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The Sequoia Pathway Academy football team defeated South Pointe, 44-0, in the semifinal of the state championship.

Competing in Canyon Athletic Association’s open division, the Pumas remain undefeated. They next play San Tan Charter for the title Nov. 16 at Bourgade Catholic High School.

Despite a slow start laden with penalty flags on its home field at Pacana Park, Pathway strung together a series of scoring runs and passes while the defense held the Griffins practically immobile. The scoring was capped off by a display of sportsmanship as both teams helped a Puma with autism score a final touchdown to end the game.

MHS Rams gather for some final on-field words from the coach after a season-ending loss. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School varsity football team dropped Friday’s game at Gilbert, 35-14, bringing an end to the Rams’ season.

While defense and offense had shining moments throughout the contest, Maricopa could never catch the Tigers, never getting closer than a touchdown.

Junior Tykek Mooney had a busy night as the Rams scored on a 5-yard run and a third-and-12, 50-yard pass. Junior Mister Chavis was back in action and making impressive runs to try to set up scoring opportunities.

“I didn’t call good plays, and we didn’t execute the plays I did call,” head coach Brandon Harris said.

He also volunteered the blame for a disappointing 3-7 season. The Rams were outscored 351-192. Half the competition came against some of the toughest teams in the state, mostly in the San Tan region. Seven of the 10 teams on Maricopa’s schedule qualified for the 5A playoff bracket.

It was a challenging season.

“I’ve learned to keep going even when things aren’t going your way,” senior quarterback Daxton Redfern said. “You have to keep working no matter what happens.”

He said he also learned to be a leader for a young team, “teaching the guys how to put in the work, setting the example.”

Redfern wants to keep playing beyond high school, and Harris said he spoke to his seniors about what they need to do to move forward and play college ball.

“We’ll help those kids get out. Their job isn’t done,” Harris said. “I always tell our seniors they’re supposed to leave this place better than what they found it. We haven’t done that on the record, but I think we’ve done that in terms of the things that are the intangibles that programs need to have sustainability. That’s doing better in the classroom, being better people on school grounds and in the community, and I think that starts to transfer to our younger guys who watch them and see it.”

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The Sequoia Pathway varsity football team ended its regular season undefeated at 8-0 and atop the Canyon Athletic Association’s open division.

The Pumas defeated ASU Prep-Phoenix 40-6 Friday. They outscored their opponents this season 232-50 under new head coach Donnie Margerum.

The division’s four-team playoff begins Nov. 9. Seeding has not been announced.

Players who have been part of this year’s team:

  • AJ Anderson
  • Daijuan Anderson
  • Gavin Buchberger
  • Nolan Cook
  • Curtis David
  • Jonathan Dominguez
  • Ajani Elliot
  • Samuel Feigenbaum
  • Jyrei Gamble
  • Malikia Gustina
  • Favier Gutierrez
  • Esequiel Jaramillo

  • Yufiel Jones
  • Logan Keller
  • Weston Klee
  • Wyatt Klee
  • Tre Lacey
  • Quentin Lara
  • Brendan Lerch
  • Patrick Lisby
  • Jacob McIntyre
  • Shane Miller
  • Alex Montano
  • Rocco Prentice

  • Jon Richardson
  • Elijah Roman
  • Bowdie Sanders
  • Robert Sciuto
  • Aaliyah Scott
  • Jeffery Talbert
  • Karl Todtenbier
  • Colin Torres
  • Juan Vasquez
  • Bailey Velasquez

Sequoia Pathway football coaches (from left) Ryan Portee, Donnie Margerum, Corey Nelson, Jonathan lesperance and Dick Portee. Submitted photo

The Pathway volleyball team lost in the quarterfinal to third-seeded Imagine Prep-Surprise, 3-1, to end another successful season. The Pumas were 11-3 on the regular schedule and 1-1 in the playoffs.

The Pathway boys soccer team ended its season 5-5, which was tops in Division II’s Region 5.

 

Daxton Redfern (1), backed by Mister Chavis, against Casteel Oct. 25. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

At times exhibiting their strongest play of the season, Maricopa High School’s varsity football team came up short against Casteel Friday night in a game that could bring new challenges to next week’s finale.

Casteel won 41-27, leaving the Rams with a must-win against Gilbert if they wish for a chance to make the playoffs.

“I thought we had a good game plan. I thought our kids were focused,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We had a good week of practice. I’m proud of them. They came out and played real hard.”

Senior running back Mister Chavis suffered a blow to the head that may have been a concussion. If so, his ability to play Friday is tenuous. Junior running back Steven Forester definitely won’t be playing against Gilbert – he was ejected in the first half after making a nice run to the red zone but responded with over-exuberance that drew three penalty flags.

“We’re building something here. We just need more bodies, and we don’t have them,” Harris said. “When we lose a guy, we don’t have the depth to fill in like teams that have 100 kids. So that’s kind of tough.”

Maricopa scored first after Dominic Hall intercepted Casteel to set up quarterback Daxton Redfern’s touchdown pass to Jackson Lindseth. However, the Colts answered on their next drive. Redfern’s 27-yard pass to Ilijah Johnson put the Rams ahead again.

“He had a great night tonight,” Harris said of Redfern. “He played really, really well. He’s grown up as a quarterback. He never had a varsity game ever before this season.”

Casteel scored back-to-back touchdowns for a 21-14 lead at halftime. Despite a 19-yard touchdown pass from Redfern and a five-yard rushing touchdown by Anton Avington Jr., Maricopa could not catch up again.

“The defense played great at times,” Harris said. “Our secondary didn’t hold up the way we needed them to, just not closing out on receivers.”

Maricopa will still be short-handed as it tries to qualify for the playoffs in a road game at Gilbert. The Rams also hope to benefit from the open division that could remove three or more of 5A’s top teams from the bracket.

Forester wasn’t alone in being thrown off the field in a tense game. Saying they didn’t need any help calling the game, officials tossed MHS Principal Brian Winter and Athletic Director Jake Neill off the premises in the second half (and even threatened to “call the cops”) after they complained about a late hit on Johnson.


Update: This story has been corrected to reflect the corrected spelling of Ilijah Johnson’s name.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite a Friday loss that dropped their record to 3-5, the Maricopa High School football team still has a shot at making the 5A playoffs.

