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Maricopa High School

Yvanira Kelly Barbosa MHS 2020
Yvanira Kelly Barbosa smiles as she receives her diploma on Thursday morning from Patti Coutre, a school board member.

After a year that culminated in so much disappointment for many Maricopa High School graduates, the Class of 2020 and its accomplishments were celebrated Thursday during a drive-thru diploma distribution.

Amid blowing of car horns, thumping music, blowing balloons and cheers of congratulations, graduates clad in red caps and gowns were presented diplomas in their cars in a driveway at the high school, accompanied by family and friends. It began at 10:30 a.m. and was scheduled to last about four hours.

It was an effort by teachers, staff and administrators to give this year’s class of 512 graduates the best send-off they could – for now – as social distancing remains important during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Tracey Lopeman, superintendent of the Maricopa Unified School District, was helping to cheer on graduates in a year that they had virtually none of the traditional trappings of senior year.

“We’re trying to let our Maricopa Rams know how proud we are of them, and that we know that this is not what we had hoped for, but it’s only just the beginning, and their best is yet to come,” she said, greeting cars as they rolled toward the diploma distribution station.

“I would like for them to use their horns more so we can wake up the neighborhood, and make this the proper moment,” she said. “We’ve got to let them know: the Rams are graduating. We’re proud of them.”

“Make some noise,” she yelled to one car. “Congratulations!”

‘Really thoughtful’

Many graduates were grateful for the show of support.

“I think what they did was pretty nice, because currently we have to keep social distancing from each other,” said Alexandra Cuellar, 18, as she and her family waited to take photos at one of the backdrops set up in the student parking lot.

“The drive-thru was pretty nice, having the support of our staff and our teachers. It was nice to see them at least one last time,” she said. “Then, putting up these booths to take a picture with our families in front of our school, I thought that was really thoughtful and good of them.”

Her dad, Ricardo Cuellar, said he agreed with his daughter about the festivities, adding simply: “I am very proud.”

As he waited to take pictures with his family, Derek Blakely, 17, wore his red gown and mortarboard over a T-shirt and black Converse sneakers. He wore a tassel on his cap given to him by his sister, Rachel, who graduated from Maricopa High School in 2017. “I just broke the ’17 off,” he said, laughing.

He said the school year was a bit surreal.

“It was pretty weird,” Blakely said. “The weekend that we started spring break was the weekend that Disney and everything shut down and it all felt real. The whole coronavirus thing.

“For a while, it just felt like we never came back from break. At one point, we were going to come back, but then we just don’t.”

He said he was grateful for the pomp around the diploma drive-thru – attended by his parents, grandparents, his sister and her boyfriend – but conceded it was bittersweet in some ways.

“It’s so almost-something, you know,” he said. “It’s like a reminder about how real it could have been.”

“Like it’s nice and I appreciate it, obviously. You can see how much effort and love everyone put into this,” he said, before adding it was also “a reminder that, oh yeah, I didn’t get senior week, I didn’t get prom, I didn’t get so many things….”

GraduateTruck MHS 2020
A graduate waves from the back of a pickup truck during Thursday’s celebration of the Class of 2020. Photo by Kyle Norby

Quick and patient, with social distancing

Before 10:30 a.m., vehicles were lined up along North Taft Street and back onto Honeycutt Avenue in front of the school. Teachers and staff cheered from stations under canopies as cars waited. As the students entered the school grounds, they were greeted by a DJ blaring “Hey Ya” by Outkast and “Fire Burning on the Dance Floor” by Sean Kingston.

Many cars were decorated in black-and-red, with messages of congratulations and good luck next to their graduate’s name. Some were festooned with red, black and Spongebob balloons.

As graduates took their diplomas, they could move into the student lot to take photos at one of three backdrops to digitize the memory. The most popular backdrop, featuring a pattern of recurring MHS Rams and Adidas logos, was set up under a tree. A sign reminded: “Please be quick. Be patient. Respect Social Distancing.”

Most families were following the rules, taking their photos quickly and moving aside for the next group. Patience looked to be in good supply.

Nearby, two signs on cars summed up the difficult year, their traditional messages carrying more meaning this time around.

One read: “Class 2020 Class that Made History.”

The other: “The Tassle Was Worth The Hassle 2020 You Did It!”

Derek Blakely MHS 2020
Derek Blakely, a graduate of the Class of 2020 at Maricopa High School, poses for a photo with his diploma. Photo by Kyle Norby

‘Doing as much as they can’

The school’s efforts to make Diploma Day special did not go unnoticed.

“I appreciate it. It’s better than nothing,” said Nadia Chacon, 17, sitting in the passenger seat of a Chevy Traverse as she moved through the line. “They could have just sent me my diploma.”

