Tags Articles tagged with "football"


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.

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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.

Maricopa won a non-league game over McClintock at home Friday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With a new coach and many untried varsity players, the newest incarnation of the Maricopa High School football team won its first game of the season Friday.

Hosting McClintock from Tempe, the Rams scored first and never gave up the lead, winning 38-21.

Head coach Brandon Harris kept alive his lifelong, first-game winning streak, pointing out it’s the only game all season for which they have four months to prepare.

“I told those kids coming out, ‘We’ve had all this time to prepare, so we got to win,’” Harris said. “And they did. They responded. There was a lot of good things out there tonight.”

That included scoring six touchdowns and a defense Harris described as “lights out.”

There were “early-season errors” and protection issues on the offensive line as Maricopa fans got their first real look at new quarterback Jordan Huddleston, a senior transfer student. Though he had only a few chances to show off his arm, he did pass to senior Jacob Cowing for a touchdown.

“These kids, most of them have never started a varsity football game. Kaireem [Moreira], he never started a varsity football game. Mister Chavis is a sophomore who we moved into that spot. Tylen [Coleman] played defense … so this is his first time carrying the football.”

Coleman, a standout last year on D, played both ways Friday, inflicting touchdowns and sacks on the Chargers.

Moreira put the Rams into the end zone first five and a half minutes into the game. Coleman ran in from the 17 to put Maricopa up 12-0 while still in the first quarter. With the Rams having early special-teams problems, McClintock’s William Roberts was able to juggle and drop a kickoff return and still return it 80 yards for a touchdown to bring the Chargers within five points.

Both teams scored a touchdown apiece in the second quarter, and the Rams went into the locker room leading 19-14.

But Cowing scored on a 15-yard reception and then grabbed a crucial interception to get the ball back. That eventually led to Coleman scoring from the 6-yard line to put Maricopa ahead 31-14. Though the Chargers scored quickly in the fourth, the Ram offense had long possessions, wrapping it up with a one-yard touchdown run by Chavis.

“We’re just trying to develop championship habits,” Harris said. “We showed some tonight, and some not so good.”

This year's MHS Rams include (from left) Trey Keel, Jake Meyer, Jordan Huddleston, Tylen Coleman and Michael Flood. Photo by Victor Moreno


There was very little leisure for Maricopa High School football players this summer.

“We call it ‘one heartbeat;’ it’s kind of the analogy we use. We all have to work in concert for it to work.” — Coach Brandon Harris

New head coach Brandon Harris ran practices every morning, five days a week. Many nights were filled by 7-on-7 tournaments. Two weeks before the first day of school, the team left to its annual football camp in Winslow.

The coaches spend more time with athletes than ever before, Harris said, a practice in measuring the team’s pulse on – and off – the field.

MHS head coach Brandon Harris. Photo by Mason Callejas

“We call it ‘one heartbeat;’ it’s kind of the analogy we use,” Harris said of the team’s culture. “We all have to work in concert for it to work.”

When they weren’t running drills, teammates worked in unison fundraising for the program. They were coached by Harris on representing the school and the city well, he said.

The kids reportedly received compliments on their polite behavior during car washes and other engagements where athletes and coaches introduced themselves to the community.

“We are working smart; we’re working hard,” Harris said.

This summer, athletes hit the weight room after their meals – an intake of protein and carbohydrates developed by coaching staff. And while participating in any activity together, Harris only allows uplifting communication between the group.

“We don’t coach from any negativity or fear because fear is very close to hatred and you can’t play well with either one of those feelings,” Harris said.

Harris is an experienced leader on the gridiron, having previously coached championship high school state team sand collegiately.

His goal is to reinvent the Rams, who will sport redesigned uniforms, into a team that not only wins games, but wins in life.

New district Athletic Director Jacob Neill likes the approach.

“If you have a high level of participation and you’re successful in what you’re doing with the kids in your program, it’s going to ultimately have a positive impact on the culture of not just your athletics program but your entire school,” Neill said.

