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Desert Wind v. Maricopa Wells

A variety of varsity, junior varsity and junior high activities were in the spotlight leading up to Spring Break. Desert Wind Middle School won the junior high football championship in a showdown with Maricopa Wells, and new Maricopa High School varsity coach Brandon Harris dropped by to look at the youngsters. While the varsity baseball teams at MHS and Sequoia Pathway started their seasons in great form (7-1 and 4-0, respectively), the softball teams have had more of a struggle (3-7-1 and 1-2, respectively). The MHS JV baseball team has posted a 3-1-1 record, including a rough game against Vista Grande (see photos below). In tennis, the MHS girls are 2-3 while the boys are 1-4. Have photos of your favorite student-athlete in spring sports? Send them in: News@InMaricopa.com

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Jake Neill

A familiar face in Maricopa High School sports was officially re-hired this week.

The Maricopa Unified Governing Board approved Jacob Neill as its new district athletic director Feb. 28.

Neill previously coached MHS basketball for four years. He left in 2016 when he was hired as assistant principal and athletic director for Poston Butte High School.

Becoming an administrator was not just a professional goal, but something that runs in his blood.

“I’m from a family of educators,” Neill said. “A good portion of my family have worked in the school system from admin assistants on up to administrators.”

He’ll soon take the place of Brian Winter, who will be MHS principal next school year. Winter originally hired Neill in 2012.

“To come back with Mr. Winter in the principal position is one of the draws back to (MUSD) because he has a vision and I’m excited to get behind him and do what we need to do to improve Maricopa High School,” Neill said.

Some of the new AD’s responsibilities will include overseeing sports programs at the junior high level and ensuring the high school’s “facilities are on par with what other 5A and 6A schools are to make our students’ experience as good as it possibly can be,” he said.

Neill lives in Laveen with his wife Jess – a fourth-grade teacher – and their 3-year-old daughter Izzy.

Photos by Victor Moreno

High school varsity spring sports are under way. Maricopa High School introduces a new sport in beach volleyball while other sports hope to get back into state contention.

Sequoia Pathway Baseball
CAA Division II Region II
March 2 v. WSST 5 p.m.
March 6 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
March 9 v. El Dorado 4 p.m.
March 21 v. South Pointe 4 p.m.
March 26 at ASU Prep Poly 5 p.m.
March 27 at HA-Mesa 4:15 p.m.
April 3 at EVAC 4 p.m.
April 5 at Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 7 v. ALA-Ironwood 11 a.m.
April 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4:30 p.m.
April 11 v. Canyon State 4 p.m.

Sequoia Pathway Softball
CAA Division II Region I
March 1 v. ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
March 7 at Imagine Prep Surprise 4 p.m.
March 9 v. Imagine Prep Coolidge 4 p.m.
April 2 at Tri-City College Prep 4 p.m.
April 4 v. ALA-Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 5 at ALA-Gilbert 4 p.m.
April 10 v. Mission Heights 4 p.m.
April 12 at HA-Laveen 4 p.m.
April 17 v. South Ridge 4 p.m.
April 19 at Paradise Valley Christian 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Baseball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Sierra Linda 3:45 p.m.
March 2 v. Desert Edge 3:45 p.m.
March 5 v. Glendale 3:45 p.m.
March 7 v. Ironwood 4 p.m.
March 10-13 Bob Everett Spring Break Classic at Highland HS
March 21 at Vista Grande 6 p.m.
March 22 at Mesquite 4 p.m.
March 26 at Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 27 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
March 29 at Casa Grande 4 p.m.
April 3 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 5 v. Verrado 3:45 p.m.
April 6 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 10 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 11 v. Ironwood 6:30 p.m.
April 12 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 17 at McClintock 4 p.m.
April 19 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 20 at Williams Field 3:45 p.m.

Maricopa High School Softball
AIA Division 5A Section Metro (remaining schedule)
March 1 at Sierra Linda 4 p.m.
March 2 at Desert Edge6 p.m.
March 5 at Glendale 4 p.m.
March 6 v. Vista Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 8 v. Williams Field 3:45 p.m.
March 19 v. Mesquite 3:45 p.m.
March 27 at Kellis 4 p.m.
March 29 v. Casa Grande 3:45 p.m.
March 30 v. Kellis 3:45 p.m.
April 3 v. Sunnyslope 3:45 p.m.
April 5 at Verrado 4 p.m.
April 6 at Sunnyslope 4 p.m.
April 10 at Apollo 4 p.m.
April 11 at Ironwood 4 p.m.
April 12 v. Apollo 3:45 p.m.
April 17 v. McClintock (Senior Night) 3:45 p.m.
April 19 at McClintock 4 p.m.

