Tags Articles tagged with "Chris McDonald"

Chris McDonald

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

After finishing with the school’s best record in four years, 13 members of the Maricopa High School Rams football team – led by two-way player Johnny Johnson Jr. – were voted onto the 2015 Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division III All-Section I team by the conference’s coaching staffs.

For much of the year, Maricopa sat atop Section I. The Rams’ combination of a powerful offense and stubborn defense led them to the school’s best start in over a decade (6-0). Opposing coaches took notice as four members of the team were named to the All-Section I First Team.

Johnson Jr., a team captain, was the only player in the section named to both First Team Offense (wide receiver) and First Team Defense (defensive back). Johnson finished the season with 782 receiving yards, 238 rushing yards and 13 offensive touchdowns. He also led the section with five interceptions.

“Johnny is a great football player,” McDonald said. “He doesn’t often get the credit he deserves because of his lack of height. He just plays the game hard though and he shows a lot of character. He was spoken highly of by opposing coaches, and he’ll be missed.”

Other players selected to both offensive and defensive teams include senior all-purpose player Isaiah Pedro and senior center and team captain Nikolai White. Pedro was named to the First Team Defense (defensive back) and Second Team Offense (wide receiver), while White was named to the Second Team Offense (center) and Honorable Mention on defense (defensive line).

“It’s encouraging that we have so many juniors [named to the All-Section team], and that we have seven defensive players coming back next year” McDonald said. “We also have a lot of sophomores that were in starting roles this season that will get more opportunities moving forward. We’ll still be missing four starters on the offensive line though, so guys will need to step up for us to build off this success.”

MHS players honored are:

First Team Offense:
Quarterback – (Sr.) Aaron Owens
Wide Receiver – (Sr.) Johnny Johnson Jr.
Offensive Line – (Sr.) Andrew Earle

First Team Defense:
Defensive Back – (Sr.) Johnny Johnson Jr.
Defensive Back – (Sr.) Isaiah Pedro

Second Team Offense:
Wide Receiver – (Sr.) Isaiah Pedro
Center – (Sr.) Nikolai White

Second Team Defense:
Defensive Line – (Jr.) Dakota Halverson
Linebacker – (Jr.) Jackson Stensgard

Honorable Mention:
Offensive Line – (Sr.) Austin Troyer
Wide Receiver – (Jr.) David Owens
Offensive Line – (Jr.) Nicholas Carbajal
Linebacker – (Jr.) Claytin Valenzuela
Linebacker – (Jr.) Eanis Olmos
Defensive Line – (Jr.) Johnny Smith
Defensive Line – (Sr.) Nikolai White

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Eanis Olmos (40) lost his helmet while helping Johnny Smith Jr. and Nicolai White take down the quarterback last week. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School football team could earn a share of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Section I title with a win over Vista Grande High School during their Homecoming game Friday night.

The Rams will enter Friday’s game in a three way tie with Tempe and Arcadia high schools for first place in the section. If the Rams win, they will finish section play with a 5-1 record and eliminate the chances of having a worse record than any other team in the section. Arcadia and Tempe still have two section games each, and any loss would eliminate them from title contention.

There are two ways the Rams can earn a section title.

Because all three teams hold a tie breaker in the three-way, head-to-head matchup, if each team wins its remaining games, the section title would go to the team with the best overall Division III record. The one-loss Rams control their own destiny in that scenario.

Maricopa could also earn the section title if Arcadia loses because they beat Tempe. However, if Tempe loses either of its final two games, Arcadia would be in the driver’s seat.

Standing in Maricopa’s way of a potential section title and playoff berth is Vista Grande. The Spartans have been playoff contenders all year, but back-to-back losses to Tempe and Arcadia left Vista Grande in a must win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Spartans are ranked 18th, and only the top 16 will go to the playoffs.

“It’s tough keeping them focused because Homecoming brings a lot of distractions,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “We just try to preach that their 2.5 hours out here are business and go time. Let’s goof around after.”

The Rams will look to use their depth to attack a Spartans defense that only allows 13 points a game on average. Last week’s breakout star, senior running back Jalen Lee, is expected to spearhead a balanced rushing attack. The running game will be essential with senior wide receiver and team captain Johnny Johnson Jr. still slowed by a toe injury.