In 2016, Neill left the district after working four years as head basketball coach at MHS. He was the AD and assistant principal of Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley before his recent return to Maricopa.

That experience has lent well to the football program under Harris.

“First of all, he’s a former coach,” Harris said of Neill. “He’s been doing this awhile and he gets it.”

While the Rams work to recreate themselves and improve upon last year’s 6-4 record, the team is also adjusting to a new, competitive region.

Harris said the team had “flashes of spectacular play” against opponents in the 5A San Tan Region during the 7-on-7s this summer.

But Neill and Harris agreed the region will be a great test for the program that is still developing its pulse.

“We are a team that’s loaded with a lot of players and talent, and now it’s just a matter of us putting that talent to use,” Harris said.

MHS Football
All varsity games at 7 p.m.
Aug. 17 vs. McClintock
Aug. 24 @ Millennium
Aug. 31 @ Apollo
Sept. 7 @ South Mountain
Sept. 14 vs. Central
Sept. 21 vs. Higley
Sept. 28 @ Campo Verde
Oct. 5 @ Williams Field
Oct. 19 vs. Casteel
Oct. 26 vs. Gilbert

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.


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Photo by Victor Moreno

Maricopa High School football players tried out their summer skills in a 7-on-7 contest against Mesa June 21. Mesa will host the Rams June 28 at 6 p.m. Photographer Victor Moreno shared his photos. Click on photo to enlarge

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The Maricopa Militia. Photo by Victor Moreno

A youth tackle football program is recruiting players age 6-9 for a fall season.

What: Militia Speed & Conditioning Clinic
When: June 30, 8-10 a.m.
Where: Copper Sky
How much: Free

The Maricopa Militia is part of the nonprofit National Youth Sports football league. Team manager Joanne Taylor said the team was formed after the disappointment of false starts by other teams that have come and gone.

“Some of our players and coaches have been playing tackle football here in Maricopa for the past four to five years and have had to endure many empty promises, failed leadership, belittlement and discrimination,” Taylor said.

The Militia was conceived as a way to change all that.

The Militia’s home games are played on the Maricopa High School field. Head coach for 7-under and 8-under teams is Josh Taylor, assisted by Dave Taylor, Jay Owens, Ruben Adame and Louie Placencio. If the 9-under team comes to be, another coach will be added. Matt Rivett handles the finances, and team mom is Tara Owens.

“We understand that not every young athlete that plays for us will play high school or college football,” Taylor said. “However, every one of our young athletes will grow up to be a member of a community. This is why we focus on building life skills through football.”

The Militia will host a speed and conditioning clinic on June 30 at Copper Sky Regional Park from 8 to 10 a.m. This free clinic is for current and prospective players to display and build new skills.

The fall season starts July 30.

Militia coaches. Photo by Victor Moreno

Besides learning tackle football, the Militia players are urged to participate in community service.

“Our goal is to perform at least one act of service as a team per season. This past season we assisted the Maricopa Food Bank (located at Santa Cruz Elementary School),” Taylor said. “This was a great opportunity for us to support and give back to our community. While at the Food Bank, our players were able to sort and prepare new and donated plastic bags to be filled with vital canned goods and grocery items for the families in need in our community.” See photos below.

Taylor said community service helps the players feel good about themselves through helping others. It also engages them in the community and creates bonds outside the football field.

“That event had a profound impact on our team, because they saw how volunteering can change our lives and the lives of others,” the team manager said. “It also provides a sense of purpose and teaches life lessons.”

The Militia play teams from all over the Valley. The team motto is “Honor, Strength and Courage.”

“We hope to start with that creed and build the confidence, responsibility, respect, discipline, service and team work in each player through our program,” the coach said. “It all starts and ends with fun and helping the players understand and develop a love for the game of football.”

Organizers chose the name Militia to echo the military comparisons intrinsic to football.