Yvanira Kelly Barbosa, 17, was taking a positive view on a challenging year.

“It was a good year,” she said, simply. “It was fine.”

Her father, Jose Barbosa, said he appreciated the celebration being put on by the high school.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “The kids can come in and enjoy. I mean, they work all year. This is what we do for them.”

Graduate Aidan Di Maria picked up his diploma with two friends, Isaac Barrett and Brandon Ortega, who had much different experiences when they graduated in 2019.

“It just sucks that we can’t even have a trip, which I get,” he said. ““They are doing everything right. They can’t do much, so they are doing as much as they can.”

BrianWinter MHS2020
Brian Winter, outgoing principal at Maricopa High School, calls in the next graduate headed to the diploma station at Thursday’s distribution. Photo by Kyle Norby

The group wondered, though, if spreading out the distribution over a couple of days would have allowed graduates the opportunity to have more friends and family join them.

“There was other options than a drive-thru,” his mother noted. “And not in December.”

Outgoing principal Brian Winter greeted graduates, passing along his congratulations before radioing the student’s name 70 feet down the driveway to the folks grabbing diplomas and handing them out.

He said the event had one focus: the students.

“It’s about the kids,” he said. “It’s a difficult time, obviously. This group has lost a lot. And so anything that we can do to help celebrate the situation we want to do. And obviously the full-blown ceremony in December is going to be important as well.”

Then he turned to greet another car, another one of his graduates: “Congratulations!”


MHS Senior Giveaway
A promotional poster for the MHS 2020 student giveaway.

Seniors at Maricopa High School have one last chance to get entered for free prizes, but the clock is ticking.

The MHS 2020 Senior Giveaway will award more than 150 prizes contributed by local businesses and members of the community, including gift cards to restaurants, Visa gift cards, jewelry and makeup. Every prize is worth at least $25, organizers said.

Only MHS seniors are eligible for prizes. Anyone can enter a senior on the @Parents of MHS Rams Facebook group, but the senior must pick up the prize if they win.

A student’s name must be entered by the student or by family and friends in the comments on the Official Post of the @Parents of MHS Rams group while sharing a favorite high school memory. Students can be entered only once.

Seniors are being temporarily approved to join the group to get entered for the giveaway.

Winners will be selected by a computer-generated prize wheel.

But time is running out to get entered, as prizes will be awarded live on the Facebook group at 5 p.m. Thursday. Organizers of the giveaway are trying to reach as many students as possible, so enter your favorite senior’s name if not entered already.

Prizes have been donated by many businesses, including Buff City Soaps, Honeycutt Coffee, Plaza Bonita, Yogurt Jungle, Water and Ice and InMaricopa. Many others have donated prizes.

Community members helping with contributions include Patti Coutre, Cindi Price, Bob Marsh, Bree Campbell and many others.

The giveaway was organized by Amber Flores, a teacher at the high school, with the help of senior moms Kellie Goodrum, Gayle Randolph, Tahani Hanani, Diane Berg and Jamie West.

Earlier Thursday, graduating seniors will receive their diplomas in a drive-by distribution, according to an alphabetical schedule from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students were encouraged to wear their cap and gown for photos against an MHS banner/backdrop in the student parking lot.

Graduation at Maricopa High School will be different in 2020.

In a year when high school graduates nationwide are missing out on traditional celebrations due to public health considerations over coronavirus, Maricopa High School is working to ensure its seniors get proper recognition for their achievement.

After seniors voted overwhelmingly to have a traditional graduation ceremony in December, a planning committee continues to work on the details and will share them when finalized.

On May 21, the high school will release its graduation video on the district web site, according to the district calendar. In addition, Ak-Chin UltraStar will play the video on its large outdoor screen on dates and times to be determined and shared soon.

InMaricopa is helping to produce the video and will again print the high school’s graduation program, to be handed out to graduates with their diplomas. The plan to distribute diplomas is still being finalized and will be announced soon.

The high school’s online program and senior awards listing will be shared on May 4 with the school community, according to the calendar. Award pick-up will be May 6 in the student parking lot by the campus entrance gate. Yearbooks will be distributed on May 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Photos by Kyle Norby

Maricopa High school head coach Theresa Abernathy led summer volleyball camp June 20-22 in the high school gym. The high school season starts with a scrimmage Aug. 27.

Chandler Chang celebrating with his AP classmates when he learned the news. Submitted photo


By Bernadette Russoniello

Fewer than 1 percent of all graduating seniors will receive a “full-ride” scholarship to university. These opportunities are few and far between for most students.

Maricopa High School senior Chandler Chang received notification of his offer of the 2019-20 Flinn Scholarship.