While the top teams in the conference are among the best in the state overall, a large portion of the bottom-half 5A teams are terrible. That has placed the Rams above average despite blowout losses.

That includes Friday’s 50-19 home loss to Williams Field. Maricopa had a Jeykll-and-Hyde kind of night, with play ranging from torpid to terrific without finding a line of consistency. An interception by junior Dominic Hall in the first minute of the game, for instance, was followed by a safety and two touchdowns by the Black Hawks.

“We gave them their first 16 points,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We left at least 28 points out there.”

The Rams did not have a first down from scrimmage until only 3:13 was left on the clock in the first quarter. But they then put together a drive than ended in a two-yard touchdown run by junior Mister Chavis. By that time, MHS trailed 23-7.

Senior Ram Anton Avington Jr. got to show off his speed by scoring on a 65-yard run, helped by a surprise block by quarterback Daxton Redfern, after putting on a defensive show as well.

Sophomore Merhauti Xepera grabbed a Redfern pass from the five for the final score of the game.

“I really thought that the bi-week was a timely thing for us to really almost getting back to camp up north and kind of remembering what we committed to, what we wanted to be and just telling those guys that they’re still those guys,” Harris said. “The record doesn’t mean you’re a different person. We’ve just got to get back to doing good things. We’ve got good players.”

While the Rams could never fully take advantage of numerous mistakes and penalties by the Black Hawks, Harris said he was telling his players he was not upset or disappointed with them, but they have work to do.

Maricopa may benefit from this season’s new “Open” division that could remove two or more of the best teams from the 5A playoffs to play against the best from 6A and 4A. The top 16 of the remaining 5A teams qualify for post-season play, within the Rams’ grasp before Friday’s loss. New rankings are due Tuesday.

“But we got to go win a game, at least two,” Harris said. “If we win two, we host a home game probably. If we win one, we’re on the road.”

Maricopa plays at Casteel (5-3) Friday and ends the regular season at Gilbert (3-4) Nov. 1. This will be Maricopa’s final season in 5A for at least two years, as Arizona Interscholastic Association moved the growing school up to 6A. That move was expected, and Maricopa would rank 30th in enrollment among the largest schools.

Though holding their own in the first quarter and starting with a 2-0 lead, the Maricopa High School football Rams had a mountain to climb when hosting Gilbert’s Campo Verde. One of the top-ranked teams in the state, the Coyotes won Friday night, 43-9.

Campo Verde is undefeated and leads the 5A San Tan region. Maricopa’s record fell to 3-4 (0-2). The Rams are ranked 20th in 5A. Maricopa, on fall break, next plays Oct. 18, hosting Williams Field, 5-2 (2-0). As the final home game, it will be senior night.

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Maricopans and former Maricopans are busy on college football fields around the country. Some are remembered for their gridiron days at Maricopa High School while others played for schools in the Valley.

Jacob Cowing is a freshman at University of Texas at El Paso, where he is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound wide receiver. An MHS graduate, he has three receptions, averaging 19.67 yards.

Sam Aviles, who also played for MHS, is a 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior at Missouri Western State University, where he is a kicker. He is 20-for-20 in point-after-touchdown kicks and is averaging 58 yards per kickoff.

Tylen Coleman, an MHS graduate, is a 6-foot-0, 235-pound freshman at Western New Mexico University. He has eight tackles and a kick return.

Isaiah Hawkins, an MHS graduate, is a 5-foot-7, 160-pound freshman at Crown College in Minnesota, where he has recorded four tackles.

Thomas “Trey” Keel, an MHS graduate is also a freshman at WNMU, listed as 6-foot-3, 320 pounds. He has recorded a tackle.

Mac Rothschild-Potterf, a Desert Vista graduate, is a sophomore at WNMU as a 6-foot-2, 285 pound lineman. He has recorded a tackle.

Jake Meyers, an MHS graduate, is a freshman at Southwestern Community College as a 6-foot-2, 240-pound lineman. He has a tackle.

Stefon Nelson, an MHS graduate, is a freshman at South Dakota School of Mines. He is listed as 5-foot-10, 175 pounds.

Elrey Brooks III, a graduate of Casteel, is also a freshman at SDSM, listed as 5-foot-8, 165 pounds.

DeShaun Felder, a graduate of Mountain Pointe, is a senior at Arizona Christian University. He is 6-foot-5, 283 pounds.

Bakari Jackson, an MHS graduate, is a 6-foot-0, 230-pound freshman linebacker at Southwestern College in Kansas.


Do you know a current or former resident of Maricopa who is now playing college-level sports? Let us know at News@InMaricopa.com.

 

Junior Steven Forester scrambles against Higley Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Everything that worked for the Maricopa High School football team in its 49-12 win over winless Central a week ago did not work at all its in first region competition Friday at Higley High.

The 59-0 loss to the Knights evened the Rams’ overall record at 3-3.

“Our kids have to understand and learn that when you’re in big games and you come out and self-destruct, you can’t make mistakes,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “You’ve got to do the things that you’ve been coached to do. When you don’t, you lose games, you lose these games to good teams.”

The teams came into the game with identical records and looked evenly matched on paper. However, the Rams struggled to gain first downs from scrimmage (they did so just four times), let alone get near the end zone. The defense, meanwhile, left gaping holes for Higley running backs. By the middle of the third quarter, the referees were letting the clock run.

“The kids didn’t execute,” Harris said. “We’ve got to put them, I guess, in better positions to succeed.”

This week, the Rams come home to face undefeated Campo Verde, which sits atop 5A San Tan.

“We’ve got a lot of work, obviously. We’ve got to get their heads up,” Harris said, “make them understand there’s more games to be played, there’s more season left. Our goals are still intact.”

Harris said the region is not as strong as it was last year. With the young Maricopa team now having six games under their belts, he added, they can no longer use inexperience as an excuse.”

“They’ve got to be able to play a lot better than they did right now,” he said.

Against lesser teams, like Central, the Rams have been able to withstand their own mistakes, but against equal or better teams, those mistakes have turned into opposing touchdowns quickly. Maricopa has been outscored this season 181-123 while still hanging onto a .500 winning percentage.