Maricopa High School Track & Field
AIA Division II
March 7 at Chaparral 4 p.m.
March 10 at Desert Tune-Up (Mountain View Marana) 8 a.m.
March 21 at McClintock 3 p.m.
March 22 at Schuster Jones Under-Class Showcase 12 p.m.
March 28 at Maricopa Twilight 3:30 p.m.
April 13 at Hohokam Invitational 9:30 a.m.

Maricopa High School Boys’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 2 v. Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 at Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 22 at Williams Field 3:30 p.m.
March 27 v. Cibola 3:30 p.m.
March 28 v. Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 at San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 at Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 at La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 v. Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 at Kofa 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Girls’ Tennis
AIA Division I Section I (remaining schedule)
March 1 v. Casteel 3:30 p.m.
March 5 at Casa Grande 3:30 p.m.
March 8 v. Higley 3:30 p.m.
March 27 at Cibola 3 p.m.
March 28 at Tolleson Union 3:30 p.m.
March 29 v. San Luis 3:30 p.m.
April 3 v. Millennium 3:30 p.m.
April 4 v. La Joya Community 3:30 p.m.
April 10 at Westview 3:30 p.m.
April 12 v. Kofa 3:30 p.m.
April 16 v. Williams Field 3:30 p.m.

Maricopa High School Beach Volleyball
AIA Division I Section IV (remaining schedule)
March 5 v. Casteel at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 26 v. Millennium at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
March 28 at Willow Canyon at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 2 at Shadow Ridge at Victory Lane Complex 4 p.m.
April 4 at Perry at Seville Golf & Country Club 6:30 p.m.
April 9 v. Verrado at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 11 v. Dysart at Copper Sky 4 p.m.
April 13 v. Hamilton at Copper Sky (Senior Night) 4 p.m.
April 16 at Mesquite High School 4 p.m.



The Maricopa Rams started the 2018 season in a home tournament Thursday. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa High School Softball fell at home, 12-2, against Florence Thursday during the team’s season opener at the annual Krystin Diehl Tournament.

It was the first game led by new head coach Jason Crawford. He joined MHS in August as an English teacher.

A day ahead of the game, Crawford said the team’s biggest challenge is its nerves.

“We have been working hard the entire off season for this moment, and now that it’s here, I need to keep the girls’ from getting too nervous and losing focus of our goals,” Crawford said.

The team was plagued with pre-season jitters during its scrimmage Saturday, Crawford said, and despite moments of confidence on the mound and behind the plate Thursday, Rams softball couldn’t shake the butterflies for a win.

Rams varsity softball is a young team this year — made up of mostly underclassmen and only a handful of juniors and seniors.

Crawford said he’s looking to his older players to mentor their newest players on the field.

With the first game under their belt, Crawford said the team is “working out those kinks of youth and inexperience.”

Rams softball faces off against McClintock High Friday at 4:30 p.m.

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This story has been corrected from a previous version to indicate Mr. Crawford is an English teacher.

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Submitted photo

Saturday, Sequoia Pathway’s wrestling team competed in the Canyon Athletic Association 2018 Wrestling State Championships. The team finished third behind ALA-Gilbert and Harvest Prep of Yuma.

The Pumas’ five state champions:
Joshua Husick 23-0 (120 pounds)
Igor Husick 35-1 (126 pounds)
Kawehialani Kalulu 15-9 (girls 126 pounds), beat last year’s champion.
Anthony Rohde 38-2 (138 pounds)
Jackson Lee 32-0 (220 pounds)
George Husick Coach of the Year

Lucio Dominguez was second at 285 pounds. Will Senne (132 pounds) and A.J. Anderson (120 pounds) both placed third. Patrick Lisby placed fourth at 106 pounds.


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The Maricopa varsity Rams take the field for the first time Wednesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Baseball’s season opener started at home Wednesday against Tempe High during the school’s annual Matt Huffman Tournament.

The tourney began Wednesday afternoon between Dobson and Poston Butte and runs through Saturday.

Rams head coach Andrew Pollak said he’s excited about the many players on the team with the potential to have a big year, some of them including his returning seniors.

“They’ve been through the program for four years now, and they could’ve easily chosen to leave town and go to a different school, but they stayed here and have done a good job representing our city,” Pollak said.

Four-year varsity player Carter Paine is slated to be No. 1 on the mound this year across from the Rams’ leader behind the plate, catcher Mason Williamson.