“Another reason we selected Militia is that we also really wanted to reflect our patriotism for this great country we live in,” Taylor said. “We have adopted an Americana theme with stars and stripes on our uniforms. With the name Maricopa Militia, we would like to draw from the meaning that helped in the creation of America during the Revolutionary War. We also pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country today.”

Being part of NYS allows the team to keep its costs down and keep the program affordable. Taylor said the team also benefits from “generous donations” from Maricopa businesses like Water and Ice and Native Grill & Wings. This year’s goal is to play in the NYS National Tackle Championship tournament in San Diego.


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Brandon Harris. Submitted photo

Maricopa High School named its new head football coach this week, pending board approval.

District Athletic Director Brian Winter confirmed Brandon Harris, 47, will lead the varsity team in the upcoming school year.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board will officially vote to approve the new hire March 28. Harris replaces Chris McDonald, who was recently hired as Basha head football coach.

“Brandon is an excellent communicator and motivator,” Winter said. “He had a very successful and extensive coaching career at both the high school and collegiate level. He will be a great addition to MHS.”

Harris’ resume includes high school head coaching positions in Arizona, New York and most recently, Florida’s University School of Southeastern University.

He’s held administration and assistant coaching positions at Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler, was passing game coordinator at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix and offensive coordinator at Desert Vista High School, among others.

Harris played for University of Idaho and later professionally with the Sacramento Surge in the World League of American Football.

Harris has co-owned RedLine Athletics training facility in Chandler since 2015.

An Arcadia resident and Southern California native, Harris is no stranger to Maricopa. He owned a home in The Villages in 2007 before he relocated to Buffalo, New York, for a head coaching position at Canisius High School, which won a state championship in 2009.

He now plans to move back to Maricopa.

“(MHS) just needs someone that really wants to be there, and I want to be there,” Harris said.

The new head coach began watching tape and evaluating his new players recently. Harris said he wants to work with the existing culture at MHS to continue creating excitement on Friday nights.

Most importantly, he said, is his goal of encouraging the personal growth of his players.

“I’ve coached and been part of six state title championship teams, and three of them are my own as head coach” Harris said. “We’re going to do that, but they need to win in the classroom, win in the hallways, win in their own personal life, and then winning will take care of itself.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

MHS volleyball team at Mesquite for play-in. Photo by Jennifer Ford.

Except for one athlete, Maricopa High School wrapped up its fall sports season last week.

Evelyn Corliss, a sophomore runner on the cross country team, ran a personal best 21:37 in the 5K at the Division II Section IV meet Friday. She finished 15th, which qualified her for the Arizona State Championships, which are Nov. 4 at Cave Creek Golf Course. The top 25 runners in each section advanced along with the qualified teams.

“She ran her heart out,” coach Heather Abel said. “She really deserves it.”

Senior Alondra Borbolla Gonzalez finished 27th in 22:36. Freshman Alyssa Frarck was 69th in 25:39. Sophomore Juni Hall was 74th in 26:42. Freshman Kaitlyn Crean was 84th in 30:07, and junior Hayley Mase was 85th in 30:29. Among the boys, junior Alec Kramarczyk was team leader in 31st place in 18:27. Senior Chet Carroll, who won the Maricopa Mud Run the following day, ran 70th in 20:01. Freshman Jovanni Fentes was 79th in 20:53. Sophomore Carlos Chavez ran a personal best 20:55 to finish 80th. Junior Diego Riva was 84th in 21:48. Junior Orion Martin was 91st in 23:19. Senior Gio Hernandez was 92nd in 23:20.

Thursday, the volleyball team, ranked 20th in 5A, competed in a play-in game for a chance to qualify for the state tournament. The Rams fell to No. 13 Mesquite in three, 25-14, 25-18, 25-18. That ended their season with an official overall record of 12-7 and second place in 5A Metro.