Members of the Maricopa High School football teams visited Maricopa Police Department and City Hall on Saturday. Head coach Brandon Harris planned the visit a year ago with MPD Chief Steve Stahl. Harris, who has police officers in his family, said he wanted the students to have a productive relationship with local law enforcement and he wanted to defuse any apprehension and suspicion about law enforcement that comes from “news reports about officers and young men that go horribly wrong – and how we can better ensure this doesn’t happen to our boys.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite being shorthanded and battling Murphy’s Law during the first half, the Maricopa High School varsity football team tested its depth to overcome Apollo Friday, 21-9.

The Rams were behind until midway through the second quarter having suffered through a series of miscues that included a safety. They were coming off a physically punishing loss to Millennium the week before that showed in the lineup.

The win moved the Rams’ record to 2-1.

Maricopa kept quiet during the week about the fact they would not have standouts like Ilijah Johnson or Michael Flood on the field, but from the outset it was clear the Rams were a lot smaller and a little less diverse.

“We have a saying around here: Next Ram up,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We don’t have the luxury of kids sitting around waiting to be knighted to play varsity football. They’ve got to come in; they’ve got to prepare as if they’re going to have to play tonight, because they might very well have to do that. So, we had a team out there that was not our projected starting lineup at all, but we hid it. We kept it quiet all week. We had some kids that came out here and worked real hard. They did a nice job.”

The defense started the scoring for Maricopa as junior Patrick Garcia intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. With Mister Chavis rushing and receiving, not to mention returning the kickoff, for the first drive of the second half, Maricopa scored again to go up 14-2.

Apollo (0-2) scored its only touchdown in the final seven seconds of the third quarter. Maricopa answered with another touchdown with 10:27 remaining in the fourth and held back the Hawks the rest of the game.

“The defense played great,” Harris said. “They held the line for us,”

Harris credited his assistant coaches with getting the team game-ready despite the vacancies. He said the Rams need to get a lot healthier by getting some guys back in time for Friday’s Homecoming game against South Mountain.

“We’re very, very, very, very young. They’re learning how to play on the fly,” he said. “I’m proud of them. A lot of kids played both ways. A lot of kids didn’t leave the field, and that’s a huge win in Division 5.”

Photo by Victor Moreno

 

FOOTBALL

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.

Daxton Redfern
Photo by Victor Moreno

“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.”

MHS
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


Jacob McIntyre
Photo by Victor Moreno

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.

Coach Donnie Margerum
Photo by Victor Moreno

“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.”

Sequoia Pathway
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


Shakira Gillespie
Photo by Victor Moreno

VOLLEYBALL

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.”

MHS
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


Lynniece Andrews
Photo by Victor Moreno

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.”

Sequoia Pathway
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


Kian Carroll and Eva Zavala
Photo by Victor Moreno

SWIMMING

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


Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez
Photo by Victor Moreno

CROSS COUNTRY

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


Tyler Kientzler
Photo by Victor Moreno

BOYS’ SOCCER

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


Karson Collazo
Photo by Victor Moreno

BOYS’ GOLF – Division I Yuma

MHS
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

MHS
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.

Maricopa had its hands full with Millennium Aug. 30. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team had backward momentum against a big Millennium squad Friday and suffered a blowout loss, 47-0, in front of a home crowd.

“You meet a team that physically is your equal or greater, the thing that separates you is how you play your technique,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris said. “If you don’t play with technique, you get beat, you get beat bad, and that’s what happened tonight.”

The home game evened the Rams’ record at 1-1. It was the Tigers’ first game of the season.

While Maricopa struggled to execute its game plan, Millennium was hitting four touchdown passes by junior quarterback Jalan Early. The Ram defense had its struggles, but the offense never got on its legs.

When the Rams felt overwhelmed, the coach said, they reverted to old habits and abandoned proper technique. The end result, he said, was something MHS deserved.

“They blitzed. We know what we’re supposed to do. We had checks for their blitzes the same as we did last year. We didn’t check to the plays we were supposed to go to. Simple as that,” Harris said. “They blitz the inside A gaps; we pitch the ball to the outside. We didn’t pitch the ball to the outside. You don’t stay with the play, you get sacked. If our quarterback drops his eyes and doesn’t look downfield, we don’t get the ball out to guys that are wide open.”

Millennium scored twice in each of the first three quarters. Next up for the Rams is a home game against Apollo (1-1), which suffered a similar shellacking at the hands of Casteel, 53-7.

“We’ve got to be prepared. We’ve got to be honest about where we are, who we are and what we did, and then go back and get better at it,” Harris said. “The nice thing about what happened tonight is that it’s all fixable. We just have to do what we’re supposed to do.”

Athletic Directors Jake Neill (left) of Maricopa Unified School District and Glen Hale of Sequoia Pathway see changes ahead.

As Maricopa schools dig into their fall sports, much appears the same on the surface, but there could be changes afoot.

It’s not about personnel, though the athletic departments of Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway hired a couple of varsity coaches each. (For MHS it was baseball coach Brad Vericker and boys’ basketball coach Paul Gretkierewicz; for Pathway, football coach Donnie Margerum and boys’ basketball coach George Courtney.)

“The future’s looking like there is going to be a little bit of change because we’re growing so much,” said Jake Neill, Maricopa Unified School District athletic director. “If there’s a change in the next two-year block we could end up being a 6A school. Very good chance of that actually.”

MUSD reports enrollment to the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) in October and then is assigned a conference for a two-year block starting the next school year. However, close on the heels of that, is an election in November. If voters agree to a bond to build a second high school for MUSD, it could trigger a change in district athletics down the road.

Neill said he doesn’t even want to think about that until November, and then will wait to see how things fall out. A second school, for instance, might not have sports initially. Even if it does, it could be years away.

“It really depends on the timing of how everything happens,” Neill said. “What we hope to avoid is turning in our numbers and then split schools and be playing a 6A schedule with two schools of 1,500 kids. We can prepare for that and inform the AIA if that should ever happen.”

For now, the fall season is looking comfortably familiar.

“The good thing is there’s nothing new,” Neill said. “There’s a little bit of consistency from last year to this year. We’re still competing in the always tough 5A San Tan region with the likes of Williams Field, Casteel, Campo Verde, Gilbert High. So, we definitely have our challenges with being in probably the most competitive region in the 5A conference again, but for the most part we’re status quo.”

