week at MHS, there will be a balloon release and other activities.

Mallory Miller. Photo by William Lange

Administrative changes plaguing Maricopa Wells Middle School continue as district officials confirmed Friday that Assistant Principal Mallory Miller resigned in early October.

According to school documents, Miller’s resignation was effective Oct. 3.

The departure comes after a string of transitions between MWMS and Maricopa High School administrators, most of which have gone largely unexplained by the district.

Currently, acting principal at MWMS is Thad Miller, no relation. Thad Miller is filling in for Rick Abel, who is acting principal at MHS while Principal Renita Myers is on leave.

Tom Beckett, human resources director for the Maricopa Unified School District, said MUSD is recruiting candidates from within and outside the district to fill Mallory Miller’s former position at MWMS.

“​We have middle school staff members assisting Mr. (Thad) Miller with administrative tasks and we are very thankful for the cooperation that group of professionals has provided during this transition,” Beckett said.

It is unclear how long Abel will assume Myers’ role at the high school.

Mallory Miller and Myers were previously administrators at Desert Wind Middle School and worked together again at MHS at the beginning of the school year before the district moved Mallory Miller to MWMS.

Miller’s was not the only staff resignation to come suddenly. Longtime MHS Librarian Robin Shoup resigned on Oct. 17.

“We have interviewed for a librarian, and we are very close to finalizing a placement,” Beckett said.

MUSD Transportation Director Fred Laguna is expected to retire in December.

“Mr. Laguna is retiring after a long and successful career in school transportation,” Beckett said. “He oversaw and helped lead the district through a number of great projects during his time with us.”

The personnel changes are on the MUSD Governing Board agenda for its Oct. 25 meeting.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School sports could play teams closer to home next year if granted approval in a different 5A region next month.

Current conference standings for future 5A San Tan region football teams
Casteel (3A): 7-0
Higley (4A): 7-1
Williams Field (5A): 6-2
Campo Verde (5A): 5-2
Maricopa (5A): 5-3
Gilbert (6A): 3-3
Tempe (4A): 1-8

The Arizona Interscholastic Association set new placements for schools on Oct. 17 based on enrollment. MHS will maintain their 5A status, but would move into the San Tan region with Campo Verde, Casteel, Gilbert, Higley, Tempe and Williams Field.

Already in 5A San Tan is Williams Field and Campo Verde. Maricopa is currently in 5A Metro. Schools moving up conferences would be Tempe (4A), Higley (4A) and Casteel (3A). Gilbert would move down from 6A.

MHS Athletic Director Brian Winter said although student-athletes would be able to stay in class longer as away-game travel times would shorten, they would also be facing off against tough competition.

“Most of the teams proposed for the San Tan Conference/Region have extremely strong athletic programs, and so in certain sports we will be very challenged,” Winter said.

Predicted by Winter to be one of the most tested MHS programs would be Rams Football.

“Many of the teams in the proposed region have very strong, established football programs,” Winter said.

Schools have until Oct. 25 to appeal division placements. Winter did not indicate whether MHS desires to pursue an appeal.

MHS Football Coach Chris McDonald could not be immediately reached for comment.

The AIA will publish final division placements Nov. 15.

Maricopa junioPhoto by Raquel Hendricksonr Jacob Cowing drags half the Apollo defense in Friday's home contest. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A field goal and a safety were all the scoring difference as the Maricopa High School football team dropped a home game Friday to 5A Metro rival Apollo.

The evenly matched teams both had ups and downs in the seventh game of the season. The Hawks’ pressure on the Rams, offensively and defensively, enabled them to stay just out of reach and take the 33-28 win.

“I felt like we left some plays on the field,” Rams head coach Chris McDonald said.

Both teams had giant, break-away plays for touchdowns followed by drives in which they had no momentum at all. Both defenses had big stops and their share of quarterback sacks, but also their share of breakdowns.

When Maricopa most needed it in the second half, “we just didn’t have any fire power,” McDonald said.

Apollo took special focus on senior running back Kemo Akins, who, with the exception of a huge, 55-yard scoring run, was held to 4 yards per carry. Akins still totaled 124 yards rushing, keeping him in Metro’s top three for running yards with 843 this season.

Junior Jacob Cowing, already well ahead of any other wide receiver in the Metro region, added to his yardage Friday with eight receptions for 212 yards. That included a final-minute, 89-yarder that allowed the Rams to pull within five points of Apollo. In all of 5A, Cowing is No. 2 in total receiving yards (970), and statewide he is No. 3.

Cowing and Akins each scored two touchdowns against Apollo.

Senior quarterback Alec Smith threw for 237 yards and ran for another 14. Smith is eighth in the 5A conference in passing yards with 1,283 and seventh in total yards with 1,477. In 5A Metro, he is behind only Kellis’ Cade Peterson both in passing yards and total yards.

In Friday’s game under a full moon, Apollo struck first, scoring midway through the first quarter. Maricopa could not answer until 9:06 was left on the clock in the second quarter, when Akins ran the ball in from the 6. It was the only time the score was tied.

Apollo’s busy running back Ali Mohamed ran in from the 2 with 1:55 left in the half. Apollo also scored quickly in the third quarter to go up 21-7.

Starting from horrible field position on their next drive at just the 5-yard line, the Rams had senior Cam Sanders doing the grunt work to get the ball to their own 20. Smith threw a bomb to Cowing, who took it 80 yards for the touchdown. Maricopa went into the final quarter trailing 21-14.

Apollo managed a field goal after a nice goal-line stand by the Ram defense. Soon after, Akins grabbed the ball on the 45 and ran it all the way in for a touchdown, moving Maricopa within three points of the Hawks, 24-21, with 8:43 left to play.