Friday, the MHS football team ended its season at home by defeating McClintock in a down-to-the-wire contest. This season, junior Tylen Coleman led all of 5A in sacks with 12, a total was 10th across all divisions in the state. Junior Jacob Cowing was second in 5A overall and first in 5A Metro in receiving yards with 1,081. Senior Alec Smith was third in 5A Metro in passing yards with 1,632, which was 10th in 5A overall. A running quarterback, he had 2,030 total yards. Senior Kemo Akins was third in 5A Metro in rushing yards with 1,040, 17th in all of 5A.


Photo by RaquePhoto by Raquel Hendricksonl Hendrickson


After a Jekyll-and-Hyde season, the Maricopa High School varsity football team went out with a bang Friday night.

The Rams put a choke hold on McClintock in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, preventing a field goal that could have won the game for the Chargers. Instead, Maricopa came out with a 21-20 victory.

That gave the Rams a 6-4 record.

“We overcame a ton of adversity for a one-point win,” head coach Chris McDonald said. “And it shouldn’t have been that.

“It took a fumble inside the red zone, another hold inside the red zone on two different drives and then a snafu on the punt for it to be a one-point game.”

McDonald said while he believes the Rams were a better team, the McClintock coaching staff has done a “phenomenal” job with the 6-4 Chargers. Maricopa’s defense had its hands full with McClintock’s senior running back Tyrese Green, but were able to corral him enough to keep the Rams’ game together.

“We had a lot of energy to start off the game, because of course it was Senior Night, and everybody was amped up and ready to go,” senior quarterback Alec Smith said. “And then we kind of hit a couple of rough spots toward the end of the game, but the defense held strong and let us get the W.”

The fact of Senior Night was motivating enough to allow the Rams to shake off two hard-luck losses that pushed them out of playoff contention. At moments, Friday’s game looked like it would follow the same path.

“It was a great game. We got the win, but we just got to finish,” Maricopa senior running back Kemo Akins said. “That was a big key of what we needed to do, just execute and get the job done.”

Akins scored the first of Maricopa’s three touchdowns and the first score of the game just seconds into the second quarter. That lead lasted about three minutes before McClintock tied the score.

However, junior Jacob Cowing took the subsequent kickoff and returned it all the way for a touchdown. Though the point-after kick failed, Maricopa was ahead 13-7.

Just before halftime, the Rams had a messy series that left them at fourth-and-21 and an obvious punt situation. But the hike soared out of arm’s reach, and McClintock landed on it on the 4-yard line. That quickly turned into a touchdown and gave the Chargers the 14-13 lead at the break.

During the time in the locker room, McDonald told his defense if they could hold McClintock to just one more touchdown, the Rams could win the game.

“I think our team, I think Maricopa itself, we’ve always been good at facing adversity. We’ve always been underdogs, no matter what it is,” senior lineman Taylor Belcher said. “Seems like everyone’s out to get us, but we don’t get discouraged by any big-name schools. We always just fight back, no matter what’s happening.”

The Rams battled through a back-and-fourth third quarter. They finally found themselves with first-and-goal on the 1. Then second-and-goal on the 2 and third-and-goal back on the 1, before Smith broke past the Chargers to score. He then ran in the two-point conversion, and Maricopa was on top, 21-14.

The teams traded penalties, punts and turnovers the rest of the game. McClintock scored on an 8-yard run midway through the fourth, but an attempted two-point conversion failed. The Chargers had another chance with 53.4 seconds left and tried for a field goal.

The kick went awry, and the Rams celebrated a game that was a near-perfect synopsis of the season.

“This season was really a test of keep going no matter what the circumstances,” Belcher said. “At the beginning it was just great. We were mowing people over, but we faced some adversity midway through the season. But we just got to keep going. Just got to tell yourself to keep going no matter what.”

“It was a bumpy road – a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” Akins said.

McDonald, too, said the team had to learn to handle adversity in a season that was “a roller-coaster ride.”

“Football’s going to come and go,” the coach said. “But these young men have got to go out into society, and they’ve got to be productive and they’ve got to be able to handle adversity. Some of them still need to learn how to handle adversity a little bit better, and we addressed that.