The Flinn Scholarship offers amazing financial and programmatic benefits, including a network of mentoring and professional support that lasts far beyond graduating from university. Working with the Arizona universities and their respective honors colleges, the Flinn scholarship provides enriched educational offerings that expand a scholar’s life and career options while creating the stimulating, intellectually challenging environment students might find at the nation’s most selective colleges.

The value of the scholarship, including the tuition provided by the universities, exceeds $120,000. The Flinn Scholarship benefits include:

  • The full cost of tuition and mandatory fees, plus housing and meals;
  • Funding for a three-week summer seminar after the scholar’s freshman year in China and for at least one additional study-abroad experience;
  • Mentorship from top faculty and exposure to Arizona and global leaders in business, government, science and the arts.

Chandler is ranked No. 1 in his class of 417 students at MHS. He is a “commended scholar” from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, placing in the top 2 percent of PSAT/NMSQT test-takers in the state. He is an AP Scholar with the College Board and takes the most challenging courses at MHS while working part-time at McDonald’s, serving as drum major and class leader in the MHS Marching Band, tutoring with National Honor Society and helping classmates in their academics.

Submitted photo

In January, he received notice of his selection as a semi-finalist. He prepared for an intense, panel interview by speaking with current Flinn scholars and participating in a mock-interview with administration and community members at MHS.

In February, he was selected as a finalist. He toured the state universities and honors colleges, networked with current Flinn Scholars and prospective applicants, and faced a second interview in March. The week before spring break he received the incredible news: the Flinn Foundation extended an offer for him to accept the scholarship.

Chandler also applied to Stanford University. When asked if he would take the Flinn Scholarship over the Ivy League opportunity, Chandler replies “in a heartbeat – I can always attend Stanford for graduate school.”

Chandler plans to attend Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University this fall.

The Flinn Scholarship is a competitive, merit-based scholarship that is open to Arizona high school seniors. This year more than 800 applicants vied for the approximately 20 scholarships—an acceptance rate of less than 3 percent.

As a rule, Flinn Scholarship applicants should have an unweighted grade point average of at least 3.5 and score a minimum 29 on the ACT or 1,340 on the SAT.


This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.


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The group musical piece "Welcome to the Rock" from the show "Come From Away" earned Maricopa kids a superior score in Regionals. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School students who rated the top score of “superior” at Arizona Thespian Regional competition in January have been trying to raise funds to make the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for nationals.

Emme Boothe

The students – Emme Booth, Keara Burke, Genevieve Burno, Aidyn Curtis, Alexia Esquivel, Fallon Fruchey, Antonio Gonzales, Julianna Goodrum, Alex Hurley, Princess Jimenez, Brandon Korittky, Kade Kruse, Kiki Lemon, Hannah Panter, Haley Raffaele, Joey Russoniello, Emma Schrader, Chloe Seekings and Taryn Story – qualified in musical performances, monologues and duet scenes.

Find out how you can help through the Maricopa High Theatre Boosters:
• On Facebook @MaricopaHighTheatreBoosters
• By phone at 520-371-4146

Learn more about some of the young people:

Emme Boothe

Age: 16
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 10

Keara Burke

National-qualifying performance: Monologues from “Quiche Isn’t Sexy” and “The Children’s Hour”
MHS Theatre Co.: “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “I want to go to New York University for art and theatre.”


Keara Burke
Age: 17
Grade: 11
Years in Maricopa: 7
National-qualifying performance: Stage management of “Peter Pan”
MHS Theatre Co.: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “45 seconds from Broadway,” “Silent Sky,” stage manager for “Peter Pan”
Future plans: “My future plans are to go to ASU and get a BFA in theatre production in hopes to one day work on Broadway as a technician or be a stage manager for Disney theatrical productions.”


Genevieve Burno







Aidyn Curtis

Aidyn Curtis

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 9
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical and two monologues
MHS Theatre Co.: “Pirates of Penzance,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Peter Pan,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” stage manager for “Narnia,” musical director for “Beauty and the Beast,” director of “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: Attend ASU in the fall


Alexia Esquivel

Alexia Esquivel
Age: 18
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 2
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Narnia,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “45 Seconds from Broadway,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan”
Future plans: “I am going to be attending the University of Arizona in the fall, majoring in marketing with the Eller College of Business.”


Fallon Fruchey

Fallon Fruchey

Age: 15
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 15
National-qualifying performance: “’night, Mother” duet scene, “Mystery of Edwin Drood” solo musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: Attend New York University to study psychology and theatre



Antonio Gonzales



Antonio Gonzales
Age: 18
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 3.5
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” duet musical and two monologues
MHS Theatre Co.: “Beauty and the Beast,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “Silent Sky,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” director of “Silent Sky”
Future plans: “I plan on going to ASU and studying theatre, either the acting side or tech side of things.”