The Ram defense again had to make a goal-line stand at the end of a time-eating drive by Apollo, but this time the Hawks were able to score on a third-down pass from the 1 to lead 31-21 with 3:12 left. Then they trapped Maricopa in its own end zone for a safety.

But Maricopa played hard through the last minute, something McDonald was most proud of.

“We didn’t give up,” he said.

Starting on the 11-yard line with just 45.7 seconds remaining, Smith tossed the ball to Cowing who took a route up the left sideline all the way to the end zone.

The Rams made one last-ditch effort with an onside kick, hoping to grab possession, but Apollo landed on the ball and took care of it for the rest of the game.

The loss put Maricopa in third place in 5A Metro behind Apollo and Sunnyside, which are both 2-0 in the region. Sunnyslope is 4-3 overall (compared to Maricopa’s 5-2 record), and happens to be the Rams’ next opponent.

Maricopa plays the Vikings Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in Phoenix.

Photo by Michelle Chance

As students let out of school for the start of fall break Friday, the Maricopa Unified School District announced yet another administrative change at two of its schools.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut confirmed Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel will begin as acting principal at Maricopa High School on Oct. 16.

MHS Principal Renita Myers has been on a leave of absence since Sept. 25. Heidi Vratil, assistant principal at the high school, filled Myers’ shoes as acting principal until Friday.

Chestnut said Vratil will return to her role as assistant principal when students return from break, but could not comment on the district’s decision to transfer Abel from MWMS to the high school.

Thad Miller, MHS assistant principal, will return to MWMS Oct. 16 as acting principal. It will be the second time in a month Miller has temporarily filled Abel’s role.

On Sept. 15, Abel began a week’s leave of absence at the middle school. Days after Abel’s return, it was reported Myers was on leave from the high school.

District officials will not disclose the reasons behind either of the administrators’ absences.

Miller began the year at the middle school, but was abruptly transferred to MHS as the district shifted high school Assistant Principal Mallory Miller to MWMS.

District officials have also refused to comment on the reason behind the transfers.

Former Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers

A high school principal is on a leave of absence this week.

Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers began the leave Sept. 25, said Tom Beckett, human resources director for the Maricopa Unified School District. The reason behind the leave remains private.

Becket said MHS Assistant Principal Heidi Vratil is stepping in for Myers as acting principal, adding, “at this time that is all that can be said.”

Myers came to the district in 2006 and worked a variety of teaching and administrative positions at the high school. According to her biography posted online, Myers eventually worked her way up as principal at Desert Wind Middle School during the 2014-15 school year.

Myers became principal last year at MHS after switching positions and schools with June Celaya.

Recent administrative changes are not new to the high school.

Earlier this school year, the district transferred MHS Assistant Principal Mallory Miller to Maricopa Wells Middle School after having recently relocated her from a position at DWMS.

The transfer caused a strong parent reaction on social media and at the district’s board meeting because the district chose to swap Mallory Miller with MWMS Assistant Principal Thad Miller, no relation, at the high school.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said previously the move was made “in the best interest of MUSD,” but could not clarify the reasons why.

In mid-September Thad Miller temporarily returned to the middle school for a week to fill the shoes of Principal Rick Abel, who returned from administrative leave on Sept. 22.

The length of Myers’ leave is unknown but is expected to last through the week.

MHS Marching Rams at Sabino High School. Submitted photo

Under the direction of Maricopa High School band and orchestra director Ivan Pour, the MHS orchestra and band participated in two performances last weekend.

Friday, the MHS Chamber Orchestra traveled to Campo Verde High School in Gilbert to participate in the ABODA Fall Orchestra Festival. The orchestra was evaluated by a panel of three professional string educators and earned a rating of excellent, the second-highest possible, for their performance. They received compliments from the judges on creating a full orchestral sound. Following the performance, the orchestra had a clinic with Bill Cummings, orchestra director at the Granite Mountain School in Prescott and concert master of the Prescott POPS Symphony.

Saturday, the MHS Marching Rams opened the competitive and festival season with a performance in the Arizona Marching Band Association’s Show at Sabino High School in Tucson. The band finished in fourth place. The band earned praise from the judges for their woodwind and color guard performances.

Pour wants to thank the awesome band parent volunteers who donated pizza to feed the Marching Rams when it became apparent the concession stand would take too long. “It is great to have such awesome support for band, music and the arts in MUSD,” he said.

Pour invites the entire Maricopa community to attend the AzMBA Mesquite Show on October 7 at Mesquite High in Gilbert. MHS will perform at 8:30 p.m.

“If you have not been out to a marching band competition, I strongly encourage you to come out,” he said. “Admission is under $10 and it is a great family atmosphere with awesome performances.”

Kemo Akins (4) takes the ball from Alec Smith (14) in the Rams' victory at Ironwood. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Ranking seventh in 5A this season, the Maricopa High School football team came off a bye week to a rough start against Metro rival Ironwood.

In the end, the Rams came away with the 26-15 “completely ugly win,” head coach Chris McDonald said. The team sputtered out of the chute, often losing yardage to unfortunate execution and penalties, with even a 36-yard touchdown pass called back by a flag.

“From 2o to 20, we did a great job, and then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot with silly penalties near the goal line and took away 21 points,” McDonald said.

After junior Jacob Cowing took a pass from senior quarterback Alec Smith 62 yards for a touchdown, Maricopa went into halftime trailing 6-8.

During the break, they rallied themselves to return to Maricopa’s brand of football.

“We talked about how we need to relax and play our game,” McDonald said.

The chat was effective. The Rams scored on their first possession of the third quarter. A drive that started on their 35 culminated in a seven-yard TD run by senior Kemo Akins and a successful point-after kick by Josh Mendes. Immediately after, Ironwood fumbled the ball on its own 15, and Maricopa junior Tylen Coleman picked it up and scored. Mendes’ kick put the Rams up 20-8.