“I hope that they leave, and 10 years from now they come back and they’ve got families and they’ve got good jobs. That’s more important.”

Members of the team were already putting the season into that rear-view mirror perspective despite a rough season of disappointments.

“Coming out of the Senior Night with a W is just something I’ll always remember,” Belcher said. “I’m thankful for all my underclassmen working their tails off. They know they’ll be here next year, two years from now, working just as hard. I’m proud of my team and everything that we’ve come to do.”

“I love my team,” Akins said. “I really do.”

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Photo by Anita McLeod

Sequoia Pathway Academy’s varsity football team moved to 4-3 on the season with a victory in its final home game Friday. The Pumas defeated Heritage Academy-Laveen, 14-6. The school also celebrated Senior Night for the young team. SPA is scheduled to finish its season Oct. 27 against Harvest Prep at Desert Sun Stadium. The Pumas are in second place in the Fiesta Conference of the Canyon Athletic Association.


Isaiah Crawford takes down Kellis' Ricky Luna in a Maricopa loss Friday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson.

In a defense-heavy 5A Metro contest at Kellis in Glendale, Maricopa High School lost the penultimate game of its football season in nail-biting fashion, 16-14.

The Cougars’ penchant for two-point conversions was the difference in the game Friday night when Maricopa could not pull off a last-second field goal. The Rams, feeling the pressure to win to have hopes of reaching the playoffs, were inconsolable afterward.

“The defense played their butts off,” head coach Chris McDonald said. “They played extremely hard. We left them on the field too much in the first half.”

Junior tackle Tylen Coleman had three sacks in the first half, and senior Zion Saole threw in another.

The teams battered on each other in the first quarter, frustrating both offenses. Kellis drew first blood with a 27-yard touchdown pass followed by a two-point conversion. The Rams, meanwhile, struggled to get out of their end of the field.

“The field position was horrible for us in the first quarter,” McDonald said.

The second quarter, however, started out with an interception by junior Jacob Cowing, which set up Maricopa’s first scoring drive. At the end of a messy possession, Cowing took a pass from senior quarterback Alec Smith 21 yards for the score.

Trailing by a point, the Maricopa defense continued to thwart the Cougars, overcoming a fumble and forcing the ball over on downs twice.

The Rams trailed the Cougars 8-7 at the halftime break.

With Kellis clamping down on Cowing and running backs Kemo Akins and Cam Sanders, Smith started breaking loose for long yardage in the third quarter. That threat helped Maricopa open up its offense on a long drive in the third that ended with Akins scoring from the 16 with 1:46 left in the quarter to go ahead 14-8.

Though penalties increased dramatically in the fourth quarter, Maricopa seemed to be finding its rhythm and taking control. But an interception at the 47 with 1:29 left in the game ultimately sank the Rams. It turned into a scoring drive, and suddenly Kellis was ahead 16-14 with just 54 seconds left.

Maricopa labored to get within field goal range. With just 2 seconds left and the Rams at third-and-15 at the 32 yard line, the field goal unit could not execute, and the game ended.

“The thing is, when you count on Cowing so much, they’re able to stack the box and then they double Cowing,” McDonald said. “We just need some other guys that can step up.”

Maricopa (5-4) closes out the regular season Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. by hosting McClintock (6-3) for Senior Night. As part of Red Ribbon Week at MHS, there will be a balloon release and other activities.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School sports could play teams closer to home next year if granted approval in a different 5A region next month.

Current conference standings for future 5A San Tan region football teams
Casteel (3A): 7-0
Higley (4A): 7-1
Williams Field (5A): 6-2
Campo Verde (5A): 5-2
Maricopa (5A): 5-3
Gilbert (6A): 3-3
Tempe (4A): 1-8

The Arizona Interscholastic Association set new placements for schools on Oct. 17 based on enrollment. MHS will maintain their 5A status, but would move into the San Tan region with Campo Verde, Casteel, Gilbert, Higley, Tempe and Williams Field.