Maricopa High School’s fall sports include football, volleyball, cross country, swimming and boys’ and girls’ golf.

He said MHS is building a reputation for having great student-athletes, and programs are improving. Tying into that is creating strong bonds between middle school and high school programs. Neill said a recent change made to junior high scheduling could foster more of that.

MUSD’s middle schools are joining the Signal Peak Athletic Conference, playing mostly schools in the Casa Grande area rather than Queen Creek and Apache Junction.

“It’s going to benefit the program because our parents can get to their kids’ games on time. Our students and our coaches that are teachers aren’t going to be missing as much class time and instruction time,” Neill said. “When you look at middle-school athletics, it’s not supposed to be taxing on the student. Just traveling as much as we were, it was taxing on the student. We want to make sure we set our kids up to succeed.”

It may also make it easier for high school coaches to be involved with the middle school sports, he said.

“It’s an expectation that our varsity coaches are somehow, someway involved in our middle school athletics, and everyone does a good job with that,” Neill said. “Being seen and talking to kids. Just creating that connection with kids and getting them excited to be a Ram and come to MHS and maybe future high school No. 2.”

At Pathway, which enrolls about 275 high schoolers, Athletic Director Glen Hale also expects his varsity coaches to maintain a strong link to the junior high. That includes instilling this year’s motto, “Expect great things.”

“It encompasses life,” he said. “If they come to practice, if they’re on time, if they work hard, they can expect great things to happen. Grade-wise, if they’re in the classroom and they’re making their grades and doing their homework and they’re working hard, they can expect great things to happen.”

He said that starts with the coaches working hard and doing their jobs, modeling their behavior they want to see in the student-athletes.

“Each coach, as we go to the next level, is going to sacrifice things so we can get better,” Hale said.

The “next level” could mean a change if Hale gets his way. He intends to apply to join the AIA. Pathway is currently in the Canyon Athletic Association, comprised of charter schools.

“We basically want our kids to play higher competition,” he said. “The CAA is really good, but everybody knows the AIA.”

If accepted, it would mean a big shift for the athletes, who would be facing completely new competition. Having watched the kids face AIA teams during summer competitions, Hale said it could help them grow. He also looks forward to adding girls’ soccer to the array of high school offerings.

“We’re homing in on academics, we’re homing in on character, we’re homing in on serving our community and playing at the next level.”

See the upcoming September issue of InMaricopa for more on this year’s teams.

MHS Varsity Football
W 33-22               at McClintock
Aug. 30                7 p.m. 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 Varsity Football
Aug. 30                7 p.m. vs. Canyon State Academy
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 Varsity Volleyball
Sept. 3                  6 p.m. at Camelback
Sept. 4                  6 p.m. vs. Fairfax
Sept. 5                  6 p.m. 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 Varsity Volleyball
W, 3-0                  vs. Basis-Peoria
W, 3-0                  at Basis-Chandler
W, 3-0                  vs. Phoenix College Prep
Sept. 3                  6 p.m. 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 Swimming
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 Cross Country
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 Boys’ Soccer
Aug. 29                6 p.m.                   vs. Imagine Prep-Coolidge
Aug. 30                5 p.m.                   at Basis-S
Sept. 2                  5 p.m.                   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

MHS Boys’ Golf
Aug. 22                 3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Aug. 27                 2 p.m.                   at Ken McDonald Golf Course
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

MHS 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

 

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School opened the varsity football season with zip, with quarterback Daxton Redfern connecting Ilijah Johnson for scoring touchdowns three times in defeating McClintock 33-22 Friday.

The game had all the earmarks of a first game, with miscues by players and referees alike. But Maricopa scored in every quarter and mostly dominated the Chargers.

The up-and-down nature of the quality of play was a learning lesson, head coach Brandon Harris said, as many of the Rams had not started varsity before.

“We were confident. We had a good game plan and we executed it mostly,” Harris said. “I thought our defense played extremely well. We held them for the better part of three quarters to two points.”

McClintock had its only lead after an early safety, but the Rams came back quickly as Redfern hit Johnson, who executing some fancy running to take it into the end zone.

Three minutes later, Johnson took another Redfern pass 32 yards for another touchdown. Despite a blocked point after, Maricopa was up 13-2.

Junior Tylek Mooney, playing both ways on the night, took an interception 70 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Maricopa led 19-3.

The Rams were limited to a field goal in the third while the defense continued to put up a wall. McClintock came through with its first touchdown with just 27 seconds left in the quarter.

At the top of the fourth, Redfern again found Johnson for a touchdown, with Redfern keeping the ball himself for the two-point conversion. After the Chargers scored from the 4, Maricopa responded with another field goal.

While the Rams were getting more players into the game for some playing time, McClintock scored a final touchdown in the final two minutes.

Maricopa worked to reinvigorate its running game in the fourth quarter, getting running room for junior Mister Chavis. Harris said he liked the resiliency he saw from his players and was happy with their conditioning, which held up on a warm and humid night.

Next up, the Rams host Millennium Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

Total Yards
Maricopa 292 McClintock 352

Passing yards
Daxton Redfern, Maricopa 14-for-19, 149 yards, 3 touchdowns
Xavier Venitez, McClintock 13-for-30, 233 yards, 1 touchdown

Top rushing
Mister Chavis, Maricopa 24 carries, 126 yards
Jaden Mason, McClintock 23 carries, 110 yards, 2 touchdowns

Top receiving
Ilijah Johnson, Maricopa 5 catches, 84 yards, 3 touchdowns
Bryce Tate, McClinock 7 catches, 104 yards

Top tackling
Maricopa: Patrick Garcia 14, Anthony Valenzuela 9
McClintock: David Cisneros 10, David Felix 10

Sacks
Maricopa: Quintone Green-Seabrooks 2
McClintock: Kerrion Dates 1, Scott Jones 1

Interceptions
Maricopa: Tylek Mooney 1 (touchdown)

Kicking
Maricopa: Roberto Esqueda 1 PAT, 2 FG
McClintock: Felipe Sanchez 2 PAT

Photo by Victor Moreno

There is no off-season for MHS 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 arguably the toughest region in 5A.

The 2019 season starts Friday at McClintock.