Ironwood was not finished, however. A 23-yard touchdown run put the Eagles just five points behind Maricopa with 4:11 left in the third.

But the Maricopa defense shut down the Eagles the rest of the night. Akins put the game away for the Rams in the fourth quarter on a 39-yard run up the left sideline. He was shoved across the corner of the end zone for the final touchdown.

“It’s nice that we’re in a position now as a program where we can still win not putting our best foot forward at times,” McDonald said.

Both teams had injuries, with the Rams losing junior Jimmy Cutajar for the game. He was taken to a hospital for treatment, but the coach said he sounded upbeat.

The win put Maricopa’s record at 5-1 (1-0). Ranked right behind them in 5A is Apollo, which is 4-1 going into tonight’s game. The Rams play Apollo next Friday.

“We need to improve,” McDonald said. “We’re not going to beat Apollo playing the way we did. It’s just not going to happen.”

 

Maricopa varsity volleyball celebrates its ninth win. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After a hard-fought victory over Ironwood (1-11) Wednesday, the Maricopa High School volleyball team is undefeated in 5A Metro play. Outside of tournament competition, the Rams are 9-3 overall.

The win over the rebuilding Eagles – 25-23, 25-21, 29-27 – was tighter than it appeared on paper, with Maricopa having to recover from a seven-point deficit in the third game. Coach Jecksan Quinones called it “an amazing comeback.”

“They were down and they decided to come back and start fighting,” he said. “We had some trouble with players not getting to where they were supposed to be getting, but eventually they worked together and they accomplished what was my goal. I think this is the first time Maricopa beat Ironwood in three years.”

Hosting Wednesday’s match, Maricopa got off to a strong start in the first game, but Ironwood was no pushover. The Eagles came back and pressed the Rams to the end. Ironwood trailed the Rams in the second game, but came back and tied at 9-all and 20-all before Maricopa finally shook loose.

The third game went upside down at the beginning for the Rams, who trailed 9-16. With aggressive plays, they fought back to catch the Eagles at 24-all and then passed them the take the game and the match.

The Rams started the week with a five-game loss to Poston Butte and win over Apollo in straight sets. Last week, they ran through Apollo and Casa Grande.

They are 4-0 in Metro 5A play, tied at the top with Sunnyslope (3-0). Sunnyslope is ranked second in the state in 5A. Maricopa is ranked 19th. Sunnyslope is Maricopa’s next home opponent, Monday at 6 p.m.

“If we play the way we can, I believe that will be a very interesting game,” Quinones said.

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New Maricopa High School Choir Director Lindsay Decoste is doing some great things to build up the choir program at MHS while also supporting the high school’s college and career academic focus. 

Sept. 23, Decoste and four students from the MHS Choir attended the Arizona State University Vocal Connection event on campus at ASU. Throughout the day, students Chloe Seekings, Seneca Abbott, Jacobo Porras and Douglas Moulton participated in several workshops. At the end of the day, they joined their voices with 300 other high school students and learned two new pieces of choral music under renowned conductors Jason Thompson and Bart Evans.

Sept. 25,  the four students taught the rest of the MHS choir what they learned at the workshop. 

“This was a valuable experience for all five of us,” Decoste said.

Action from last year's tourney. Photo By Raquel Hendrickson

The yearly golfing event that benefits local athletes is set to tee off Saturday morning.

The eighth annual Maricopa High School Football Golf Tournament begins with an 8 a.m. shotgun start and a four-person scramble at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.

The registration fee per person is $125, and $500 per foursome.

Mark Rasmusson, MHS Football Booster Club president, said the money raised goes toward equipment, trips to football camps and meal planning.

The cost of meals alone each season is over $10,000.

“Every game-day we feed each team: the freshmen, JV and varsity; Along with varsity also every Thursday night before their games, so we are providing four meals a week basically,” Rasmusson said.

The booster club hopes to raise between $18,000 and $19,000 Saturday.

A variety of prizes are offered in the general tourney, including additional prizes for long drive, closest to the hole, and a $5,000 cash prize for a hole-in-one on hole No. 17.

Rasmusson said the event helps provide equal footing for Maricopa football players who play in a large division but live in what still feels like a small town.

“For our kids, sometimes there is a stigma about Maricopa, and we’re trying to provide the kids the same opportunity that every other kid in the state has,” Rasmusson said.

Participants have until 7:30 a.m. the day of the event to sign up. To register visit the Maricopa Rams Football Facebook page.

 

Prizes

  • Scotty Cameron putter
  • Titleist driver
  • Traeger Smoker
  • 55 in. 4k smart TV
  • Steel case leap task chair
  • Troon golf package

 

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MHS girls' soccer head coach Morgan Davis. Photo by William Lange

The former assistant coach for Maricopa High School girls’ varsity soccer will lead the team this year.

Morgan Davis is the new head coach for a team she is looking to unify after it lost its senior players in May.

Although tryouts are slated to begin in October, Davis said the majority of the team is already shaping up to consist of mostly juniors.

“The girls who are going to be seniors and juniors. We are really going to be looking at them to step up their game, to be role models for the upcoming freshmen and sophomores,” Davis said.

The program itself is welcoming many new faces both in coaching and in talent. Cory Rovens will be varsity assistant coach, and Mauricio Racines will head the junior varsity girls’ team.  Davis said it is an opportunity to create leaders as well as a cohesive, fresh program.

“I want everyone to see that even with the new coaches coming in – the new junior varsity coach, the new assistant varsity coach – that we are one,” she said.

The athletic program at the high school is led this year by new Athletic Director Brian Winter. He is working to connect middle school sports within the Maricopa Unified School District with the high school. Davis said she likes Winter’s direction.