Already in 5A San Tan is Williams Field and Campo Verde. Maricopa is currently in 5A Metro. Schools moving up conferences would be Tempe (4A), Higley (4A) and Casteel (3A). Gilbert would move down from 6A.

MHS Athletic Director Brian Winter said although student-athletes would be able to stay in class longer as away-game travel times would shorten, they would also be facing off against tough competition.

“Most of the teams proposed for the San Tan Conference/Region have extremely strong athletic programs, and so in certain sports we will be very challenged,” Winter said.

Predicted by Winter to be one of the most tested MHS programs would be Rams Football.

“Many of the teams in the proposed region have very strong, established football programs,” Winter said.

Schools have until Oct. 25 to appeal division placements. Winter did not indicate whether MHS desires to pursue an appeal.

MHS Football Coach Chris McDonald could not be immediately reached for comment.

The AIA will publish final division placements Nov. 15.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McDonald said he was disappointed in the Rams’ play.

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

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

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

Maricopa junioPhoto by Raquel Hendricksonr Jacob Cowing drags half the Apollo defense in Friday's home contest. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A field goal and a safety were all the scoring difference as the Maricopa High School football team dropped a home game Friday to 5A Metro rival Apollo.

The evenly matched teams both had ups and downs in the seventh game of the season. The Hawks’ pressure on the Rams, offensively and defensively, enabled them to stay just out of reach and take the 33-28 win.

“I felt like we left some plays on the field,” Rams head coach Chris McDonald said.

Both teams had giant, break-away plays for touchdowns followed by drives in which they had no momentum at all. Both defenses had big stops and their share of quarterback sacks, but also their share of breakdowns.

When Maricopa most needed it in the second half, “we just didn’t have any fire power,” McDonald said.

Apollo took special focus on senior running back Kemo Akins, who, with the exception of a huge, 55-yard scoring run, was held to 4 yards per carry. Akins still totaled 124 yards rushing, keeping him in Metro’s top three for running yards with 843 this season.

Junior Jacob Cowing, already well ahead of any other wide receiver in the Metro region, added to his yardage Friday with eight receptions for 212 yards. That included a final-minute, 89-yarder that allowed the Rams to pull within five points of Apollo. In all of 5A, Cowing is No. 2 in total receiving yards (970), and statewide he is No. 3.

Cowing and Akins each scored two touchdowns against Apollo.

Senior quarterback Alec Smith threw for 237 yards and ran for another 14. Smith is eighth in the 5A conference in passing yards with 1,283 and seventh in total yards with 1,477. In 5A Metro, he is behind only Kellis’ Cade Peterson both in passing yards and total yards.

In Friday’s game under a full moon, Apollo struck first, scoring midway through the first quarter. Maricopa could not answer until 9:06 was left on the clock in the second quarter, when Akins ran the ball in from the 6. It was the only time the score was tied.

Apollo’s busy running back Ali Mohamed ran in from the 2 with 1:55 left in the half. Apollo also scored quickly in the third quarter to go up 21-7.

Starting from horrible field position on their next drive at just the 5-yard line, the Rams had senior Cam Sanders doing the grunt work to get the ball to their own 20. Smith threw a bomb to Cowing, who took it 80 yards for the touchdown. Maricopa went into the final quarter trailing 21-14.

Apollo managed a field goal after a nice goal-line stand by the Ram defense. Soon after, Akins grabbed the ball on the 45 and ran it all the way in for a touchdown, moving Maricopa within three points of the Hawks, 24-21, with 8:43 left to play.

The Ram defense again had to make a goal-line stand at the end of a time-eating drive by Apollo, but this time the Hawks were able to score on a third-down pass from the 1 to lead 31-21 with 3:12 left. Then they trapped Maricopa in its own end zone for a safety.

But Maricopa played hard through the last minute, something McDonald was most proud of.

“We didn’t give up,” he said.

Starting on the 11-yard line with just 45.7 seconds remaining, Smith tossed the ball to Cowing who took a route up the left sideline all the way to the end zone.