“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.”

That involved the Arizona Football Coaches Association, and Harris said “everybody in the state that is somebody was there,” including Hamilton, Mountain Pointe and Higley. Maricopa players placed second in a Tucson tournament. 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.”

MHS Athletic Director Jake 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,” 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.”

When it comes to team leadership, no class has the upper hand.

“Whoever emerges as a leader is a leader,” Harris said. “I don’t care if that’s a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, because I’ve been in programs where I wasn’t the head coach, I was offensive coordinator, it was like, seniors are in charge. If they weren’t leaders as sophomores or juniors, what makes them leaders just because the calendar changed? Teams end up rising and falling on that. I’m not a believer in a senior has to be the guy.”

The program is experimenting with a new leadership model. Noting the reluctance of a new crop of teenagers to emerge from a crowd, the team has created “position groups.”

We’re setting it up where we’ll have senators, if you will. So, in each position group, there are going to be several people responsible for the position group,” Harris said. “We hold those guys accountable for the performance on campus, off campus, being on time to class, things of that nature. So, three or four guys in each position group meet with me every week.”

Having graduated a batch a of elite players with big personalities, the 2019 edition of the Rams will look a little smaller, but they’ll be fast. They’ve also grown close as a team, helped along by the “transformative experience” of camp in Flagstaff.

“I like this team. I think we’re more of a team this year in a lot more ways, offensively and defensively,” Harris said.

Leading the running back corps is returning junior Mister Chavis along with junior Steven Forrester. Among the wide receivers, “We’ve got some guys that can go,” Harris said. Namely, senior Ilijah Johnson is “Pretty special from both sides of the ball” with a 46-inch vertical leap. Tylek Mooney is an “explosive player, who’s shifty and slippery.”

Bryan Pick will join Xepera at tight end. Junior Hunter Taylor is also a tight end and defensive end, “a bigger version of his brother Logan,” and Anthony Valenzuela is a “high-motor player” who can “just run all day.”

The Rams have players and coaches coming in from other corners of the country. With Corey Nelson leaving to help coach Sequoia Pathway, Harris shifted his assistants.

Stephan Nelson continues to coach linebackers and running backs. Bill Poyser is the defensive coordinator. Ed Jordan coaches the secondary, while the defensive line is in the hands of Dean Hanneman. Harris is letting Gerald Campbell coach the quarterbacks while he moves over to the wide receivers. Andres Zelaya coaches the inside wide receivers.

The team will run the same gauntlet through San Tan 5A, still one of the toughest in the state.

Harris’s recipe for a successful season?

  1. No catastrophic injuries
  2. Academic health during season and beyond
  3. Building on what we started

“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.”

Aug. 23                 7 p.m. at McClintock
Aug. 30                 7 p.m. 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

Photo by Victor Moreno

Saturday, Maricopa High School’s football program hosted its second annual Community Awareness Soap Scrimmage featuring next seasons varsity and junior varsity players. Admission was a new hygiene or toiletry item to benefit Maricopa’s new Family Advocacy Center.

by -

A diverse collection of sports stories in Maricopa were interesting for different reasons in 2018. Some were about the new and shiny, others about overcoming challenges while the top story was flat-out victory.

Brandon Harris and RaShawn Calvert are among Maricopa Unified’s new coaches hired this year.

5. New coaches and athletic directors were hired this year at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy. At MHS, Brandon Harris became the varsity football head coach while RaShawn Calvert was hired as girls’ basketball head coach and Laura Logan launched the swim team. Former boys’ basketball coach Jake Neill returned as AD. At Sequoia Pathway, Glen Hale took over the football and boys’ basketball teams and was named AD.


4. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, one of the top-rated golf courses in the state, was inundated with floodwaters from Vekol Wash in October, causing the course to close for nearly a month. General Manager Brady Wilson and his staff soldiered on, keeping the pro shop and restaurant open while water was pumped off the fairways.

Brady Wilson faced flooding challenges as general manager of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.

3. In Arizona Interscholastic Association competition, MHS football earned a spot in the playoffs out of arguably the toughest section in the state. Sequoia Pathway’s varsity football team finished second in the Canyon Athletic Association’s open division, and the Puma volleyball team reached the final four with two players named all-state.


2. Even readers who don’t usually follow high school sports took interest in this year’s Homecoming game at MHS after a fracas between head coaches capped off the Rams’ 55-0 win. Central suspended its coach long-term, Maricopa’s Harris sat out a game, and both teams were given warnings by AIA.

Photo by Jeffrey Hazlett

  1. The MHS 4×100-meter boys’ relay team won the state gold medal in Division II in May, running the fastest circuit of any team of any division in the Arizona Track & Field Championships in 2018. Longman Pyne, Jacob Cowing, P.J. Austin and Frank Jones ran their lap in 41.51, breaking their previous school record by nearly 2 seconds.

Senior Jake Meyer (75) celebrates a touchdown by senior Isaiah Crawford (1) in the first round of the state playoffs, a 42-7 loss. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team wound up its season with a loss in the first round of the 5A state playoffs Friday.

The Rams (seeded 15th) lost at second-ranked Williams Field, 42-7, the second time this year they fell to the Black Hawks. But it was a different Maricopa team, missing its starting quarterback and go-to receiver. Sensing the vulnerabilities, Williams Field clamped down on other key players and limited the Rams’ effectiveness.

Junior Daxton Redfern stepped in as quarterback as senior Jordan Huddleston was still not cleared to play after a concussion last week. Senior Jacob Cowing left the game with an injury of his own after grabbing a 38-yard pass on the game’s second play from scrimmage. The Rams could never quite regroup.

“Dax played hard tonight, made some good plays and made mistakes that a lot of young quarterbacks make without a lot of experience,” head coach Brandon Harris said.

Maricopa’s bursts of momentum were often stymied by penalties or turnovers.

The Black Hawks (10-1) scored on each of their three possessions in the first quarter to jump out to 21-0 lead.

The Maricopa offensive and defensive lines showed cracks throughout the first half as Williams Field led 28-0 at the break. That became 35-0 as the Black Hawks scored on their first possession of the third quarter.

The Rams’ only score came on an eight-play drive that started on the 12 yard line in the third quarter and ended in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Crawford at the beginning of the fourth.