Belcher twins, Taylor and Tyler, will also return. Both pitchers and fielders, they are among those who Pollak said will have a “huge impact” on the field this year.

Senior Kevin McDill will return to the mound and the outfield for the Rams, and Andres Gusse is the team’s “tremendous first baseman,” Pollak said.

The team’s retention of quality players is what Pollak said is a testament to the program and its division.

“We play really good competition,” Pollak said. “We don’t have any cupcakes on our schedule.”

Rams play Poston Butte Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and finish the tourney Saturday with a game at 12:30 p.m.

Post-tournament play begins March 1 at home against Sierra Linda.

Tyler Belcher started for Maricopa against Tempe. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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Carlos Rivas of Maricopa (second from right) is secretary of USTA Central Arizona. Other new officers are (from left) Treasurer Nathan Brelsford, First VP Taylor Allin, southwest section delegate Bill Lucero, President Laurie Martin and Second VP David Bennett. Submitted photo

A Maricopan hopes his new position can re-invigorate a local love of tennis.

Carlos Rivas was named to the executive committee of U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Central Arizona. He will serve as secretary.

“The goal is to grow tennis and get more people to play it,” Rivas said. “When you love something you just want to share it.”

Originally from California, Rivas picked up the sport as a youngster wanting to be like Andre Agassi “with all the hair and crazy clothes.” He found a $10 racket and started hitting balls with his brother. He played in high school and at Paradise Valley Community College.

Through tennis he met some of his best friends. He loved that sportsmanship was a vital part of the game, with players calling their own lines. After college, he was like many others who were unaware they could keep playing organized tennis. It was a decade before he discovered USTA programs.

Rivas said contrary to the stereotype that tennis is an elite, expensive sport, he has found it accessible and diverse. Bargain rackets and tennis balls are easily available, he said, and Maricopa has tennis courts in both its city parks.

He wants to see USTA’s Net Generation program utilized locally. Rivas said it offers resources to youth players and teaches coaches “how to do outreach.”

The goal is not to create professional tennis champions but to instill skills that will set up kids for a lifetime of healthy recreation. Rivas said most USTA Central Arizona members are simply leisure players.

Matt Gleason, executive director of USTA Central Arizona, said membership has grown by about 600 in the last five years in Arizona. Nationwide, the growth rate of 4 percent is outpacing other high school sports.

“Tennis is a tough skillset,” Gleason said. “There isn’t anyone who can’t kick a ball, but tennis is all athletic coordination.”

USTA wants to spread its program curriculum and get schools and youth programs outfitted in fundamentals and equipment.

“I’m interested in helping us get some of the programs going and growing,” Gleason said. “We’ve done a lot to grow recreational tennis.”

Rivas, who works at Verizon in Chandler, said he wants to have his kids involved in the sport and inspire a love for tennis in other young players.

“It’s a cool sport to play.”


The Maricopa High School varsity girls' basketball team links arms ahead of the national anthem Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team may be quietly hanging around the 14th ranking in 5A, but that’s OK with coach Melvin Mitchell.

“A lot of people are kind of writing us off, which is good. We don’t need the attention right now,” the third-year head coach said. “We’re just waiting and preparing for February.”

The Rams coasted through a 5A Metro game Tuesday, thumping McClintock 80-31 while getting the bench plenty of playing time.

“It became a track race a little bit, which I really didn’t want it to get,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to bring the ball up slowly and work around the offense, but you can’t tell them not to score if it’s a fast-break layup.”

Maricopa is 4-0 in Metro play, but the Rams have sixth-ranked Apollo waiting for them Friday night. Apollo has a very tall team loaded with seniors. Mitchell said the Hawks run most of their plays through 6-foot junior Jakaree Harris. Apollo also has a “nice new big” in 6-foot-1 freshman Haylee Weathersby, who is averaging 16 points a game. Both are strong offensive rebounders.

“Limiting them to one possession is going to be key,” Mitchell said.

All but one of Maricopa’s remaining regular-season games are Metro contests. The Rams sit on top of the region with Apollo. Overall, Maricopa is 12-7.

“I think we’re just very young. We’re not necessarily deep,” Mitchell said. “Some of our younger players need to step up and just learn and know their role, and they got the opportunity to show some of that tonight.”

Against McClintock, MHS senior Sydni Callis led all scoring with 24 points. She also had four steals and five assists. Junior Jayla Johnson, recovering from injury, “didn’t look like herself,” according to Mitchell, but still scored 19 points, 14 in the first half. The coach said Johnson needed to be 100 percent in order for the team to make a run in the playoffs.

