MHS plays hard, fast against tough foes
There is no off-season for Maricopa High School football; just out-of-season. That’s where head coach Brandon Harris has tracked improvement in the players coming back from a team that was 5-6 and qualified for state play from the tough 5A San Tan.
“Summer was good for us,” Harris said. “We participated in a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments. It was nice. We came home and won the whole tournament here at Copper Sky.”
Out-of-season he had them working on speed and agility, skills and drills. Some players migrated to track and field to stay in shape.
“Seven-on-7 isn’t football; I say that all the time,” Harris said, “but it gives you an indication of how you match up skill-wise with other teams in the state. I think we match up really well this year, more so than we did last year. We’ve got weapons everywhere.”
Neill likes the direction the program is headed.
“We’re just getting compliments on how hard we play, in talking with football coaches who maybe didn’t expect the game they got from us,” Athletic Director Jake Neill said. “That’s a credit to the kids and coach Harris and his coaching staff. The consensus is that if a team is going to get a win [against MHS], it’s going to be a tough one.”
The 7-on-7 participation told the most about the growth of senior quarterback Daxton Redfern.
“We realized how good he was when we went down to U of A in Tucson,” Harris said. “He’s grown exponentially. He knows our offense really well.”
In that 7-on-7 tournament, Redfern threw 42 touchdowns in 13 games against one interception. Coming up behind him is sophomore Merhauti Xepera, who is a tight end when not quarterbacking. “He’s a big kid, an athletic kid,” Harris said. “He’s going to be the future.”
Other expected standouts include junior Mister Chavis, Ilijah Johnson, Tylek Mooney, Steven Forrester, Anthony Valenzuela, Hunter Taylor and Bryan Pick, among other Rams who want to make a name for themselves.
“We’ll be fast. We’re always going to be fast here, explosive, resilient, family, very close team this year,” Harris said. “We got into the playoffs. Now the next step is to win some games in the playoffs, which is what I’m used to doing. That’s the goal. We think we have a really good chance of doing that.”
W, 33-22 at McClintock
L, 0-47 vs. Millennium
Sept. 6 7 p.m. vs. Apollo
Sept. 13 7 p.m. vs. South Mountain (Homecoming)
Sept. 20 7 p.m. at Central
Sept. 27 7 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 4 7 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 18 7 p.m. vs. Williams Field (Senior Night)
Oct. 25 7 p.m. at Casteel
Nov. 1 7 p.m. at Gilbert
Sequoia Pathway gets new coach for growing program
Sequoia Pathway Academy has a new varsity football coach, but he’s no stranger to football in Maricopa. Donnie Margerum moves across town from MHS’s freshman team.
“This year, with Coach Donnie, it’s creating a new culture,” said Glen Hale, the school’s athletic director. “He came in with a new system. He also has another assistant coach from MHS, Corey Nelson.”
The Pumas grew from eight-man to 11-man football a couple of seasons ago, and this year are joined by more charter school teams in the Open division of the Canyon Athletic Association. In 2018 they finished third with a 4-3 record, but football didn’t end with the season.
“I’ve been saying, just taking it to the next level of play and playing throughout the season instead of just coming in through the season,” Hale said. “Now we’re moving to where it’s year-round and giving our kids opportunities to travel to places and compete against higher competition.”
Returning seniors include Shane Miller, Gavin Buchberger, Jacob McIntyre, Ajani Elliot and Patrick Lisby. The high school team has grown to 35 players.
“We had to go get more helmets and equipment, which is a good thing.”
W, 14-8 vs. Canyon State
Sept. 6 7 p.m. vs. South Pointe
Sept. 19 6:15 p.m. at Canyon State Academy
Sept. 27 7 p.m. vs. San Tan Charter
Oct. 4 7 p.m. vs ASU Prep
Oct. 11 7 p.m. at South Pointe
Oct. 18 7 p.m. at San Tan Charter
Oct. 25 7 p.m. at ASU Prep
MHS trying to restore self-confidence
The Rams are trying to rebuild a team after a haphazard volleyball season in AIA 5A.
Returning as head coach for MHS varsity is Theresa Abernathy, who is also an instructor at Copper Sky. She is trying to overhaul a team that was 2-20 last season.