Julianna Goodrum

Julianna Goodrum

Age: 16
Grade: 11
Years in Maricopa: 2
National-qualifying performance: “Dear Evan Hansen” duet musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Peter Pan,” “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: Remain in the Theatre Company until I graduate and help out wherever I can, pursue education and creative arts, music, theater, etc.”




Alex Hurley

Alex Hurley
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 5
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Narnia,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Spring Awakening”
Future plans: Musician and/or actor/performer








Princess Jiminez

Princess Jimenez

Age: 16
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 3
National-qualifying performance: “’night, Mother” duet scene
MHS Theatre Co.: “Silent Sky,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan”
Future plans: “Social worker, open my own bakery, university”






Brandon Korittky

Brandon Korittky
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 17
National-qualifying performance: “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” duet musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Pirates of Penzance,” “Narnia,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “The Curious Savage,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “Live my life to the fullest”






Kade Kruse

Kade Kruse

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 9
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “And Then There Were None,” “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: Community college and then university






Kiki Lemon

Kjirsten “Kiki” Lemon
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 12
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Les Miserables,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “The Curious Savage,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “Study at university for theatre education, serve an LDS mission, eventually become a theatre instructor for high school.”



Hannah Panter

Hannah Panter

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 4
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Les Miserables,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Rumors,” “Narnia,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” director/stage manager of “Silent Sky”
Future plans: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education at a four-year university with a minor in music



Haley Raffaele

Haley Raffaele
Age: 14
Years in Maricopa: 9
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Peter Pan,” “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: “Continuing with the theatre company and the International Thespian Society. Maybe trying to get on the company cabinet.”




Joey Russoniello

Joey Russoniello
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Company: “[title of show]”
Future plans: Vocalist/Actor






Emma Schrader

Emma Schrader

Age: 15
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 13
National-qualifying performance: Two monologues
MHS Theatre Co.: “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “The Curious Savage,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “I dunno! Either actress, journalist or music creator”







Chloe Seekings

Chloe Seekings

Age: 17
Grade: 11
MHS Theatre Co.: “The Bakers Wife,” “Taming of the Shrew,” tech for “45 Seconds to Broadway,” assistant stage manager for “Peter Pan”
Other theater: Stage manager for “The Good Doctor” – Maricopa Community Theatre
Future goals: “I want to go to college and hopefully stage manager for a Broadway show one day. Also start a band.”






Taryn Story

Taryn Story

National-qualifying performances: “Me & the Sky” from “Come From Away” solo musical, “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Pirates of Penzance,” “Les Miserables,” “Narnia,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Taming of the Shrew,” ‘Tracks,” ‘Rumors,” “The Baker’s Wife,” ‘Peter Pan,” “The Audition,” “[title of show]” (director)
Future goals: Bachelor’s degree at ASU, major in theatre

MHS Theatre Company will present “Fiddler on the Roof” April 25-27 at Maricopa Performing Arts Center.

Jack Williams (left) and Cianni Burgos (right) spoke to the MUSD board about their experience in Ram Academy, run by MHS Vice Principal Steve Ybarra. Photos by Michelle Chance

Cianni Burgos dropped out of high school her senior year to care for her newborn daughter. Jack Williams encountered road blocks and was losing hope of graduating high school.

Both were among the first students in Maricopa High School’s Ram Academy – a credit recovery program for juniors and seniors.

“I was at a point in my life where I felt like there wasn’t much room to go, and when I heard about Ram Academy I felt like that was my opportunity to get somewhere in life,” Williams said during a presentation to the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board this week.

Williams recently graduated, and Burgos will complete her final high school credit in May.

Teachers make the program

The school-within-a-school at MHS opened in August 2017 and has since graduated 12 students previously at-risk of never receiving a diploma.

Unsurprisingly, the school is an alternative from the traditional campus in many ways.

At a maximum 125-student capacity, Ram Academy sticks to a 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

The small staff bring with them big experience, according to the school’s administrator, Assistant Principal Steve Ybarra.

“It is a team effort, and teachers make the program,” Ybarra said.

The five “master teachers” are highly qualified instructors in their individual subjects, Ybarra said. Two of them are former principals, and another has experience in guidance counseling.

Recruitment of the teaching dream team began last summer.

“I told them in the interview(s), ‘I’m not going to question what you teach, I just want you to make connections with kids,” Ybarra said. “That’s the key. Making those connections,” Ybarra said.

Math teacher Reid Martin is a former principal who moved from Kansas to teach math at Ram Academy. His wife is a teacher at MHS.