After the game, Harris pulled aside the senior players, who comprised more than half the team. He told the remaining underclassmen to ask themselves who was going to step up next season to fill the vacancies.

“I’m going to work with the guys who are there,” said Harris, who was ending his first season as the Rams head coach. “I’m not going to shake trees or go around neighborhoods and trying to get kids. Whoever shows up is who we get. We’re going to work with who we got and make it work for the best.”

Maricopa ended the season 5-6 overall.

Maricopa High School had a very physical game against Williams Field Oct. 5 and will play them again Nov. 2 in the state playoffs.

Maricopa High School’s football team has been pushed up to a 15th-place ranking in today’s state playoff bracket announcements. The Rams will play No. 2 Williams Field at 7 p.m. Nov. 2.

MHS previously lost to Williams Field, 34-21, on Oct. 5. Rams head coach Brandon Harris said he thought his team was a better team than Williams Field but had been outplayed in that game.

“We had a couple of guys stick around after that game,” he said. “They were like, ‘We know you guys lost the game, but we’ve never seen a team beat up our guys the way you beat us up that night.’”

Maricopa is coming off a 34-27 win over a 4-6 Gilbert High School team. The Rams finished the regular season 5-5. Friday’s game will be at Williams Field.
The top 16 teams in 5A will compete in the state bracket. Defending champion Centennial is the top seed.

A final game, Senior Night victory cemented Maricopa High School football’s place in the playoffs Friday. The Rams find out Saturday their bracket placement, but for now they are relishing the 34-27 win over Gilbert.

It was Maricopa’s only win in the tough 5A San Tan region. The Rams are 5-5 (1-4).

“We’re a better football team than our record indicates,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “Our kids are so good now they know our system. I can literally just call stuff, and they know where to go now. So we’re starting to put this thing all together.”

Senior quarterback Jordan Huddleston was hurt in the first quarter. Though he returned to the game, Gilbert took aim for him, sensing a vulnerability, and were even called for targeting him. Harris eventually pulled him for senior wide receiver Jacob Cowing.

“Jacob is Jacob. He’s a great football player and he carried us a lot. I thought he threw a great pass to Crawford early.”

That would be senior Isaiah Crawford, who scored Maricopa’s first touchdown of the night on a 47-yard reception. But that was after the Tigers had already scored and completed a two-point conversion pass. Gilbert’s Jayden Duran then kicked a field goal to put the Tigers ahead of Maricopa 11-7.

Cowing ran 16 yards for a touchdown to put the Rams in the lead. Maricopa never trailed again. Cowing later scored on a 61-yard run in the fourth.

Sophomore running back Mister Chavis, who was out of last week’s game due to injury, returned Friday and had more and more of an impact as the game progressed.

He scored from the 39 in the second quarter and then scored again in the fourth from the 26.

With seniors Tylen Coleman and Logan Taylor keeping pressure on Gilbert quarterback Will Plummer all night, the Maricopa defense kept the Tigers at bay. The Rams forced two fumbles, and senior Stefon Nelson intercepted a pass as part of a heady night.

“Our defense is spectacular. They got some takeaways,” Harris said. “Our kids are learning a different style of football, more traditional in terms of how to manage the clock and run the clock and get first downs and things. In this generation of spread football everywhere and rush, rush, rush, rush, I’m more pragmatic. I’m aggressive too, but we got to get more first downs on offense. We put our defense in some bad spots a couple of times, but I thought our defense played very, very well, and we’re proud of them.”

Unless the Rams move up in the rankings, Maricopa could end up facing undefeated Centennial in the first game of the playoffs on Nov. 2. Harris said Huddleston may be fit enough to return by them.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team dropped a region game to Casteel Friday after the Colt ran wild in the fourth quarter for a 42-21 final.

Before the game, Maricopa was ranked 16th in 5A. The top 16 teams at season’s end qualify for the state playoffs.

“They competed, they played hard, we’re still alive for the playoffs, believe it or not,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We gotta win next week to be in. Nobody’s played a tougher schedule than we have.”

The Rams stuck with the fourth-ranked Colts, scoring first on their first possession three minutes into the game and ha the 14-7 lead by the end of the quarter on touchdowns by Kaireem Moreira and Jacob Cowing. Casteel scored on a quarterback keeper for a tied score at the half.

The Colts took the lead for good in the third quarter and then ran off with three touchdowns in the fourth. Maricopa could answer only with one score, a 24-yard pass hauled in by Cowing. The coach called the senior receiver, who also ran a series as quarterback, “spectacular.”

The Rams were without starting running back Mister Chavez, who was out with an injury, while other suffered injuries in the course of the game. Despite the runaway score late in the game, the Rams remained intense and were calling out each other for missed plays or talking back to the referees.

“I want them to police themselves, and when they do that, that’s when they become a championship team,” Harris said.

The result moved Casteel to 7-2 and Maricopa to 4-5. The Rams’ final game of the regular season, and Senior Night, is Friday hosting Gilbert. Game time is 7 p.m.

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The other shoe finally dropped.

The football programs of Maricopa and Central high schools were given an official warning by the Arizona Interscholastic Association at a Monday board meeting, the result of an altercation between the head coaches after the Sept. 14 game.

The violations were self-reported.

Central reported its own coach, Jon Clanton, was the aggressor in the Homecoming night incident. The report stated Clanton pulled Maricopa head coach Brandon Harris into him during the post-game handshakes and yelled expletives at him after the Rams won 55-0. He then knocked off Harris’ visor as the Maricopa coach verbally engaged with him.

Clanton was placed on administrative leave, where he has remained.

As for Maricopa, it reported the situation was quickly put under control by the actions of students, assistant coaches and administrators. The school suspended Harris for one game.

According to AIA bylaws, a warning “places a school in jeopardy in that further violation of any rules or regulations may result in probation.”

At the same AIA board meeting, the MHS volleyball program was given “advisement” after it played a transfer student who had not sat out 50 percent of the season. Advisement is a word of caution.

Jacob Cowing brings down a 25-yard pass near the end zone.

Laboring through what is arguably 5A’s toughest region, Maricopa High School’s football team fell at Williams Field, 34-21, despite an energetic effort Friday night.

“I’m real proud of them,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “That game could have gone either way.”