“I love the program that he is wanting to incorporate into Maricopa and that goes for all sports, not just soccer,” Davis said. “What he’s looking at is building something in a town that has been overlooked for so long.”

Davis came to the district three years ago and has taught technology at Santa Cruz Elementary School.

She began playing soccer at the age of 7 and later played collegiately at a private university in Iowa, finishing her play at California State University, East Bay. The assistant coaching position at MHS came during the 2015-16 season. Her move to head coach is a transition Davis said she is ready to make.

“I want to create a program not only for the girls’ program, but a cohesive program for the boys and the girls – something we can consolidate together – where you look at the soccer program at Maricopa as a whole and you are proud of it,” Davis said.

The MHS girls’ soccer season begins in November and runs through February.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team handily won its Homecoming game Friday night, 54-14, over North Canyon.

Head coach Chris McDonald said the Rams did to the Rattlers what Centennial had done to Maricopa the week before, and improved their mid-season record to 4-1 in the process.

The Maricopa defense held North Canyon (2-3) to 54 rushing yards and 122 receiving yards. Fumble recoveries, interceptions (Jacob Cowing and Ilijah Johnson), sacks, a safety (Stefon Nelson) and even the recovery of a bad punt hike in the end zone (Edward Donaldson) had the Rattlers back on their heels all game.

“We capitalized on their turnovers and took the wind out of their sails,” McDonald said.

Meanwhile, the Maricopa offense was firing on all cylinders. Senior running back Kemo Akins rushed for three touchdowns, including the first and last of the Rams’ eight touchdowns. Senior quarterback Alec Smith connected with junior wide receiver Jacob Cowing on three scoring plays, including two 80-yard bombs.

Smith, who again had more than 150 yards passing despite playing only half the game, also scored on a 28-yard keeper.

Maricopa did have serious issues on special teams, and mistakes McDonald warned the team could cost them games.

In the meantime, the Rams are relishing a blowout victory and a week off. This week is a bye for the team. The second half of the season, in which they take on all 5A Metro foes, begins Thursday, Sept. 28, at Ironwood (1-3) in Glendale.

Maricopa has outscored its opponents 181-113. After Ironwood, the Rams will face Apollo (3-1), Sunnyslope (2-2), Kellis (4-0) and McClintock (2-2).

See below for photos of Homecoming Night. For RamFest coverage, click here

Photo by Michelle Chance

Games, music, an alumni football game and traditional bonfire marked RamFest at Copper Sky Thursday in celebration of Homecoming Week for Maricopa High School. MHS graduates took on city employees and officials, and anyone else who could be rounded up, in the alumni game. Vendors sold food and treats, MHS Marching Band provided pep music, and Maricopa Fire/Medical Department started and maintained the bonfire for a large crowd as the football team prepared to take on North Canyon the following evening.

Maricopa High School Varsity Football Rams vs Centennial Coyotes Sept 8, 2017 | InMaricopa | Photographer Jonathan Williams

The Maricopa Rams did not become the first team this season to score a point off Centennial Friday. Instead, they suffered the same fate as the Coyotes’ earlier opponents, losing 44-0.

The result moved Maricopa’s varsity record to 3-1.

Undefeated Centennial, which is ranked No. 4 among all football teams in the state, brought a large crowd to Maricopa for the wind-blown game at Ram Stadium. Players dealt with flying dust and gusts so strong they had to hold the football on the tee for kickoffs.

Rams head coach Chris McDonald told the team afterward they will learn 10 times more from a loss like that than from a win. He also told them to mentally flush the game “down the toilet.”

From the start, Centennial was a gale force on its own. The Coyotes scored with less than a minute off the clock on a 60-yard run by Zidane Thomas. Thomas, whom McDonald called a “Division I running back,” scored again with 3:01 on the clock.

Maricopa, overwhelmed by the Coyote defense, fumbled the ball 14 seconds later, and Centennial’s Matthew Kudray took it in for another touchdown. The Centennial kickoff pushed the Rams back to their own 2-yard line, and the Coyotes forced a safety.

Centennial quarterback Ruben Beltran completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Alex Escobar, and the Coyotes took a 30-0 lead into halftime.

“That first half we played about as bad as we could,” McDonald said. “I said, ‘Hey, I want the real Maricopa team to come out the second half. We’ve got that out of the way; let’s try to win the second half and build off of it and earn some respect.’”

For the second game in a row, the Maricopa defense spent a lot of time on the field and seemed to improve on reading what and who was coming at them as the game went on.

“They came out in the second half and did what they were supposed to do,” McDonald said of the Rams. “The way our kids competed that second half was really good.”

From the 6-yard line, Thomas scored for the visitors with 6:49 on the clock in the third quarter. A 50-yard pass to Escobar with 30 seconds left in the third resulted in the final touchdown of the game.

“Their quarterback, I think, did a really good job,” McDonald said. “Their line, for the most part, was what I expected. I was a little disappointed in us not being able to stop the run as much as I thought we would in the first quarter. I thought we would match up well, and we didn’t.”

In preparing for next Friday’s Homecoming match-up with North Canyon, Maricopa coaches will be putting more pressure on the offense, most pointedly the quarterbacks, to clean up mental mistakes.

“We’ve got to execute better when we play a team that’s just as fast as we are,” McDonald said.

Maricopa had senior Zion Saole back on the line but may have lost punter Kevin Coutre, who was injured late in the game.

Friday, the Rams are favored to beat the Rattlers, who are 2-2. The game starts at 7 p.m. at Ram Stadium.

Freshman Shakira Gillespie prepares to serve during a varsity volleyball victory over Glendale. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Playing three matches in a row this week, Maricopa High School’s volleyball team pushed through illness and overcame its first loss to build its record to 4-1.