“We are completely going to start fresh,” Abernathy said. “We’re building the program from the ground up.”
Expected returning players include juniors Shakira Gillespie, Brooke Smith and Ashley Brown along with senior Tayler Riley-Coleman. But it looks to be a young team.
“They have improved an awful lot,” Abernathy said. “They listen to what I’m saying, and they seem to like each other.”
After the discouragement of 2018, she said they need to restore their self-confidence. She is encouraging more year-round play. In today’s volleyball climate, it is difficult for players who only play during the high school year to compete against those who participate in clubs.
“They need to believe they can win and be competitive with every team,” she said. “They need to be a team.”
W, 3-0 at Camelback
W, 3-1 vs. Fairfax
L, 0-3 vs. Verrado
Sept. 10 6 p.m. at Paradise Valley
Sept. 12 6 p.m. vs. North Canyon
Sept. 16 6 p.m. at Campo Verde
Sept. 17 6 p.m. vs. Ironwood
Sept. 24 6 p.m. at Williams Field
Sept. 25 6 p.m. at Centennial
Sept. 26 6 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 1 6 p.m. vs. Casteel
Oct. 3 6 p.m. vs. Gilbert
Oct. 15 6 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 17 6 p.m. vs. Williams Field
Oct. 22 6 p.m. vs. Higley (Senior Night)
Oct. 24 6 p.m. at Casteel
Oct. 29 6 p.m. at Gilbert
Sequoia Pathway works to improve on remarkable year
Pathway wants to build off a hot year that saw them reach the Final Four in Canyon Athletic Association’s Division II, and has had a strong turnout of players. Varsity coach LaShieka Holley is keeping nine, while there are 16 in junior varsity, and 42 came out for junior high.
“I’m asking all the coaches from varsity to reach down into the elementary level, to reach down into the middle school level, so we’re not just working on one program; we’re building as a whole,” Hale said. “She’s done a really good job with that. She’s actually the coach of the junior high, too. It’s been good to see how that transition is happening with the girls, and how they’re just growing.”
Puma captains are Lynniece Andrews and Mikayla Gallon, returning from the team that was undefeated in the regular season.
“This summer they went to an ASU camp. That was amazing,” Hale said. “Once again, they competed against AIA schools. Some were state champions, so they got that experience of playing with top-level competition. That’s where we heading as an athletic program. We want to play people that are better than us so we can get better.”
W, 3-0 vs. Basis-Peoria
W, 3-0 at Basis-Chandler
W, 3-0 at San Tan Charter
L, 2-3 vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 5 7 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 11 5:30 p.m. at Sequoia Charter
Sept. 12 7 p.m. vs. Mission Heights
Sept. 17 4 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 19 7 p.m. vs. EVAC
Sept. 24 6:30 p.m. at Mission Heights
Sept. 26 7 p.m. vs. Heritage-Mesa
Oct. 1 4 p.m. at South Ridge
Oct. 3 7 p.m. vs. Desert Heights
MHS dives into 2nd swimming season
Coming off a rookie season in AIA competition, the MHS swimming team has about 30 returning swimmers and around 45 overall.
“We lost some to the new high school (Heritage Academy), but we have a lot of freshmen coming back from last year,” coach Laura Logan said.
She said having a year under their belts is allowing her to coach more instead of just teaching the basics of swimming as much as she did in 2018.
“They have a base of knowledge that they can build on,” Logan said. “We had so many kids with no experience whatsoever.”
She expects her team leaders to again Olivia Byers, now a junior, and Connor Schrader, a sophomore. The four seniors are Jose Perez Barraza, Kian Carroll, Jacob Davis and Eva Zavala. There are a few more boys than girls participating.
The team includes 16 sophomores and 14 freshmen.
A team goal is to get swimmers qualified for state competition and show the more established swim programs “what Maricopa is becoming.”
The Rams compete in AIA Division II.