Williams Field came into the game with a 6-1 record and scored first. Maricopa tied the score 7-7 after a five-yard run by senior Jacob Cowing. However, the Black Hawks scored 11 seconds later on a 65-yard run.

The Rams then embarked on a 15-play, penalty-free drive that culminated in a five-yard run by senior quarterback Jordan Huddleston. Roberto Esqueda’s second of three successful PAT kicks tied the game again at 14-14.

Williams Field scored quickly in the third quarter, but the PAT bounced off the uprights. After picking off a Huddleston pass, the Black Hawks put together another scoring drive to go up 27-14. They added to the lead with a 23-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter and began pulling starters.

Harris said instead of hanging their heads as in earlier games, the Rams kept trying to score. The result was a fumble recovery Maricopa turned into an unlikely, sack-filled possession that included the conversion of a fourth-and-13 situation.

Finally down to the 15 yard line and with Huddleston continuing to play escape artist, the Rams capped off the game with a wild scramble of slipped tackles that ended in Huddleston connecting with senior Kaireem Moreira, who scored with 23 seconds left.

“If you quit a game on a Friday night, you’ll quit in life,” Harris said. “This is nothing compared to what life gives you sometimes, so you’ve got to keep battling and fighting and keep playing until there’s zeros on the clock. That’s how I coach.”

Maricopa had 333 total yards in the game. Huddleston threw for 112 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 91 yards. Cowing had 56 yards rushing and 56 yards receiving.

The Rams’ record fell to 4-4 overall, 0-3 in 5A San Tan region competition. Williams Field rose to the top of San Tan.

Maricopa stays home Friday, Oct. 19, hosting Casteel (6-2) at 7 p.m.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School varsity football team lost its second league competition, a road game at Campo Verde.

The Rams held off the Coyotes for more than a quarter but lost 38-12.

“They’re a physical team and they’ve got a big quarterback and they run hard,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris. “But that doesn’t say much about what we did offensively. Our job is to move the football, and we didn’t. That’s on me and our offensive coaches.”

The Rams scored on their first drive, taking advantage of a Coyote fourth-down mistake in fouling punter Roberto Esqueda (not for the last time)and giving Maricopa a fresh set of downs. Four plays later, quarterback Jordan Huddleston passed 45 yards to Jacob Cowing for the touchdown.

Campo Verde didn’t score until there was 7:53 left in the second quarter, a 52-yard run.. A following 13-play drive by Maricopa, again extended by Esqueda getting roughed up, proved fruitless. Coyote kicker Jackson Passey nailed a 52-yard field goal to give Campo Verde the 10-6 lead at halftime.

“It seems to be the same old thing that’ biting us in the heel,” Harris said. “We have this great opening drive or opening series and then just have a stalemate or something So got to figure that out, and we will.”

Campo Verde scored twice in the third quarter while shutting down Maricopa. The Coyotes were credited with six sacks.

“They were doing some things to us on defense, and I didn’t feel like our sideline communication was where it should be,” Harris said.

The Coyotes scored twice more before Maricopa could get back on the board. It was another half-field pass to Cowing with 3:53 remaining in the game.

Maricopa’s record fell to 4-3 overall and 0-2 in San Tan play. The Rams next play at Williams Field on Friday at 7 p.m.

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Isaiah Crawford

The Maricopa High School football team had a reversal of fortune Friday night against their toughest opponent yet. The visiting Higley Knights defeated the Rams 63-14 in the first week of San Tan region play. The Rams, playing without a head coach, went out in front early on a Jordan Huddleston pass to Jacob Cowing. In the second quarter, running back Mister Chavis bulled his way into the end zone, and Maricopa led 14-6. From that point, the Knights’ offensive and defensive lines locked in. As Higley reeled off 57 straight points, Maricopa could only occasionally get big yardage and eventually wore down. Higley also protected its quarterbacks well most of the game, though Logan Taylor still managed to collect enough sacks to give them the yips in the pocket. Most of Maricopa’s yardage came in the air, 195 of the 280 total yards. Higley took full advantage of Maricopa miscues, turning a fumble and an interception into touchdowns. Maricopa’s record moved to 4-2. Friday, the Rams travel to Gilbert’s Campo Verde, 5-1, for another San Tan contest.

 

 

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MHS head coach Brandon Harris (right) had a physical confrontation with Central head coach Jon Clanton Sept. 14. Photo by Jeff Hazlett

From the desk of Maricopa High School Principal Brian Winter: This is the response from Coach Brandon Harris regarding the events that transpired at the conclusion of the homecoming football game on Friday, Sept. 14:

“Since being named head coach of our football program, I have been obsessive in my belief that our program should model behavior that is consistent with excellence, good character and high morals. This past Friday, some of my actions weren’t consistent with this. My direct supervisor (AD Jake Neill) instructed me to do certain things at the end of the altercation with Central’s coach, and I did not comply.

“After reflection, I realize that my actions are not consistent with what I have modeled for our coaches and players up to this point. I can’t in good conscience accept that this should be overlooked. I have suspended players this season and sat players – even just last week for conduct I felt was unbecoming. I am just a man, I am fallible, and I make mistakes. I made one last Friday.

“To not hold myself to the same standards I talk about wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I’m as competitive as they come, and I live for matchups like this Friday, because if you are a competitor you want to coach in big games against the best competition possible. So, this is as painful as it can be for me, but as much as it pains me, and the obvious jeopardy it will put our team in, some things are more important than wins and losses – I want to be remembered for how I lived my life.

“I am not going to coach in the Higley game this Friday because of the part I played in Friday night’s incident following the game. I am taking this opportunity to apologize to our Superintendent, Principal, Athletic Director, my colleagues in the greater good for teaching, along with my coaches, players and our city for my conduct. The last thing I want to do is represent us in a negative light.”

The Rams celebrate after a "fluke" touchdown by Logan Taylor (42). Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team routed Central, 55-0, in a shortened Homecoming game that ended with a brief brawl that was not instigated by the players.

The Rams scored eight touchdowns as a variety of players off the bench saw action throughout the night. Maricopa became the third team to score at least 50 points on Central High School, which is now 0-5. Maricopa’s record improved to 4-1.