Freshman Brook Smith scored nine points. Italy Brookshire and freshman Evone Santiago scored eight each. Taylor Coleman led the rebounding with seven while scoring six points.

The next game for the Rams is Thursday against Ironwood in Maricopa. Varsity game time is 7 p.m.

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MHS Rams build a lead against Willow Canyon.

The Maricopa High School boys’ basketball team carries a 5-3 record into tonight’s match-up with Casa Grande.

The Rams are coming of a four-game home stand, which they split. They defeated Campo Verde and Willow Canyon but lost to Poston Butte and Mountain View Marana.

Maricopa has made an impact with their fitness, wearing down opponents late in the game. Head coach Tony Fuller credited the ongoing training of the team members, many of whom excel in football, track and other sports.

“That’s something we have to do, run them as much as we can and get them tired,” he said. “We trying to be the best-conditioned team in Arizona; that’s our goal.”

That helped the Rams nearly pull off a miracle comeback Friday against Mountain View. Though Maricopa took an early lead, the Mountain Lions built a 17-point lead in the second quarter. But the Rams adjusted their effort against the taller, deeper, more exhausted team and worked all the way back to within three points in the final seconds before the 62-57 loss.

“They felt like they lost an opportunity, that maybe if they played that way for the entire 32 minutes, we might have won the game,” Fuller said. “So it was a lesson.”

Hosting Willow Canyon on Tuesday, the Rams won 83-67. It was Maricopa’s highest point total of the season.

“I just wanted us to come out a play hard,” Fuller said. “I thought we played a good second half last game, but sometimes we lose focus.”

The Wildcats could do little to stop Maricopa senior Josh Johnson, who stacked up 45 points. Twenty-seven of those came in the first half. He hit seven 3-pointers, including one from near mid-court at the halftime buzzer. Johnson also had nine rebounds, five steals and five assists.

Junior Jelani Elliott scored 10 points and had three rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot. Senior El Jones scored eight points. Senior Longman Pyne had nine rebounds, three assists and a steal to go with his two points.

Tonight’s game starts at 7 p.m. in Casa Grande, where the Cougars are 0-6. The Rams return home Friday to host region rival Ironwood.

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Named 5A Metro First Team from Maricopa High School were (from left) Kemo Akins , Tylen Coleman, Jacob Cowing and Edward Donaldson.

Nine Maricopa High School football players have been named All-Region in recent 5A Metro voting.

Wide receive Jacob Cowing, a junior, and senior running back Kemo Akins were named First Team, as were junior defensive lineman Tylen Coleman and senior linebacker Edward Donaldson.

Cowing led 5A Metro in receiving yards with 1,081. He scored 13 touchdowns for 78 points, tied for fourth in the region. Akins was third in rushing yards, with 1,040. His 18 touchdowns and 108 points were third in Metro.

Coleman collected by far the most sacks in the region with 13.

Named to 5A Metro’s Second Team were seniors Taylor Belcher, Zion Saole, Brenden West and Baylen Redfern and junior Stefon Nelson.

Senior Josh Johnson (1) is pursued down-court by Campo Verde on Friday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School boys’ basketball started the season 4-1 after defeating Campo Verde, 71-50, Friday. Though the Coyotes took an early lead, the Rams’ tenacious style of play proved unstoppable in front of the home crowd.

Senior guard Josh Johnson scored 33 points and had five rebounds and five steals. Junior Jelani Elliott scored 15 points and had nine rebounds and three steals. Senior El Jones had 10 points and seven rebounds. The Rams continue their home stand through the next three games, hosting Poston Butte Tuesday, Mountain View Marana Friday and Willow Canyon Dec. 12.

MHS senior Sydni Callis has been a driving force early in the season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Just four games into their 2017-18 season, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team has already been on a rollercoaster. The Rams are 2-2 for November as they reconfigure for another run at the playoffs.

The two losses came in the season-starting Desert Edge Scorpion Shootout. Sierra Linda, last year’s state runner-up, defeated Maricopa 61-41. Then Agua Fria defeated the Rams in a much tighter game tainted by two late turnovers, 50-46.

“We started the season pretty rough,” Maricopa head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “I think we’re a lot better team than we showed in that first game.”

But it did give the Rams a taste of top-level basketball right out the chute and was an eye-opener in the work that needs to be done. Because they were tournament games, the losses do not count in Arizona Interscholastic Association figuring.

