Four Sequoia Pathway athletes signed national letters of intent to further their athletic and academic careers in college during a ceremony at the school on Monday, March 27. 

Family, friends and teammates gathered to celebrate the Pumas’ Kaliyah Brown, Michael Luna-Fruit, Elijah Woods and TJ Kaley as they revealed their college choices. 

Brown, a right-side outside hitter for the Sequoia Pathway volleyball team, is headed to Keystone College in Pennsylvania this August.

Kaliyah Brown smiles while speaking about her college plans during a senior signing event at Sequoia Pathway Academy on March 27, 2023. Monica D. Spencer/InMaricopa

Brown said she will miss the team spirit and support from her fellow Pumas but is excited about the next level.  

“I really wanted to leave Arizona for a different opportunity,” Brown said. “(Keystone) gave me everything I wanted.” 

Woods, Kaley and Fruit are staying closer to home.  

They’ll be playing for the Papago Pumas of the Hohokam Junior College Athletic Conference in Mesa while taking online classes from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah – and they won’t be going alone.

They are following former Sequoia Pathway football coach Donnie Margerum, who is the new defensive coordinator for Papago.  

The HJCAC was formed after the Maricopa County Community College District, comprising the jucos in the Valley, eliminated football in 2018, resulting in the loss of athletic and academic opportunities for more than 750 student-athletes.  

HJCAC founders said juco football was generating more than $8 million annually in 4-year scholarship opportunities when it was killed.  

A group of coaches secured corporate sponsorship through a non-profit to bring community college football back through the non-profit Athletic Advancement Association of America. Its board worked with juco football advisors, the NCAA and business partners to create the HJCAC, restoring the ability to play football again for community-college students, but in an independent league. 

It was created for players like the threesome from Sequoia Pathway, who will play for Mesa-based Papago, which plays its home games at Mesa Westwood High. 

The board believed formation of a conference was essential for policy development, rules oversight and an eventual return to the NJCAA, to which all of the Valley community college football programs once belonged.   

The HJCAC says it does not exist solely to offer an opportunity to play football, but to ensure access to education in a competitive environment for football student-athletes by approving degree programs offered by HJCAC-approved community colleges. 

HJCAC’s approved partner community colleges provide the highest caliber Associates Degrees, transferable credits and a student-centric learning platform while also providing elite-level coaching, life skills and an extensive recruiting network. 

Margerum resigned from Sequoia Pathway after the team went 5-5 last season in 2A.  He was replaced by Kerry Taylor.

A side view of a Sequoia Pathway Academy football helmet during a senior signing event at the school on March 27, 2023. Monica D. Spencer/InMaricopa

“This year, the boys had a lot more opportunities to go out of state, but they chose to stay home,” Margerum said. “I’ll keep my boys with me.”

Luna-Fruit, the Puma’s kicker, always knew he wanted to participate in college athletics. The only question was: which sport? 

Throughout high school, he has played on the baseball, basketball and football teams. From schoolwork to sports practices, he has spent countless hours with teammates and has enjoyed building a brotherhood.  

It wasn’t until his senior year that Luna-Fruit chose to play college football. 

“I was leaning more toward basketball my junior year,” he said. “But in my senior year, I had a teammate that passed away, so that drove me to keep playing his dream through me.”  

Woods is a versatile player, although he specializes as a wide receiver. And Kaley has been a consistent cornerback. 

Woods said he has dreamed of playing college football since he was a kid, and is eager to get started this August.  

The soon-to-be college athletes thanked their family and coaches for their support and ended the ceremony with photos and hugs.  

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Margerum said. “I’m excited for the next season.”