“They’re physical,” McDonald said of the Spartans. “They might be one of the more physical defensive fronts we’ve faced this year. They have some good athletes that can run. So they’re going to buckle up and come at us.”

Vista Grande hasn’t had the most dominant offense all year, but they grind away at opponents and walk away with close victories. In order to find success, the Rams’ front line will need to use their speed to penetrate the backfield and disrupt plays before they get started.

“They’ll line up and try to ground and pound us, if that doesn’t work they’ll go to a spread attack,” McDonald said. “They’re physical up front on both sides of the ball, so if we don’t match them physically it’ll be a long night.”

The game is set to kick off at 7 p.m. at Rams Field on northwest corner of Maricopa High School’s campus. A community tailgate will precede the game at 5 p.m., and all members of the community are welcome to participate in the event.

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MHS senior Isaiah Pedro makes a catch for a touchdown against Seton Catholic.

The Maricopa High School Rams football team improved to 7-1 (4-1) on the season with a 29-21 victory on the road against Seton Catholic High School Friday night.

Maricopa used a punishing run game and sprawling passing attack to exploit Seton’s weakness. Senior running back Jalen Lee had a breakout game with 175 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. Maricopa’s effective run game also created opportunities for senior quarterback Aaron Owens to find space in the passing game. He finished the game with 11 completions on 15 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.

“Earlier in the season they put me at receiver, but I was struggling since it was my first year with [Maricopa],” Lee said. “I’ve been playing running back all my life. I was telling (coach) McDonald every day to put me at running back, and he saw me improving, so he finally put me at running back.”

Seton Catholic was able to march down the field on its first possession and score a touchdown, but the Sentinels would have trouble piecing together drives throughout the rest of the game. Maricopa’s defense forced two turnovers and five punts throughout the game.

On the other side of the field, the offense got into a great rhythm in the first half and scored on the Rams’ first four drives. Even without senior wide receive and team captain Johnny Johnson Jr. at 100 percent health, the Rams were efficient and aggressive as they moved the ball down the field.

The second half, on the other hand, was marred by mistakes. On multiple occasions the Rams drove down the field and put themselves in scoring position before a penalty, turnover or mental error caused them to lose ground. The missed opportunities kept Seton Catholic in the game, but the offense did enough to earn the victory.

Box Score
Maricopa        10  13  0   6 – 29
Seton Catholic  6   7   0   8 – 21

“I’m happy for these seniors that they beat Seton. They haven’t done it before,” MHS football head coach said. “I told the kids we have to capitalize on the opportunities, though. I’m tired of these 50 yard drives, and then we have a [mistake] that limits us. We’re just beating ourselves when we’re doing this, but overall I’m very happy. We had some guys step up.”

Maricopa’s win puts the team back on track after losing their first game of the season against Arcadia High School last week. The loss ended the Rams’ run at a perfect season, but the team is still in good position to earn a playoff spot.

“I felt good coming into the game,” McDonald said. “We all needed to get refocused. Sometimes it’s good to get your butt kicked since you learn more from losses than you do from wins. We’re too good of a team not to recover from that.”

The Rams will host Vista Grande High School next Friday for the school’s Homecoming game. Vista Grande is currently ranked in playoff position in the AIA Power Rankings, and the Rams will be looking to make a statement in their last section game of the season.

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The Maricopa Rams are working back from their first loss of the season. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School Rams look to rebound from their first loss of the season as they visit the Seton Catholic High School Sentinels.

The Rams [6-1 (3-1)] will enter Friday’s game atop Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Section I, but after losing to Arcadia high School on Friday, Maricopa needs to secure each section win down the stretch to have a chance to stay the section’s top team.

Seton [2-6 (1-3)] enters as the last place team in the section, but the Sentinels have confidence coming off their first section win of the season against McClintock High School last weekend.

“In all honesty it doesn’t matter who we’re playing this week; I want to see if our kids can rebound after what unfolded Friday,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “Regardless of what they’re record is, they’re a team who embarrassed us at homecoming last year, so hopefully we can repay the favor. That’s the message we want to send, but I mostly want to see how we respond.”