Against Sierra Linda, senior Sydni Callis, whom the coach called a big-game player, scored 20 points, had seven rebounds and six steals, and blocked two shots. Junior Jayla Johnson scored 15 and had six rebounds.

Maricopa started its regular season Tuesday by unloading on Vista Grande at home, 67-17. It was an opportunity for everyone to get in some floor time and figure out what “Ram basketball” means to Mitchell.

“It’s an extremely huge learning curve, just the players getting used to me and my personality, especially in practice; it may not be something that they’re used to,” said Mitchell, who is in his third year as varsity coach. “We like to switch up our defensive schemes, and stuff like that, so they always have to be thinking on the go. And just grooming them, making sure they’re ready for big-time competition like Queen Creek.”

They were definitely ready for Queen Creek on Thursday in Maricopa. The 61-29 victory was more than a little revenge on the Bulldogs, who beat Maricopa last year by two points. This time, Queen Creek was limited to single digits in every quarter.

“It was huge for us,” Mitchell said. “We just got to play our brand of basketball.”

Described by the coach as “a quiet assassin,” Johnson scored 21 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and collected six rebounds. Callis hit every shot she tried from the field and the line and finished with 18 points and nine steals.

“I think in my heart that we have two of the best guards in the state,” Mitchell said.

Freshman Shakira Galespie stepped up to score eight points. Sophomore Taylor Coleman led the rebounding with seven.

“It’s kind of one of those funny things where typically the seniors are the leaders, but we have everyone leading on this team,” the coach said.

The Rams are on the road Friday, playing Campo Verde in Gilbert at 7 p.m.

From left, junior soccer player Shannon Coutre, senior soccer player Johnathan Mendez, senior wrestler Kevin McDill, cheerleader Aliyah Munguia, senior basketball player Josh Johnson and senior basketball player Sydni Callis. Photos by Victor Moreno

Click on photo to enlarge

This item appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

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MHS senior Alia Ballou brings the ball in during a home-opening victory. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In their first non-tournament game of the new season, Maricopa High School’s girls’ basketball team thumped Vista Grande, 67-17. The Rams held the Spartans to just three points in the first half.

Junior Jayla Johnson led all scorers with 17 points. Senior Alia Ballou scored 12, including two 3-pointers, and freshman Evone Santiago scored nine. Senior Sydni Callis and junior Destinee Chavis scored eight apiece. Senior Natausha Hall had nine rebounds, and Johnson grabbed five. Callis had 10 steals, and junior Kyla Boyce blocked two shots.

Maricopa hosts Queen Creek (4-1) Thursday at 7 p.m.

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MHS sophomore Payson Hacker gets the ball back in the Rams' opening game. Photo by Victor Moreno

The Maricopa High School girls’ soccer team lost its first game of the season in overtime Tuesday.

The Rams hosted Queen Creek, both teams relying on their underclassmen for big scores. The teams played to a 3-3 stalemate before the Bulldogs pulled out the victory.

Scorers for Maricopa were junior Shannon Coutre, junior Bailey Davis and freshman Ashlynn Jones. Sophomore Payson Hacker had an assist.

Maricopa next plays at home Friday at 6 p.m. against Vista Grande (0-1).

Kemo Akins tries for extra yardage at Sunnyslope, where he served as running back and wide receiver. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


An episodic game that switched from slow-starter to barn-burner to heart-burner, the Maricopa High School football team lost a region game to Sunnyslope on Friday, 33-20.

After the Rams had fought to a tied score and seemed destined for overtime, the Vikings scored 13 points in the final 10 seconds. The loss moved Maricopa’s record to 5-3. The Rams are 1-2 in the 5A Metro region and in fourth place.

Maricopa had its hands full with Sunnyslope running back Xamoi Penn and wide receiver Tanner Hill. They did not help themselves with a sluggish start. To pile it on, the Rams’ top receiver, Jacob Cowing, nursed an injured hand much of the game.

“It took us a little bit to get going,” MHS head coach Chris McDonald said.

When the Rams did get going in the second quarter, they were already trailing 10-0. A strong kickoff return to the 31-yard line by senior Longman Pyne started an impressive scoring drive of less than two minutes. In the middle of it, senior Kemo Akins had a 35-yard run and, at the end of it, Akins grabbed a toss from senior quarterback Alec Smith and ran in from the 7.

The Ram defense completely stymied the Vikings in their next, brief possession. The Maricopa offense looked like it was in trouble, too, as time ran down and a sack put them at third-and-20. But Smith passed to Akins, who tumbled in for the score and the 14-10 lead at the half.