Sept. 5 4 p.m. at Apache Junction
Sept. 12 4 p.m. at Copper Sky
Sept. 24 4 p.m. at Saguaro
Oct. 3 4 p.m. at Copper Sky
Oct. 10 4 p.m. at Copper Sky
Oct. 17 4 p.m. at Copper Sky
Oct. 23 9:30 a.m. at Apache Junction
Nov. 2-3 TBA State Championship
MHS finding new motivation
MHS cross country is recuperating from a difficult year that saw flagging motivation on the boys’ team and not even a full team on the girls’ side.
“Right now, we’re definitely rebuilding,” coach Heather Abel said. “I think we’re looking at a better situation than we were last season, where we were real small and didn’t see a lot of commitment from kids who should have been committed. That seems like it’s changing this year.”
She bases those hopes on the initiative she sees runners taking for themselves and their teammates.
Abel considers this year’s leaders to be Jovanni Fentes, Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez.
“Quinton’s really dedicating himself this year,” she said. “They live in San Tan Valley now, so he’s commuting like I am every day and coming to practice every day.”
Ramirez, meanwhile, is a member of the West Coast Striders, a club team based in Maricopa and coached by Corey Nelson. She qualified for the 800-meter run in the Hershey’s Junior Olympics National Championship in Sacramento in July.
Abel sees that level of competition giving Ramirez newfound confidence on the 5K course for cross country. Though literally miles apart, both events take a lot of mental toughness and physical endurance.
To grow the boys’ team, she has been encouraging athletes in other sports to run cross country to stay in shape between their seasons. Wrestlers have been doing just that. Freshman boys are also turning out.
Her goal is to get her runners in good shoes and keep them hydrated and healthy and they come to understand pack strategy while running not just for themselves but for the team.
“What they’re doing is really hard, and they don’t get a lot of recognition for what they’re doing,” Abel said. “Most people won’t do this because it’s hard.”
Sept. 4 4:30 p.m. at Vista Grande
Sept. 7 7 a.m. at Chandler Invite
Sept. 14 7 a.m. at Fountain Hills Invitational
Sept. 14 7:30 a.m. at Ojo Rojo Invitational
Sept. 27 TBA Nike Desert Twilight
Oct. 12 TBA O’Connor Invitational
Oct. 26 TBA Eye of the Tiger Invite
Nov. 8 TBA State Sectionals
Sequoia Pathway wants to bounce back
The Sequoia Pathway boys struggled last fall, posting a 2-8 record. This year, the school took advantage of the opportunity to play more out-of-season soccer to improve.
Coach Juan Garavito is “real excited about this year, being able to work through summer and just being able to work with the kids outside of school,” Hale said. “I’m looking for definitely this year seeing improvement. I think it’s only up from there.”
The team is returning a couple of players from last year’s squad – Anthony Saldana and Tyler Kientzler – and are a little fewer in number. They play home games at Pacana Park.
“We did a summer program,” Hale said. “A major focus of ours is to start early and build that program. It’s always been, ‘Are you honing your craft?’”
W, 5-4 vs. Imagine-Coolidge
W, 1-0 vs. Basis-Scottsdale
W, 1-0 vs. Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 5 4:30 p.m. at Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 11 6:15 p.m. at BASIS-Chandler
Sept. 23 4 p.m. vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 25 4 p.m. vs. Sequoia Charter
Oct. 1 4 p.m. vs. Canyon State
Oct. 15 4:30 p.m. at ASU Prep Polytechnic
BOYS’ GOLF – Division I Yuma
Sept. 3 2 p.m. at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Sept. 10 3:30 p.m. at Arcadia
Sept. 12 3:30 p.m. at Tempe
Sept. 17 3 p.m. at Westwood
Sept. 24 3:30 p.m. at Ocotillo Golf Course
Oct. 1 2 p.m. at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Oct. 15 3 p.m. at McCormick Ranch Golf Course
GIRLS’ GOLF – Developmental
Sept. 4 3 p.m. at Western Skies Golf Club
Sept. 12 3 p.m. at Las Colinas Golf Course
Sept. 16 2 p.m. at Marcos de Niza
Sept. 18 3 p.m. at Granite Falls South Course
Sept. 25 3 p.m. at Apache Junction
Sept. 30 3 p.m. at Apache Creek Golf Course
Oct. 2 2 p.m. at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Oct. 4 1 p.m. at Girls Golf Developmental Invitational – Encanto 9
This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.