Coach Jecksan Quinones said it became a lesson to all that they need to learn to adapt to change. Coming off the Labor Day weekend, he had hoped to fare better against an inconsistent Mesquite team. The Rams lost the Tuesday match in straight sets.

“It didn’t come out the way I was expecting,” Quinones said. “I had about six girls come back sick with cold, and once they got on that court they weren’t the same as what I know they can be. Wednesday’s game went a lot better.”

Wednesday was a 3-0 victory over McClintock on the road.

Thursday, the Rams hosted winless Glendale. The coach tried to get all his players some time on the court, even when the Cardinals threatened to win the third set. But it was another straight-set victory for Maricopa.

“We’re still getting over that sickness. It’s still a slow game,” Quinones said. “We can see how everybody still needs to learn how to work together.”

Maricopa is 3-0 in its section.

The Rams’ next match is Tuesday at home against Williams Field, and the girls are making it a special evening. They are joining other MHS student groups in gathering donations for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. All students who attend school in Maricopa can get into the game free if they bring a donation. The varsity match begins at 6 p.m.

 

 

A physical battle was inevitable when two teams that have overwhelmed their competition so far meet on the football field.

The Maricopa High School Rams traveled to south Tucson to take on Desert View Friday and got just that kind of battle, and a clash with the referee crew into the bargain. Leaning heavily on the defense (Stefon Nelson had a particularly impressive night), the Rams pulled out a 33-20 victory.

“They played a helluva game,” MHS head coach Chris McDonald said of his defensive unit. “We kept them on the field too long because offensively we didn’t play particularly well in the middle of the game.”

McDonald blamed that on mental mistakes by players and himself and other coaches.

A strong start by the Rams set up the successful evening. Maricopa scored first after a lengthy series of running plays. Quarterback Alec Smith kept the ball and scampered in from the 24 yard line.

“They’re giving us five in the box still, so they were daring us to run,” McDonald said. “So obviously they thought that they would out-muscle us up front. It was good we just wore them down.”

Desert View scored a little more than two minutes later on a pass play that got away from the Maricopa defense. But the Rams came right back on two long runs by senior Kemo Akins that got the team down to the 8 yard line. Junior Jacob Cowing took the ball in from there. When the point-after kick failed the Rams took the 13-7 lead into the second quarter.

Midway through, a pass from Smith to Cowing took Maricopa to the 2, and Akins scored from there. Senior kicker Josh Mendes was successful with the PAT for a 20-7 lead.

From that point, the game disintegrated a bit. The Maricopa offense lost more yardage than it gained, and the defense was flagged for pass interference twice and a then a personal foul after the Jaguars finally scored again with 21.7 seconds left. The referees lost track of the clock and the number of time-outs, which led to lengthy discussions even after the teams had left the field for halftime.

“They didn’t have anything to say. What could they say?” McDonald said. “I told them I was displeased with what they were doing, and that’s all I could say. You know they’re not going to turn it around.”

For all that, Maricopa had the 20-13 lead.

The Rams’ defense did most of its work in the third quarter when nothing else was working very effectively. Seconds into the fourth quarter, however, the Jaguars scored to tie the game and raise the intensity another notch.

Akins scored from the 27 and Mendes kicked the PAT to push Maricopa on top for good with 7:03 left in the game. After Desert View was forced to punt, Akins again broke through the Jaguar line near midfield and ran for the goal line with Desert View’s speedy wide receiver Cam Denson hot on his heels and gaining. Akins took a flying lunge across the line as Denson was grabbing for him.

The exhausted Akins had to be helped off the field by teammates, and Maricopa was on top, 33-20. As the PAT attempt failed, a fight broke out on the field, with players pulled apart before it could build into a brawl.

Despite the high emotions and ongoing frustration with the referees, the Rams were able to hunker down and execute offensively and defensively through the end of the game.

“They understand what it’s about. They understand what we’re here for,” McDonald said. “We’re here to play football; we’re here to win a football game. They’ve worked too hard for it to allow all that other nonsense to overshadow what we’re trying to do here.”

Maricopa has won its first three games by a combined score of 127-56. The Rams host Centennial Friday at 7 p.m. The Coyotes are undefeated and have not given up a point.

Carli Rieman and Layla Gardner block a hit from Paradise Valley. Photo by Jonathan Williams

The volleyball season got off to a rolling start for Maricopa High School.

The Rams stacked up two wins this week, both in straight sets. They opened on the road at Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande on Tuesday and then hosted Paradise Valley Thursday.

“They came together,” head coach Jecksan Quinones said. “They’re right where I need them to be at. We’re running plays. They’re working. They’ve got the chemistry. They were amazing.”

They defeated the Spartans in overwhelming fashion, 25-10, 25-4, 25-14.

Freshman Layla Gardner had five kills to lead the team. Junior Carly Rieman had three kills. Freshman Ashley Brown served five aces. Freshmen Shakira Gillespie and Emily Thompson served three apiece.

Rieman also had two blocks. Brown led the team digs with 13, while Gardner had seven.

The 5A Metro match against Paradise Valley proved to be tighter affair, with the Rams defeating the Trojans 25-19, 25-23, 25-21.

“There are some plays coming down the road,” Quinones said. “So, we’ll be working on getting them faster and getting them jumping higher.”

After just two matches, Maricopa is the only undefeated team in the Metro section. The varsity Rams next play at Mesquite in Gilbert Tuesday at 6 p.m. 

Maricopa senior Geo Hernandez strides out early in the boys' competition at Chandler to start the cross country season. Photo by Mason Callejas

Cross country runners had a tough 2017 season opener in Chandler on Wednesday as temperatures reached up to around 109 in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, several Maricopa High School Rams runners finished strong at a five-way meet at Tumbleweed Park with members of both the girls’ and boys’ teams finishing in the top 10 of their respective races.