Sunnyslope used Penn to score from the 15 and take back the lead near the end of the third quarter. Having trouble getting past MHS defenders Edward Donaldson and Tylen Coleman near the goal line, the Vikings were in easy field-goal range. Instead they opted to go for the touchdown with a pass attempt.

Injury notwithstanding, Cowing made them pay for that, grabbing the ball out of the air and running all the way back to Sunnyslope’s 15-yard line. Soon after, senior running back Cameron Sanders took the ball in from the 10 to put Maricopa on top 20-17.

The Vikings answered with a field goal with 1:40 left in the game. The Rams turned the ball over on a controversial call after it seemed forward motion had ceased, and that set up Sunnyslope’s scoring drive, capped by Penn rushing for a touchdown on third down. It gave Sunnyslope the 27-20 lead with 10 seconds left.

That left Maricopa with a desperation play with 2 seconds remaining, a lateral that backfired when the ball got away. That would have ended the game in a loss for Maricopa anyway, but Sunnyslope’s Maurice Hayes picked up the ball and scored with no time left.

McDonald said he was disappointed in the Rams’ play.

“We thought we had a good game plan, and I think right out of the gate they (Sunnyslope) started playing harder,” he said.

Maricopa may be feeling the effects for a while. Cowing, who easily leads 5A Metro in receiving yards, may have broken a bone in his hand.

Next up for Maricopa is a region game at Kellis (5-3, 0-3). The game starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at 8990 W. Orangewood Ave., Glendale.

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.

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.”


Photo by Victor Moreno

The Sequoia Pathway volleyball team defeated Summit in straight sets Tuesday, 25-20, 25-6, 25-11, to build its record to 8-2 overall.

“We are now undefeated in our conference and remain first in our conference,” coach Dawnell Haupt said. “We are working hard to keep our position in post season playoffs.”

The Pumas share the Far South Conference in the Canyon Athletic Association with Mission Heights Prep and Imagine Prep Coolidge.

In Tuesday’s game, Lynniece Andrews had nine kills and 11 aces. Cyndee Byrd had five kills and 17 aces. Mickayla Gallon had five aces, and Lexi Trimmer had three blocks.

They next play at American Leadership Academy – Gilbert Friday at 3 p.m.

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.


Photo by Victor Moreno


After a season-opening loss at home last week, the Sequoia Pathway Academy varsity football team will be on the road Friday taking on Imagine Superstition. Photographer Victor Moreno shared photos from the Pumas’ first game, a scoreless effort against ALA-Gilbert.


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. 

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.”


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

Maricopa athletes working for spots on this year’s high school varsity teams: (from left) Sequoia Pathway Academy volleyball players Lynniece Andrews, Kelsey Blatz and Keara Simpson, Maricopa High School cross country runner Megan Carr, SPA soccer player Brian Gardner, MHS football players Taylor Belcher, Kemo Akin and Cameron Sanders, MHS volleyball players Tyla Gooden and Mackenzie Ford, and SPA football players Jacob Burbo, Cade Bell, Richard Joaquin and Tyler Burton. Photo montage by Victor Moreno


  1. SPA Volleyball

Dawnell Haupt returns to Pathway for her fourth year as head coach of the varsity Pumas volleyball team. Most of the team is also returning, and the Pumas are expected to make a run for the Canyon Athletic Association title.


2. MHS Cross Country

The boys’ cross country team defied expectations last season and earned a spot in the state championships. They lost a couple of senior leaders but still have eyes set on qualifying meets at the end of the season. Meanwhile, the girls have struggled to field a consistent team. Both boys’ and girls’ teams are coached by Heather Abel, and both will be in competition Aug. 30 at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler.


3. SPA Boys’ Soccer

After a four-year hiatus, Pathway will have a varsity boys’ soccer team in the fall this year, led by new head coach Juan Garavito, who saw good participation in summer clinics and camps. The school didn’t have the student population to support a soccer program, but enthusiasm was recently renewed after a co-ed program at the junior high was introduced last spring.


4. MHS Football

Led by head coach Chris McDonald, the Maricopa Rams’ first action is a scrimmage at Notre Dame Aug. 11. They open the season Aug. 18 hosting Willow Canyon and then play at Paradise Valley Aug. 25. The Rams were 5-5 last season and finished fourth in 5A Metro in its first season of existence.


5. MHS Volleyball

The Rams’ volleyball team posted a 9-9 record in 2016, their first season with coach Jecksan Quinones. Maricopa returns to action Aug. 24 in a scrimmage at Valley Christian. The Rams’ first season game is at Vista Grande Aug. 29, and they host Paradise Valley Aug. 31. They have two tournaments scheduled.