Maricopa High School football head coach Chris McDonald is watching how his team responds to last week's loss. Photo by William Lange
Maricopa High School football head coach Chris McDonald is watching how his team responds to last week’s loss. Photo by William Lange

The focus for Maricopa will be getting their offense back on track. The Rams torched their first five opponents while averaging 49.5 points per game and 479.8 yards per game. Over the last two games however, the Rams have averaged just over 14 points on 316 yards of total offense.

Maricopa will look to use their balanced attack to exploit holes in a relatively stout Seton Catholic defense. The Sentinels allow only 370 yards per game and rarely allow teams to score more than 30 points. However, they have shown vulnerability to big plays through the air and on the ground.

“Coach (Gary) Galante is from Brophy and he does a good job with defense,” McDonald said. “They’ll always be fundamentally sound. The most important thing for us is to find a rhythm offensively. I’m hoping we can come out and establish the run game and go from there.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Maricopa needs to stop senior quarterback Garrett Boyd. Seton Catholic relies heavily on their passing game for success, and Boyd currently ranks second in the section with 1,351 yards.

Boyd isn’t the most accurate passer the Rams have seen, but he does complete nearly 60 percent of his throws. He spreads the ball around as well. Senior wide receivers Brandon Garcia and Luke Zuluaga both have over 300 receiving yards, while junior wide receiver Jacob Terrill is on the verge of eclipsing 300 as well.

Johnny Johnson Jr. and the Rams had difficulty gaining yardage last week against Arcadia. Photo by William Lange
Johnny Johnson Jr. and the Rams had difficulty gaining yardage last week against Arcadia. Photo by William Lange

“They have a good quarterback,” McDonald said. “Garret Boyd is one of their better players. Their receiver, Luke Zaluaga is, I think, probably the best all-around player on their team.”

The game will take place Friday night at Seton Catholic High School in Chandler. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the stadium is located on the southwest corner of the campus at 1150 N. Dobson Road in Chandler.

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The Rams will travel to Tucson Friday prepared to take down the Rincon Rangers. Photo by William Lange

By Adam Wolfe


The Rincon High School Rangers are coming off their first win of the season, but the Maricopa Rams are still a heavy favorite heading into Friday night’s matchup in Tucson.

The Rams saw their offensive production drop by 50 percent last week. They still managed a win big, but much of the credit goes to the defense and special teams units that dominated most of the game.

This week, the Rams are expected to spread the field a bit more and bring back their balanced attack. For Rincon, the key will be to get their running game going or it could be a long night for the Rangers. After three games, Rincon has been outscored 144 to 40, and they haven’t seen an offense as potentially explosive as Maricopa’s yet.

“I don’t think they can cover us so we’re going to attack them,” MHS football head coach Chris McDonald said. “Hopefully our receivers got the memo about blocking for each other. Poor blocks showed on film so we’ve been working on that, but we’re going to spread them out and see what they can do.”

Injuries could present a problem for Maricopa on offense. The Rams could be without starting center and team captain Nikolai White again. He is a game-time decision with a hurt ankle. If he can’t go, it’s likely the Rams will see a lineman rotation similar to what they did against Shadow Mountain High School.

“We’ve got two or three new linemen coming in and playing,” McDonald said. “The chemistry isn’t set. We’re still trying to finalize that chemistry, and we never seem to be able to get over the hump because we always have one guy out or we’re having to put a left guard at right guard and we haven’t had the ability to let kids get comfortable playing one position.”

Maricopa’s line will need to provide more time for senior quarterback Aaron Owens to throw the ball. He was forced to scramble more against Shadow Mountain than he had in the Rams’ previous game against Agua Fria High School. The result was 400 fewer passing yards for Owens.

According to McDonald, getting consistency and chemistry back into the offense is a key for the Rams moving forward. On defense, Maricopa will look to shut down Rincon’s running game. The Rangers haven’t shown much of a passing game in their first three games, so getting pressure on the running backs early in the backfield will be the key.