The lady Rams had two runners finish in the top 10. Sophomore Evelyn Corliss came in second with a time of 23:22, and senior Megan Carr was ninth with a time of 25:36.

Overall, the girls finished fourth at the meet with 76 points, running against the American Leadership Academy (38), Skyline (52), Combs (82), and Seton (no score).

The gentleman Rams, coming off a state-qualifying season, had only one runner come in with the top 10. Junior Alec Kramarczyk finished seventh in 19:29. The next MHS runner, senior Chet Carroll, came in 16th with a time of 21:01.

The heat and the intensity of the first race did get to one MHS runner. Senior Caleb Wilson pushed through a severe cramp toward the end of the race finishing 44th out of 56 with a time of 25:15.

Wilson collapsed shortly after crossing the finish line and was treated by emergency personnel for symptoms related to the heat.

Cross country coach Heather Abel said the situation was likely a “combination of the heat and not breathing correctly.”

Abel also said running in these hot temperatures can prove trying. However, she knows most of her runners are aware of the dangers and run accordingly.

Some of the times aren’t what Abel was hoping for out of the race. But, she said, “it’s only the beginning.”

The boys also finished fourth, scoring 95 points against Seton (37), ALA (42), Combs (82) and Skyline (98).

Her girls’ squad has six new runners this year, but Abel isn’t too worried about the fresh faces. Corliss is one such fresh face and by finishing second in the season opener, Abel said, she has high hopes for the rest of the season.

Though there is always room for improvement, Corliss, personifies the ideal student athlete, the coach said.

“She’s just one of those who never really says anything, never complains, she just kind of does it,” Abel said.

The boys are also showing their competitive nature, she said, with several of them vying for the top five positions.

“It’s going to be a really interesting year for the boys,” She said. “There’s just something with the boys where they push together, they work together, and they absolutely understand what it takes to get to state and what it takes to win dual meets.”

The Rams will return to Tumbleweed Park Sept. 2 at 7 a.m. for their next meet, the Chandler Invite.

 

MHS Roster
Girls:
Evelyn Corliss
Megan Carr
Alondra Borbolla Gonzalez
Alyssa Frarck
Evelyn Young
Juni Hall
Dylan Hill
Kaitlyn Crean
Hayley Mase

Boys:
Alec Kramarczyk
Gio Hernandez
Chet Carroll
Carlos Chavez
Brady Hunsaker
Orion Martin
Caleb Wilson
Alex Lopez Perez
Diego Riva
Vlad Patrenko
Jovanni Fentes
Quinton Stapleton

The Rams take a break in the action to hear from coach Chris McDonald. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite some setbacks in Game 2 of the football season, the Maricopa High School Rams unloaded on Paradise Valley on Friday for 49-23 victory.

The Rams took the field missing a starting running back and a lineman, one for disciplinary reasons and the other for family matters. The situation put a lot of pressure on senior running back Kemo Akins to make up the slack in the first quarter.

“The first quarter was a whole different game for me,” said Akins, who was called on frequently for the heavy-hitting, short-yardage plays as well as his more typical sweeping runs through the Trojans defense. “We had to get guys to fill in and get the job done.”

Akins scored two of Maricopa’s seven touchdowns. He also fulfilled his duty as a team captain.

“We worked hard all week, and we watched them, and we were prepared,” he said. “I’ve been telling them three things: Focus, prepare and finish. And they followed through with that.”

Head coach Chris McDonald said the team knew the Trojans had a quarterback “who can sling it” in sophomore Ben Hanley. And the Rams fielded a backup safety and a sophomore corner.

“Once we made the adjustments, we played pretty well,” McDonald said.

After the Maricopa defense stymied the Trojans on their first possession, the Rams used Akins to move the ball downfield. Then senior quarterback Alec Smith threw to wide receiver Jacob Cowing, who took it 22 yards for the score with 7:59 on the clock.

Paradise Valley came back quickly, scoring about two minutes later on a 43-yard pass.

In the second quarter, Maricopa pulled ahead for good when senior running back Cameron Sanders scored from inside the 3. Paradise Valley managed a field goal to draw close, but the Rams executed an 84-yard scoring pass from Smith to senior Cameron Nissenson.

Maricopa led 21-10 at halftime in a game dragged out by several penalties on both sides.

“We battled through adversity, I can tell you that,” Smith said. “Once we got adjusted and just played our game, it all fell into place.”

The Rams started quickly in the third quarter with Smith connecting with Cowing for a 49-yard touchdown. The Trojans answered with a 23-yard passing TD, but Maricopa was right back in the end zone on a 4-yard run by Akins.

After an interception by Stefon Nelson, Akins scored again with 5:16 left in the quarter. Sanders ran the ball in from the 3 for Maricopa’s third straight score at the end of the third.

With most of Maricopa’s starters resting, the Trojans managed a passing touchdown with 17 seconds left in the game.

Maricopa had 610 total yards. Smith was 13-for-17 passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Sanders had 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Akins had 101 yards rushing and also scored twice. Cowing caught three passes for 84 yards and scored twice. Nissenson had two catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.

That gave the Rams the same 2-0 start they had last year before they ran into Desert View, a loss McDonald called a “hiccup.”

Friday, they will run into Desert View again. McDonald said the Rams will be “playing the revenge factor to the hilt.” The game is at 7 p.m. in Tucson.

The Maricopa High School varsity volleyball team is a mix of youth, talent and experience. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Supreme confidence is evident with this season’s Maricopa High School varsity volleyball team.

“I think we’re going to bring something amazing to Maricopa this year.” — Mackenzie Ford

The girls who fell just two points shy of making the playoffs last season have something to prove. Anchored by a group of steady seniors and gifted juniors, the Rams have set their sights high.