He’s been tasked with incorporating the district’s new math curriculum into the program’s accelerated schedule – while in its inaugural year of operation.

Despite the challenges, Martin said the students are thriving under the one-on-one attention from staff.

“We teach kids how to advocate for themselves in a way that is really applicable,” Martin said. “The relationships that the kids have in Ram Academy, they walk into an environment that is completely different than our high school. The culture that is being created inside Ram Academy is really unique.”

Students get second chance

Life outside of the classroom for many Ram Academy students threatened their ability to obtain a high school degree.

Fifth-year seniors – students who dropped out senior year and have returned – are among Ram Academy’s most successful participants.

“At the start of my original senior year, I was having my daughter. She’s now one and a half years old,” Burgos told the governing board March 28.

The young mother said she nearly lost the drive to pursue a diploma. But then she enrolled in Ram Academy.

She found small class sizes and thoughtful guidance when selecting courses.

“I have a personal connection with every teacher I have, (and it) makes me so much more motivated to graduate,” she said.

Her name and photo will soon be displayed on the school’s wall of fame – an encouraging tribute to Ram Academy’s graduates.

A face already featured on the walls is Williams’.

“I’m proud to say I’m a graduate and I’m expecting a son in the upcoming month, so everything is falling in place,” Williams said.

A few of the academy’s students come from the foster care system. One, Ybarra explained, was a 17-year-old student who had no high school credits.

Another student aged out of the foster system and was displaced from Maricopa.

“The family didn’t want her anymore because they weren’t going to get payment, and so she ended up going to a group home on the west side,” Ybarra said.

For three weeks, the group home funded a taxi to and from Maricopa to allow the student to graduate, according to Ybarra.

“There was no way she would be able to start new someplace else and get any credit,” he said.

Twelve additional students are expected to graduate by the end of the school-year.

Higher-education challenges

As the projected graduation rate at the academy grows, the program failed in its first year to promote college enrollment.

Ybarra said attempts to schedule university tours for Ram Academy students this school year were unsuccessful. However, he said, military representatives have visited the school.

The academy also encouraged students to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and the ACT standardized admissions test.

He said the program hopes to coordinate with MHS Career and College Coordinator Bernadette Russoniello in the future to better promote post-high school education.

Expansion in program’s future

Ram Academy operates in a few existing CTE classrooms and a modular building on the northside of campus. Ybarra said the limited space is adequate for the program’s small capacity – which he attributes to some of its success.

However, Board Member Torri Anderson expressed her desire to see the program grow.

In the future, Anderson said Ram Academy would ideally enroll freshmen and sophomores identified as being at-risk of becoming credit deficient.

Ybarra said the program would embrace growth in enrollment, so long as Ram Academy could find a larger house of learning.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

After upheaval in Maricopa High School’s administration level last fall, district officials confirmed Monday another assistant principal is on leave.

MHS Assistant Principal Heidi Vratil reportedly went on an unspecified leave of absence last week, according to Maricopa Unified School District Human Resources Director Tom Beckett.

“Dr. [Steve] Chestnut announced to the high school staff on Wednesday, March 7, that Heidi Vratil was on leave,” Beckett said March 12. Chestnut left his position as superintendent March 9.

Beckett did not clarify whether Vratil was placed on administrative leave nor provide reasoning behind her absence, citing it as a “personnel issue.”

Vratil said she preferred not to comment.

Vratil is a longtime MUSD educator, administrator and a National Board-certified teacher. Her work as assistant principal at MHS focuses on curriculum and instruction. Vratil has advocated for teacher mentorship programs and professional development through the NBCT program while regularly reporting teachers’ progress at MUSD Governing Board meetings.

She is among 32 administrative staff members listed as returning for next year in the personnel schedule released Feb. 28.

Vratil’s leave is among many in leadership positions at MHS this school year. Vratil was temporarily acting principal while former principal Renita Myers was placed on administrative leave in September.

In October, Myers and former Assistant Principal Mallory Miller resigned.

Former Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel took over for Vratil’s temporary principal assignment that month after his own brief leave of absence from the middle school.

Abel is expected to carry out the principalship position until the end of the school year. Current athletic director Brian Winter has been hired to take on that role next year.

Explanations regarding all the administrators’ leaves of absence have remained vague or non-existent by district officials.

Maricopa High School Football vs Willow Canyon , 08-18-2017, Jonathan Williams

Scoring six touchdowns, the Maricopa High School football team won its first game of the season 45-13 over Willow Canyon Friday.

The Rams racked up 498 yards, 299 in a passing yards accumulated by quarterbacks Alec Smith and Devin Parady. The offensive and defensive lines made an obvious impact from the start, the O-line helping Maricopa to score on its first two possessions while the defense stifled the Wildcats.