The Rams made one last-ditch effort with an onside kick, hoping to grab possession, but Apollo landed on the ball and took care of it for the rest of the game.

The loss put Maricopa in third place in 5A Metro behind Apollo and Sunnyside, which are both 2-0 in the region. Sunnyslope is 4-3 overall (compared to Maricopa’s 5-2 record), and happens to be the Rams’ next opponent.

Maricopa plays the Vikings Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in Phoenix.

Kemo Akins (4) takes the ball from Alec Smith (14) in the Rams' victory at Ironwood. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Ranking seventh in 5A this season, the Maricopa High School football team came off a bye week to a rough start against Metro rival Ironwood.

In the end, the Rams came away with the 26-15 “completely ugly win,” head coach Chris McDonald said. The team sputtered out of the chute, often losing yardage to unfortunate execution and penalties, with even a 36-yard touchdown pass called back by a flag.

“From 2o to 20, we did a great job, and then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot with silly penalties near the goal line and took away 21 points,” McDonald said.

After junior Jacob Cowing took a pass from senior quarterback Alec Smith 62 yards for a touchdown, Maricopa went into halftime trailing 6-8.

During the break, they rallied themselves to return to Maricopa’s brand of football.

“We talked about how we need to relax and play our game,” McDonald said.

The chat was effective. The Rams scored on their first possession of the third quarter. A drive that started on their 35 culminated in a seven-yard TD run by senior Kemo Akins and a successful point-after kick by Josh Mendes. Immediately after, Ironwood fumbled the ball on its own 15, and Maricopa junior Tylen Coleman picked it up and scored. Mendes’ kick put the Rams up 20-8.

Ironwood was not finished, however. A 23-yard touchdown run put the Eagles just five points behind Maricopa with 4:11 left in the third.

But the Maricopa defense shut down the Eagles the rest of the night. Akins put the game away for the Rams in the fourth quarter on a 39-yard run up the left sideline. He was shoved across the corner of the end zone for the final touchdown.

“It’s nice that we’re in a position now as a program where we can still win not putting our best foot forward at times,” McDonald said.

Both teams had injuries, with the Rams losing junior Jimmy Cutajar for the game. He was taken to a hospital for treatment, but the coach said he sounded upbeat.

The win put Maricopa’s record at 5-1 (1-0). Ranked right behind them in 5A is Apollo, which is 4-1 going into tonight’s game. The Rams play Apollo next Friday.

“We need to improve,” McDonald said. “We’re not going to beat Apollo playing the way we did. It’s just not going to happen.”


Action from last year's tourney. Photo By Raquel Hendrickson

The yearly golfing event that benefits local athletes is set to tee off Saturday morning.

The eighth annual Maricopa High School Football Golf Tournament begins with an 8 a.m. shotgun start and a four-person scramble at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.

The registration fee per person is $125, and $500 per foursome.

Mark Rasmusson, MHS Football Booster Club president, said the money raised goes toward equipment, trips to football camps and meal planning.

The cost of meals alone each season is over $10,000.

“Every game-day we feed each team: the freshmen, JV and varsity; Along with varsity also every Thursday night before their games, so we are providing four meals a week basically,” Rasmusson said.

The booster club hopes to raise between $18,000 and $19,000 Saturday.

A variety of prizes are offered in the general tourney, including additional prizes for long drive, closest to the hole, and a $5,000 cash prize for a hole-in-one on hole No. 17.

Rasmusson said the event helps provide equal footing for Maricopa football players who play in a large division but live in what still feels like a small town.

“For our kids, sometimes there is a stigma about Maricopa, and we’re trying to provide the kids the same opportunity that every other kid in the state has,” Rasmusson said.

Participants have until 7:30 a.m. the day of the event to sign up. To register visit the Maricopa Rams Football Facebook page.



  • Scotty Cameron putter
  • Titleist driver
  • Traeger Smoker
  • 55 in. 4k smart TV
  • Steel case leap task chair
  • Troon golf package