Coming so close, junior Carly Rieman said, “gives us a goal now. We have clear sight, so that’s our goal, to get that far and then next year – state.”

Coach Jecksan Quinones repeats often how excited he is about the upcoming season, which starts Aug. 29 at Vista Grande High School. The first home match is Aug. 31 against Paradise Valley.

“There’s a lot of experience on the court,” Quinones said. “They know the game. We still need to work on having them trust a little bit more in one another, but it’s going to be a good program. I’m very excited about this team this year.”

He’s not the only one.

“I am so, so excited,” Rieman said. “We changed so much about the program, and there’s so many new girls with amazing talent. So, I am really hyped for this year.”

The team’s three seniors like the camaraderie that’s developed within the 2017 edition of the volleyball Rams.

“We have a lot of good players and a lot of positivity,” Lissette Duarte said.

“Our team is very young, but I think we all have good team-bonding, so I think we’re going to have great team chemistry,” Teresa Delacruz said.

Jaylene Gosselin was on varsity her sophomore year and was team manager as a junior. This year, she’s back on the court.

“We have a lot of strong players this year. I think it’s going to be a good season,” she said.

Quinones has five freshmen coming to varsity, including 6-foot-0 Alexis Powell, but their talent might belie their age.

“We communicate with each other. We trust each other and we just know how to play with each other,” Powell said.

Coach Quinones said despite having only a week of practice under their belts since team selections, they are already running offensive plays. He estimated the Rams are a week and a half ahead of schedule in their development. Barring an unexpected setback, he is confident the girls will make the playoffs.

“This is supposed to be a great year,” junior Mackenzie Ford said. “We have incredible talent. We have a super-young team but a team that has good attitudes, good energy, and I think we’re going to bring something amazing to Maricopa this year.”

 

Schedule
Aug. 24 5 p.m. @Valley Christian (scrimmage)
Aug. 29 5 p.m. @Vista Grande
Aug. 31 6 p.m. Home v. Paradise Valley
Sept. 5 6 p.m. @Mesquite
Sept. 6 6 p.m. @McClintock*
Sept. 7 6 p.m. Home v. Glendale
Sept. 9 8 a.m. Greenway Tournament
Sept. 12 6 p.m. Home v. Williams Field
Sept. 14 6 p.m. @Betty H. Fairfax
Sept. 18 6 p.m. Home v. Apollo*
Sept. 20 6 p.m. @Casa Grande
Sept. 25 6 p.m. @Poston Butte
Sept. 26 6 p.m. @Apollo*
Sept. 27 6 p.m. Home v. Ironwood*
Oct. 2 6 p.m. Home v. Sunnyslope*
Oct. 3 6 p.m. Home v. Kellis*
Oct. 10 6 p.m. @Ironwood*
Oct. 17 6 p.m. @Sunnyslope*
Oct. 19 6 p.m. @Kellis*
Oct. 20 8 a.m. Florence Tournament
Oct. 24 6 p.m. Home v. McClintock* (Senior Night)

*5A Metro competition

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Senior Ivie Keene (from left), teacher Cynthia Calhoun and junior Kjirsten Lemon. Submitted photo

At the recent Arizona High School Drama Coach Convention, Maricopa High School drama teacher Cynthia Calhoun was elected to be one of two representatives working with the director for the Central Region of Arizona Thespians, which is a state chapter for the Educational Theatre Association and the International Thespian Society.

Calhoun’s responsibilities will be to coordinate and organize events, including the regional festival, which qualifies high school students for national competition.

Two Maricopa High School students were also elected as Arizona State Thespian Officers: senior Ivie Keene and junior Kjirsten Lemon. These students will work with Calhoun to promote the development of thespians and thespian leaders throughout the state.

“This is a huge jump forward for our theatre program,” Calhoun said.

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Maricopa High School teacher Bernadette Russoniello (center) received the ACTE Teacher of the Year award. Submitted photo

At the 42nd annual Arizona Association of Career Technical Educators’ Conference, ACTE AZ awarded Maricopa High School’s marketing teacher, Bernadette Russoniello, Teacher of the Year.

Russoniello was honored for her contributions in the classroom, in the student career technical organization DECA, and for her considerable involvement in Career Technical Education Leadership across the state of Arizona.

Her list of accomplishments includes growing a state/nationally recognized marketing program with more than 150 members, increasing recruitment and retention in the marketing program, producing more than 100 regional medalists and more than 30 international competitors, establishing community activities and partnerships and standing out as a leader across her field.

Russoniello currently serves as the president of the Arizona Marketing Education Association, is a sophomore fellow for ACTE AZ concentrating in counseling and leadership, and is a National DECA certified trainer. Russoniello represents Maricopa Unified presenting at multiple state and national conferences on topics including project-based learning in the business and marketing classroom as well as sharing innovative ideas for program growth and retention.

 

“Overall team speed is better. I think that we’re bigger and stronger than we were last year,” head coach Chris McDonald said of the Maricopa High School football team.

IF YOU GO
What: Maricopa High School Rams Football Season Opener
When: Aug. 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Ram Stadium, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

The Rams start their season at home Friday at 7 p.m. against Willow Canyon.

The team has a new vibe after Maricopa’s first season in 5A Metro left them with a .500 record. The players talk a lot about chemistry, making it an important part of team-building with a mix of veterans, up-and-comers and new faces.

“Our chemistry for the team is really good this year,” junior center Jake Meyer said. “We’re all pretty much family-oriented.”

“Chemistry is like anything else, it’s got to be developed,” McDonald said. “We do a lot of team-bonding activities. I think the most important part is if the kids understand how it relates to having a better team, which in turn is going to give them a better experience and have a more successful season; if kids buy into that, that’s when it really starts to develop.”