Cameron Sanders, Kemo Akins and Jacob Cowing combined for the Rams touchdowns, with Cowing rushing and receiving to score.

“I think Cowing is an All-State caliber type kid, and they’re giving him one-on-one matchups, and our quarterbacks know what to do when that happens,” head coach Chris McDonald said.

Willow Canyon, a 5A team from the Northwest Region, found most of its effectiveness in the air, with 201 passing yards, but never threatened Maricopa. The Rams had the Wildcat offense under pressure all game. Junior tackle Tylen Coleman in particular seemed to be all over Willow Canyon quarterback Brendan Haynes to the point that McDonald was surprised he was still standing at the end of the game.

“The defense played awesome. For the most part they kept them off the scoreboard. They were put in two different situations in bad field positions where they had to respond, and the they did,” McDonald said.

Maricopa scored three touchdowns in the second quarter. It was 24-0 nothing before Willow Canyon got on the board with a passing play, but the Rams came right back with a 52-yard pass from Smith to Cowing to lead 31-6 at the half.

The Rams held Willow Canyon scoreless in the third while getting another rushing touchdown from Akins. In the fourth, Cowing ran in Maricopa’s final touchdown at the 5:20 mark to put the game away.

“It was a great team win, a really good team win,” head coach Chris McDonald said.

“Obviously we’ve got to clean some things up. We were misaligned at times,” McDonald said. He also wasn’t happy with the kickoff unit, which he called inconsistent.

Smith passed for 292 yards and a touchdown. Parady had 45 yards on one pass that resulted in a touchdown. Akins rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Sanders rushed for 37 yards and two touchdowns. Cowing caught eight passes for 275 yards and two touchdeowns.

Maricopa now prepares for Paradise Valley, a 5A Northwest Valley team that lost its season-opener to Verrado, 54-28. The game is in Paradise Valley at 7 p.m.

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Maricopa High School teacher Bernadette Russoniello (center) received the ACTE Teacher of the Year award. Submitted photo

At the 42nd annual Arizona Association of Career Technical Educators’ Conference, ACTE AZ awarded Maricopa High School’s marketing teacher, Bernadette Russoniello, Teacher of the Year.

Russoniello was honored for her contributions in the classroom, in the student career technical organization DECA, and for her considerable involvement in Career Technical Education Leadership across the state of Arizona.

Her list of accomplishments includes growing a state/nationally recognized marketing program with more than 150 members, increasing recruitment and retention in the marketing program, producing more than 100 regional medalists and more than 30 international competitors, establishing community activities and partnerships and standing out as a leader across her field.

Russoniello currently serves as the president of the Arizona Marketing Education Association, is a sophomore fellow for ACTE AZ concentrating in counseling and leadership, and is a National DECA certified trainer. Russoniello represents Maricopa Unified presenting at multiple state and national conferences on topics including project-based learning in the business and marketing classroom as well as sharing innovative ideas for program growth and retention.

Photo by Michelle Chance

The circular drive in front of the Maricopa High School office is not designated for student drop-off and parent parking, according to officials at the school.

In preparation for the first day of classes Aug. 7, the MHS website published a statement to parents reminding them parking is not permitted in the area.

MHS Office Manager Paula Pavlosky said she posted the notice online because the often fast driving speeds of parents there are a safety issue.

“It does become a very dangerous area, and as much as we tell parents the roundabout is not where you park, they still do and leave their car running, and run into the office, and sign their kids in,” she said.

Parents usually park in the area when they are signing in a tardy student, or while picking up a student, Pavlosky said.

If a student misses the last morning bell after 7:30 a.m., parents must sign students in at the front office, but park in the permitted spaces in the front parking lot, Pavlosky said.

“No students are allowed through the front door unless your parent is actually physically walking you in,” Pavlosky said.

However, parents have been known to drop their students off in front of the office when they are not late. The designated drop-off zone for students who are on time is off Taft Avenue, which is west of the main entrance.

School policy requires office staff to direct students who are dropped off at the front office to walk around to the Taft entrance.

“If you (drop them off at the office) at 7:25, we are going to turn them out and they are going to have to walk all the way around anyway, and then they definitely will be late,” Pavlosky said.

The curb encircling the drive is painted red as a “no parking” fire zone. However, Pavlosky said parents still park there despite that and school notifications in the past to cease the practice.

No children or adults have been physically injured in the circular drive, but Pavlosky said “we’ve had an instance where a teacher’s car was hit by a parent’s car.”