“They’ve got a pretty good running back, and he’s a bigger kid with a long stride so we need to hit him in the backfield before he gets going,” McDonald said. “If we can get to him, from a defensive standpoint, we should be fine. We’ll be down a couple guys, so we need some other guys to step up like they did in Shadow Mountain.”

The Rams are expected to win Friday night, but despite Rincon only winning two games last year (one by forfeit) and no games in 2013, the Rangers should not be overlooked.

Neither team has had a winning record since 2012, but both teams are looking to break recent trends and turn their programs around.

The game will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Rincon High School’s stadium at 421 N. Arcadia Blvd. in Tucson.

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Coach Chris McDonald says he is proud of the way the Rams have dealt with adversity this week. InMaricopa photo by William Lange

By Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School Rams football team has dealt with tragedy, extreme heat and sporadic rain in the week leading up to their first game, but despite all the obstacles, head coach Chris McDonald feels his team will show up focused and determined against the Owls of Agua Fria High School (Avondale).

The largest threat the Owls present to the Rams is their size advantage.

“They’re bigger than we are up front, so that’ll be the first and foremost threat,” McDonald said. “We’re going to try to use our speed. I think we have more team speed, so hopefully we can counteract their power with our speed. Then we’ll be able to infiltrate gaps by being quicker.”

Similar to last year’s Maricopa team, the Owls were an offensively potent team that struggled on defense. Maricopa will look to exploit the gaps in the defense, but at the same time, be aware of an improved unit that features ball-hawking senior safety Jaylon Green.

“No. 3 (Green) is their best all-around football player,” McDonald said. “He’s their free safety and he’s one of their slot receivers. He’s arguably the best athlete on the field. He’s a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball.”

In the 2014 season, Green led Agua Fria in receiving yards on offense and interceptions on defense. He also returns kicks and had nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards last year.

Another threat to the Rams defense is senior running back Chris Cofield. Last year, Cofield finished with a team-high seven rushing touchdowns and over 500 yards. According to McDonald, he is “fast and physical” and the defense will need to stop him from reaching the open field.

On the Rams side of the football, they’ll look to their explosive offense led by seniors Aaron Owens and Isaiah Pedro to set the tempo for the game. The Rams return four starters on the offensive line from the 2014 season, and if the scrimmage against Notre Dame Prep is any indication, they should have no problem opening holes for running backs to get through.

However, their receiving core featuring team co-captain Johnny Johnson Jr. and junior David Owens will need to step up their aggression for Maricopa to reach their full potential.

“I thought we were more physical (in the scrimmage) than [Notre Dame Prep] was, which was good to see,” McDonald said. “I just think our experience should be a strength this year. We have a core group of seniors that are returning and a lot of two-way players that know what to expect.”

The experience will be largely beneficial on offense. On defense, though, there are still some question marks. The team showed great defensive speed and aggression in the scrimmage last week, but once the first string players came off the field, the team was susceptible to big plays.

If they show up with the same aggression as they did in the scrimmage, the defense should be able to use their speed to overcome the size and power of the Agua Fria front line.

The last obstacle the Rams defense, and team as a whole, will have to cope with is the loss of senior linebacker Nate Ford. The morning after last week’s scrimmage, Ford passed away in a traffic accident. The aftermath has been felt by the team and community alike.

Last Friday’s practice was canceled after the accident, and the team has been honoring Ford each day at practice by bringing out his helmet, pads and practice jersey. So far, the tragedy has been fueling the team. At practice, they play for purpose. Each sprint and each play is executed for their friend who can no longer be with them. The team has handled the situation with strength and class, said Coach McDonald, who believes that drive will carry through Friday night as well.

“I told the kids after practice today that I was proud of them so far with how they’ve gone about their business,” McDonald said. “There’s no manual on how to handle something like this. So we’ve had a short week due to the circumstances. We got rained out Tuesday, so we haven’t had a lot of practices, but the tempo was real good in the practices we have had, and these players have had a spark.”

The Rams have decided to make Nate Ford the fourth team captain for Friday’s game. His number will be represented at the coin toss with the captains, and his jersey and equipment will be given a spot on the bench with his teammates.

There have been plenty of events throughout the week to provide excuses for the Rams, but the players haven’t taken them. They appear focused and determined to make a statement Friday.