6. SPA Football

The Pathway Pumas will be led by a new head coach this season. Anthony Nava was an assistant coach for Casa Grande Union High School, as well as a coach for semi-professional teams in the Arizona Football League. Pathway’s season begins Sept. 1 at Pacana Park against Gilbert’s American Leadership Academy.


MHS Golf

Maricopa’s boys’ and girls’ golf teams will be under the tutelage of coach John Tobin but with different schedules. The boys’ home course is Ak-Chin Southern Dunes. Their first competition is Aug. 29 at Seville Country Club in Gilbert. The girls, who played instructional league last year, don’t play until Sept. 11.


SPA Cross Country

Coach Justin Price will return to lead Pathway’s varsity cross country team. Athletic Director Nate Wong hopes new practice times will breed faster, stronger runners. The team will practice at 6 a.m. instead of the afternoon.


For complete schedules, visit InMaricopa.com/Calendar/.

Maricopa men play in the Small Goal Soccer League at Copper Sky. Photo by Mason Callejas

For Maricopa athletes looking for an interesting side-sport, the soccer fields at Copper Sky Regional Park may just be home to their next big hobby – small-goal soccer.

For the past four years a branch of this unique sport has been thriving in Maricopa.  According to league coordinator Lidia Araballo, each year the Maricopa league is seeing a solid turnout, with rosters filling up fast between seasons.

The draw, Araballo said, is “it’s like a pick-up game, only slightly regulated.”

The goals, at roughly three feet deep, five feet tall and 10 feet wide, are nearly half the size of a standard adult goal. The fields, only 150-feet-by-100-feet, are also roughly half the size of a regulation sized field.

Officiated by licensed referees, the matches are shorter at 50 minutes, and the teams are smaller, with six players for each team on the field at a time – five fielders and one goalie.

The current league is an adult, men’s-only division, meaning men 16 and older are the only eligible participants.

Araballo hopes to eventually expand the Maricopa league and add a women’s division, and possibly even a youth division to accommodate all interested players.

The Maricopa league experimented with a co-ed division in the past, Araballo added. Few men continued participating, something she attributed to the male players’ concerns for injuring female players.

The number of women involved in the co-ed division fell short of the numbers needed to create a separate women’s league.

Nonetheless, Araballo is undeterred in her efforts to keep the sport going. She said the fan base is starting to grow and the players enjoy competing.

“We’ve had all the teams come back each season,” Araballo said. “They love it.”

At only $48 per person, $380 per team, players are guaranteed eight matches with the best four teams getting an additional semifinal match and the winners of those two matches going on to the championship.

Teams are recommended to have eight to 10 players minimum, and 12 players maximum.

Games are Thursday nights from 6-10 p.m., however more recently games have been happening after 8 p.m. due to heat.

A new season is set to start in the fall, Araballo said. Anyone interested in signing up can find information at smallgoalsoccer.com, or send an email to lidia@smallgoalsoccer.com.

Mark Cisterna has been MUSD's athletic director since 2014.

When Mark Cisterna accepted his position as district athletic director at Maricopa Unified School District three years ago, he said he expected to retire there.

“It was a very difficult decision because I really thought I would really end my career out here,” Cisterna said.

However, that was before he heard a different but familiar calling.

In early June, Cisterna resigned from his post at MUSD to become the athletic director at Notre Dame Preparatory, a private Catholic high school in Scottsdale.

Cisterna, a Catholic, said he had always wanted to work in a similar environment.

“I never have had the opportunity, and I kind of have looked at it from afar. And when this opportunity arose, it was a faith-based decision,” Cisterna said.

The seasoned AD will have similar duties at the prep school to those he had in Maricopa. Cisterna will work closely with athletes and coaches at the high school of about 900 kids.

Cisterna said he will miss mentoring coaches whom he built relationships with at MUSD.

“These coaches mean a lot to me,” he said. “That was probably one of the hardest things in the world for me to do, to leave these young coaches that I’ve committed some time to and ask them to commit back – so that was very hard.”

Cisterna said one of the biggest successes he and the coaching staff have had since his tenure was the growth of the athletic program.

“I’m not going to measure it by wins or losses, but I think that all of our programs have gotten better,” he said.

The athletic program has had its share of challenges. During Cisterna’s second year, the Arizona Interscholastic Association realigned how it classified school divisions. The result boosted Maricopa High School into a difficult division based on enrollment.