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Noah Salinas came to Maricopa High School for his senior year intent on being part of the sports teams. Photo by Victor Moreno

Most people, when faced with a life challenge, obscure their adversity and then hope to heavens it doesn’t reveal itself. Others dig in and face the opposing force head on.

Maricopa High School graduate Noah Salinas is without a doubt that second type.

Originally from Sterling, Colorado, Salinas, 18, was born missing the lower half of both legs along with his entire left hand, a condition referred to as tri-amelia. Such a condition can severely limit a person’s ability to function, sometimes forcing them into a wheelchair and/or a life of assisted-living.

For Salinas, nothing could be further from reality.

He became an athlete.

Before starting school, Salinas had no concept of being different. It didn’t dawn on him until he showed up the first day of kindergarten and saw other kids without prosthetics.

He returned home that day and received a rather straight-forward explanation from his parents, one that evidently had a major effect on the way he would later approach life.

Soon after discovering this potentially constraining position in life, around age 5 or 6, he found surprising success at one of the activities few would imagine he could even attempt – wrestling.

Noah Salinas upends an opponent in sectional competition. Photo by Victor Moreno

Salinas was a natural athlete, according to his mother Amber, and he became interested in other sports, including the very physical game of football. A few years after playing in a few pick-up games with his cousins, Noah joined a youth team in Colorado.

When trying new, daunting tasks Salinas claimed to never make much of a consideration for his condition.

“I don’t really think about it; I never really let it get to me,” Salinas said. “I just kind of try it and go from there.”

Others are not so capable of overlooking his prosthetics. For those people, Salinas has a special response.

“I would always just make jokes about myself,” he said. “So they knew I didn’t care and that I was going to do what I needed to do to be successful in life.”

While growing up, Salinas switched back and forth periodically between football and wrestling. In 2015, after his family came to Arizona, Noah attended Williams Field High School in Higley and made the football team. Due to the coaches’ attempts to shelter Noah, his mother said, he was never allowed to play in games.

Noah was the recipient of the national Sports Authority Courage Award in 2016.

His family decided to bring him out to Maricopa, where they hoped he would have a chance at playing. Again, he was not on the field much. But, like much of his life, he never really let that get him down.

“I guess they [football coaches] were afraid of me getting hurt,” Salinas said. “I understand that.”

With all the focus on football, he avoided the mat most of his high school career until his senior year, when he thought he’d give it one last try.

He finished with an almost even record at 16 wins and 18 losses in the 182-pound weight class, pinning six of those opponents and earning a respectable 85 points for his team throughout the season.

To give himself better purchase on the mat, Salinas removes his prosthetics when wrestling and instead dawns rubberized socks. Removing his prosthetics gives him another advantage as well.

He towers over most opponents when wearing his prosthetics, standing well over 6-feet tall. However, with his legs removed, he is slightly shorter than most of his opponents, making it more difficult to take him down.

“That makes it so they can’t really get to me the same,” Salinas said.

Photo by Victor Moreno

All athletic prowess aside, Salinas is an otherwise typical teenager, with concerns about girls and friends. But most importantly, Noah is looking to the future.

Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, Salinas is considering a career in welding. And though he hardly ever wears his prosthetic hand because it causes discomfort, he has conceded when it comes to welding he will most likely have to have some sort of prosthetic.

Because of work, Salinas’s family had to return to the Higley-Queen Creek area this year before school could finish. Fortunately for Salinas, he said, his close friend and fellow MHS wrestler Kevin McDill has a “really great” family who offered to let Noah stay through graduation.

Wrestling head coach Erick Fierro chats with Noah Salinas on graduation night.

Salinas plans to attend one of the community colleges in the area to receive the vocational training needed to become a professional welder.

He isn’t afraid of any barriers he could face in the often rough-neck field of metal workers and welders. He simply plans to stay true to his philosophy.

“When somebody says, ‘you can’t do it,’ and I do it anyways, it proves them wrong,” Salinas said. “I like proving them wrong.”

Salinas shows off his prosthetics, a version of which he has worn since childhood. Photo by Mason Callejas

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Some of Maricopa's "super seniors" are (from left) Nikolas Mase, Tyler Curtis, Pamela Crabajales, Abigail Paternina, John Blodgett, Diamond Sims, Aisawan Chanpraphap, Marina Vasquez and Carlos Venegas. Photo by Victor Moreno

The class of 2017 at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy is filled with many goal-oriented, career-minded individuals. Learn about just a few of them as they prepare for the commencement of their next steps. The MHS graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium. Co-valedictorians are Alfred Abraham and John Blodgett. Salutatorian is Rachel Blakely. The SPA ceremony is May 26 at 7 p.m. in its gymnasium. Valedictorian is Hailey Cantrell. Salutatorian is Anali Warner.