The 2017 edition of the Rams is still not the biggest of 5A division teams, but they are quick. Two speedy running backs who made an impact on last year’s squad are returning. Cam Sanders and Kemo Akins are seniors and team captains.

In his own way, Sanders has become a virtual spokesman for the team, which is currently studying Willow Canyon.

“We’ve been preparing since the beginning of summer,” he said. “That was the only team we had our mind focused on. We take them a week at a time.”

Senior co-captains Cam Sanders and Taylor Belcher. (Not pictured Kemo Akins)

The Rams scrimmaged at Notre Dame Prep on Friday. McDonald called it a “vanilla” outing, but it was a chance to get up to game speed.

“It wasn’t just JV. That’s another varsity team,” Sanders said. “When I got hit the first time, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re ready to play. I like it. It feels good.’”

While Sanders led the team scoring last season with seven touchdowns, Akins was second in team rushing yards with 283.

Senior Taylor Belcher, 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker, was also chosen by the team as one of the three permanent captains. Coaches choose a fourth captain for each game.

“I feel pretty honored that my team put my name in their votes to name me captain this year and walk out to the coin-flip every game,” Belcher said.

Injury caused Maricopa to have rotating quarterbacks in 2016. This season, senior Alec Smith has played his way into the position. Smith moved to Maricopa from Illinois in the middle of his sophomore year, after the football season. Though he had played a little quarterback during spring ball, he wound up as a tight end his junior year.

This year during spring ball, he was asked if he wanted to play quarterback again.

“I said, ‘Yeah,’ and then it just happened,” Smith said. “I’ve been playing quarterback like my whole life, so I pretty much still had it.”

Game 1 quarterback is scheduled to be senior Alec Smith.

McDonald announced Smith as the Game 1 starter.

“It’s his job to lose,” McDonald said. “He’s been with us all off-season and done a great job picking up the offense, and he’s getting better as a leader. [Senior] Devin Parady is a kid that came on late, if you will, in summer and is a kid who’s really started to blossom in pushing Alec, which is only going to make Alec better.”

A newcomer drawing notice, and not just for his size, is senior Zion Saole. After playing on an overwhelming, undefeated freshman team in Anchorage, Alaska, Saole moved with his family to Maricopa last fall.

“I would have played, but then I would have had to sit out for more than half the season,” said Saole, who is a 6-foot-4 lineman weighing around 330 pounds.

“He’s worked his tail off,” coach McDonald said. “He was about 380 pounds when we first got him in January. He’s lost almost 50 pounds. It obviously takes dedication to do that.”

Saole is only 16 years old.

McDonald said he’s passionate about the game and a “high-character kid.”

“The first week of school I had two different teachers already communicate with me what a great role model, what a great leader he’s been in their class,” McDonald said. “So that really speaks volumes about what he’s about. He’s kind of an old soul. He understands the big picture of things.”

One thing McDonald learned in the scrimmage was the amount of “mental-mistakes” cleanup that may need to be done. The players know it, too.

“We need to work on a lot of improvements, particularly myself,” senior Edward Donaldson said. “I’m also looking to go to college, and I need some scouts to come look at me so I can make it out. We need to work together better as a team, so better communication and better teamwork.”

McDonald is also concerned about the health of the team, calling them “banged up.” And while he pined a bit for some “prototypical, old-school throwback, tough football players” from last year’s team, he said this year’s Rams are still pretty tough, and they have an edge.

“I think they have a chip on their shoulder. I think they understand what’s ahead of them,” McDonald said. “They want to accomplish something. They want to get over the hump. We’ve always been a game here and a game there short of making the playoffs.”

Junior wide receiver Jacob Cowing has his long-term goals set there.

“I’m looking forward to making it to the playoffs,” Cowing said. “I think with our team chemistry this year, we can make it happen.”

 

SCHEDULE

DATE                     TIME                      OPPONENT

Aug. 18                 7 p.m.                   Willow Canyon

Aug. 25                 7 p.m.                   @ Paradise Valley

Sept. 1                  7 p.m.                   @ Desert View

Sept. 8                  7 p.m.                   Centennial

Sept. 15                7 p.m.                   North Canyon [HOMECOMING]

Sept. 28 (Thu)    7 p.m.                   @ Ironwood*

Oct. 6                    7 p.m.                   Apollo*

Oct. 13                  7 p.m.                   @ Sunnyslope*

Oct. 20                  7 p.m.                   @ Kellis*

Oct. 27                  7 p.m.                   McClintock* [SENIOR NIGHT]

*5A Metro

Jason Crawford takes over the Rams softball program, which competes in spring. Submitted photo

 A new coach will lead the Maricopa High School softball team this year.

Jason Crawford joined MHS in August as softball head coach and English teacher, Athletic Director Brian Winter said.

Crawford has a decade’s experience coaching softball. Six of those years include head coaching positions at high schools in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Crawford will inherit a Ram team that, in April, finished a difficult season after their first year in the 5A Metro region.

“I know there has been some disconnect, and I’m excited to try and reinvigorate the community and get (them) behind the girls to build a strong program that’s going to be successful year after year,” Crawford said.

Ram softball could see a bolster in its operations as Crawford and Winter, both entering their positions at MHS this year, set two fresh pairs of eyes on the program.

“(Winter) and I both have lofty goals and lofty expectations,” Crawford said. “We seem to be on the very same page in terms of what we see in the future and how we see it getting there.”

In his tenure, Crawford also coached recreation ball and travel teams, the latter of which he hopes to establish at MHS during the summer.

“I’d like to keep (the team) together and keep them playing against top-tier talent to help make them better ball players and get them exposed to get them to college,” Crawford said.