“We are getting better every day and – as with all competitive people – even if you are in a little bit tougher league, you find a way to rise. And our kids did do that and so did our coaches,” Cisterna said. “It was fun to see and I think in the years to come, it’s going to pay off.”

In July, current MHS Dean of Students Brian Winter will take over as district AD. The position is not entirely new to him, however. Winter was MHS athletic director in 2012.

Cisterna said Winter’s understanding of the district will be helpful to the position.

“He’ll step in and I don’t think there will be a missing of a beat at all. He’s got experience and he knows the school and he knows the community,” Cisterna said.

The former MUSD AD said although he is leaving, he will always care for the district and its athletic program.

“There is great family support out here and the community is lucky to have the quality of coaches that they have right now. I think Mr. Winter is going to step in and do a good job,” Cisterna said.

Mark Cisterna has been MUSD's athletic director since 2014.

The Maricopa Unified School District is chasing down a new athletic director.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said former Athletic Director Mark Cisterna submitted a resignation letter to the district on June 5. Cisterna was hired in 2014, coming from Gilbert. Over the past year, he led MUSD through the realignment process of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“He will be the new athletic director at Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale,” Chestnut said.

The district posted notice of the position vacancy on its website the same day it received the letter and is currently accepting applications.  The salary range is $73,000-$84,810.

Senior Terrell Handy flies to a personal best 47-1.50 in the triple jump to win the Division II state title. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Terrell Handy soared farther than he ever has, and Maricopa High School came away from the state Division II Track & Field Championships with gold, silver and bronze medals in a team fourth-place finish.

Even in practice, Handy, a senior, had never reached the 47-foot mark in the triple jump. In fact, his personal best this year was 44-10.

But inspired by a huge, late challenge from a competitor (and the silver medal won earlier in the week by his twin brother Darrell in the high jump), he bested himself and everyone else Saturday with a leap of 47-1.5 to win the state championship at Mesa Community College.

From his first jump, Terrell Handy threw down the gauntlet and took the lead with a jump of 45-5, completely new territory for him.

“I had to set the tone,” he said wryly afterward. That sent him into the final eight, and left behind his brother in a surprising reversal.

Then Marana’s Dominic Gehr put up 45-11 in his final jump. Obliterating Handy’s new personal best, that could have taken the wind out of his sails, but his response was the opposite.

“It just motivates me more,” he said.

In his last jump, getting no help from a gusty side wind, Handy put to good use the step work he had been practicing with coach Sheldon Hutchinson to claim the gold medal.

Marcus Naisant of Marcos de Niza finished third with a jump of 45-9.5. Tempe’s Deandre Hughes, who had Division II’s best jump this season coming into the championships (47-5.75), finished fourth at 45-4.25. Darrell Handy’s jump of 43-9.5 was good enough for 10th.

Darrell Handy already had his medal, finishing second in Wednesday’s high jump final. He equaled his season best 6-foot-8. That was behind only Canyon del Oro’s Cameron Crandall, who leaped 7 feet. Terrell Handy was shy of his best in that event, finishing sixth at 6-2.

Maricopa athletes claimed bronze medals by taking third in Saturday’s boys 4×100-meter relay.

In the preliminaries, the team of P.J. Austin, Longman Pyne, Jacob Cowing and Frank Jones posted the sixth-best time of 43.09 to earn a place in the final. The MHS relay team’s previous best time of 43.03 ranked them fifth in the state. That did not predict what happened in the final.

Running in Lane 8, the Rams stayed on pace with Queen Creek, which had the lead from the first exchange. Queen Creek went on to win in 42.07 with Cienega just behind in 42.32. With the rest of the relay team running across the field to cheer on Jones in his anchor leg, Maricopa put up its best time of 42.76 for the bronze.

“It was fast,” Pyne said of their unprecedented time. “We always knew we had it [in us].”

Earlier in the meet, Austin finished fifth in the long jump, while Darrell Handy was sixth.

Among the girls, sophomore Italy Brookshire qualified for the high jump final. While not making the finals in the 400-meter dash, sophomore Shannon Coutre lowered her personal record and school record during the preliminaries to 1:00.34.



Division II (43 schools)

1) North Canyon 53.5
2) Canyon del Oro 43
3) Campo Verde 34
4) Maricopa 33.5
5) Desert Edge 33

School records: Terrell Handy, boys triple jump, 47-1.5; P.J. Austin, boys long jump, 23-1.75; Shannon Courtre, girls 400-meter dash, 1:00.34; P.J. Austin, Longman Pyne, Jacob Cowing, Frank Jones, boys 4×100-meter relay, 42.76