The post-game handshake between coaches Jon Clanton (left) and Brandon Harris wasn’t really a handshake. Photo by Jeff Hazlett

After the Rams went ahead 21-0 in the first quarter on scores by senior Tylen Coleman and sophomore Mister Chavis, Marcopa had the game salted away by the half. Senior quarterback Jordan Huddleston scored on a 12-yard keeper. After suffering one of their worst drives of the season in the middle of the second quarter, Huddleston hit senior Jacob Cowing with a 77-yard pass.

When the Bobcats tried to punt on their next possession, Maricopa senior defensive end Logan Taylor grabbed the ball and took it in for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Rams the 41-0 lead at the break.

The Bobcats came close to getting on the board with a first-and-goal situation on the 4, but the Maricopa defense stopped two runs and two pass attempts.

After the odd sight of senior guard Trey Keel receiving a pass for a first down, backup quarterback Daxton Redfern tossed to Cowing for a touchdown and passed for a two-point conversion. That put the score at 49-0 with 4:38 remaining in the game.

In the last two minutes, Kaireem Moreira took the ball 78 yards for the game-ending touchdown.

But it wasn’t the end of the action, at least for Central head coach Jon Clanton. Eye-witness accounts of the post-game handshake indicated Clanton instead pulled Maricopa head coach Brandon Harris toward him, pushed him, yelled at him and knocked off his hat. Harris allegedly then punched the much-taller Clanton.

While players started shoving each other, the coaches were separated, and Maricopa officials sent the Rams to the locker room.

Clanton later said Maricopa’s actions in running up the score were “classless.” He acknowledged knocking off Harris’s hat, but said, “I don’t throw punches.” The incident will be reviewed by AIA.

Next week, Maricopa jumps into region play by hosting Higley (4-1). The game is Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. at Ram Stadium.

Coach Brandon Harris talks to his team after a win at South Mountain High School.

The Maricopa High School Rams won their third football game of the season, but the head coach wasn’t exactly happy about the way it all happened.

In a penalty-laden contest, MHS defeated South Mountain on the road, 23-18. The win improved their record to 3-1, but coach Brandon Harris called the effort “piss-poor.”

Along with missed assignments and inconsistent execution, flags for personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct marred the night for Maricopa.

“Disrespecting the game, disrespecting the city of Maricopa, the school, not representing ourselves on the field well,” Harris listed his issues with what occurred. He said it came as a surprise to him and did not reflect the team’s preparations for the game.

The Rams scored on their first possession with a 31-yard run by sophomore Mister Chavis and never relinquished the lead. Maricopa scored again early in the second quarter on a 2-yard run by senior Kaireem Moreira.

The Jaguars turned a fumble recovery into a quick passing touchdown late in the second. After blocking the point-after kick attempt, Maricopa went into halftime with a 14-6 lead.

While the Rams relied more heavily on the legs of quarterback Jordan Huddleston than his arm, the Maricopa defensive line stymied South Mountain’s ground attack. Jags quarterback Roghon Arnold had the ball in the air most of the second half. That included a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Cotton to edge close to Maricopa, 14-12, at the start of the fourth quarter.

Maricopa’s junior kicker Roberto Esqueda kicked a 31-yard field goal to create a little more breathing room. After a Michael Soliz interception near Maricopa’s 15, Chavis took the ball all the way down field to score again with 2:50 remaining in the game.

“Mister Chavis played well tonight,” Harris said. “He did a lot of good things for us.”

South Mountain capped off the game with a long drive that ended in a quarterback keeper for the final touchdown.

The win kept Maricopa on pace with the rest of the 5A San Tan Region, currently tied for third. The Rams return home this week for Homecoming against Central on Friday at 7 p.m. They then start region play with a home game against Higley Sept. 21.

7 | 7 | 0 | 9    — 23
0 | 6 | 0 | 12 — 18

Tylen Coleman carries the ball into scoring range at Apollo. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Digging deep in the fourth quarter, the Maricopa High School football team pulled out a win at Apollo in Glendale Friday night, 27-20.

 The Rams improved to 2-1 on the season.

Though Maricopa took a 13-0 lead early, the Rams had to fight back from a 20-13 deficit.

“In the fourth quarter, we just decided we were going to put our foot in the dirt, and we were going to keep driving,” said senior Tylen Coleman, a standout defensive end and running back for the Rams.

The Rams scored the first time they touched the football. Senior Jacob Cowing grabbed the opening kickoff from the 8 and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. On Roberto Esqueda’s point-after kick, Maricopa went up 7-0 with only 12 second off the clock.

Just seconds into the second quarter, sophomore Mister Chavis scored from the 5, and Maricopa led 13-0.

But the Hawks pull themselves together and started to get their offense firing in the middle of the game. They scored on consecutive possessions to move past Maricopa.

Apollo continued to hold back the Rams throughout the third quarter, then created a 10-play drive that led to a touchdown with 1:15 left in the quarter.

Maricopa’s final drive of the third became its first drive of the fourth. It was capped off by Coleman scampering in from the 35-yard line to tie the score, 20-20.

The Rams took advantage of an Apollo fumble to jump start their final scoring drive. Cowing grabbed a 29-yard pass from Daxton Redfern to score with 7:21 remaining in the game.

The Rams have scored 12 touchdowns through three games. They next play Friday at South Mountain (1-2) in Phoenix. The game starts at 7 p.m.

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Senior Isaiah Crawford takes the ball downfield for the Maricopa Rams.

In a messy, dusty Game 2, Maricopa High School’s football team lost at Millennium, 26-21. That evened the Rams’ record at 1-1. The Tigers took a 12-7 lead over Maricopa in the first quarter. After pushing that to 26-7 in the third, Millennium did not score again. With both offensive lines showing vulnerability, the quarterbacks were under pressure all game and Maricopa coach Brandon Harris began rotating his QBs, Jordan Huddleston and Daxton Redfern, with mixed results. In the third quarter in the middle of a full-blown dust storm, Maricopa used a 70-yard kickoff return by Isaiah Crawford to set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Jacob Cowing. With time running out near game’s end and little official attention to the play clock or game clock, Mister Chavis ran in from the 6 for the final score. Harris told the Rams he was proud of them for never quitting despite being down. Maricopa next plays a non-region game at Apollo Friday at 7 p.m.