Alfred Abraham

Alfred Abraham (submitted photo)

Born in India and raised his first three years in Singapore, Abraham is the co-valedictorian of Maricopa High School’s graduating class. Considered to be “Special Ed” early in school, he has since been the academic leader of the Class of 2017 all through high school, with his career sights set on biomedical engineering.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: India
Career goals: Engineer

Accomplishment: Member of a team that placed eighth out of 24 in a Vex Robotics competition with limited time and resources to prepare compared to other teams.

Reaction: I was initially surprised. For much of the competition, my team was doing just average; it stayed at 12th place out of 24. But then, after the last three or four rounds, we ended up in eighth place. Immediately after a moment of surprise, I felt happy. The skill of my teammates was a key factor in our success, and I was proud of what we accomplished. This prepared me for the workforce as Vex Robotics promotes the development of scientific and mathematical skills, skills that are essential for engineering.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I will attend ASU in August in order to get at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. While in college, I will do internships in my specific field, biomedical engineering, that will give me some career-related experience. I also aim to get a part-time job around Maricopa after my graduation so I can get some experience in the workplace.


Rachel Blakely

Rachel Blakely (submitted photo)

A long-timer by local standards, Blakely has been a Maricopa resident since kindergarten and is now the salutatorian of her class at Maricopa High School. As a freshman she was already taking junior-level math and tackled senior-level math as a sophomore, setting herself on the path to a career.

Years in Maricopa: 13
Originally from: Mesa
Career goal: High school math teacher

Accomplishment: Being two years ahead in math

Reaction: Proud of my hard work and realized it was something I wanted to do in my life after high school.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? Attend University of Portland and major in secondary education and mathematics, hard work, determination and dedication.


John Blodgett

John Blodgett. Photo by Victor Moreno

A co-valedictorian at Maricopa High School, Blodgett is a cadet major in the Air Force Junior ROTC program, Link Crew leader, National Honor Society member, teacher assistant, Robotics team member, member of cross country and track teams and a member of Si Se Puede Foundation. He received two military academy appointments and chose West Point.

Years in Maricopa: 12
Originally from: Phoenix
Career goal: U.S. Army officer

Accomplishment: Receiving appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Reaction: I was very excited! Knowing that all of my hard work in high school had gotten me accepted to one of the best schools in the country caused great joy to surge through me.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on continuing to strive for my goals by trying to be the best I can in everything I do, while at the same time helping others do the same.


Hailey Cantrell

Hailey Cantrell (submitted photo)

Cantrell is the valedictorian at Sequoia Pathway Academy. A member of the National Honor Society, she has been on every Principal’s List throughout high school. She completed two college English courses and a child development course and has been a mentor. She will attend Grand Canyon University and plans to return to PSA as an assistant Student Council advisor.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Newport Beach, California
Career goal: Teacher, administrator, professor

Accomplishment: Student Council president for two years

Reaction: We all went through our speeches, and when I finished everyone smiled. It made me happy because I was elected to lead and better our school.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I will continue to stay organized, responsible and not give up. Also, this career is what makes me happy. I just want to help students; I want to teach them valuable lessons. 


Aisawan Chanpraphap

Aisawan Chanpraphap. Photo by Victor Moreno

Chanpraphap’s family moved to the United States when she was 7 years old and moved from Virginia to Maricopa when she was in fifth grade. A gifted art student at Maricopa High School, she also runs cross country and track.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Thailand
Career goal: Art teacher

Accomplishment: Won second place at Art on the Veranda against professionals

Reaction: I went to help out at Art on the Veranda expecting it to be the same as last year, where all I did was help sell art pieces, but during the early morning session I noticed a judge circling around my art piece and examining it. I did not want to get my hopes up so I kind of pushed it to the back of my mind, to the point that I actually forgot about it altogether. So it came as a big shock when the judge came back around and told me to go get my ribbon in front of a small crowd!

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? Attend NAU majoring in art education in the fall, and once I am more financially independent I would like to attend an actual art school, preferably The Art Institute of Chicago.


Pamela Crabajales

Pamela Crabajales. Photo by Victor Moreno

Crabajales has been involved with a number of institutions around town, from Youth Council to Maricopa Police Department, while being a member of the National Honor Society and DECA at Maricopa High School. She is a Link Crew leader and school newspaper editor.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Philippines
Career goal: United Nations nurse

Accomplishment: Having the opportunity to volunteer with the different organizations in Maricopa. It led me to find my passion in helping to serve others.

Reaction: One day that really stuck out to me was when I was volunteering for Against Abuse Inc. with their latest gala. That night I saw how much the cause meant a lot to people and I felt like I was a part of something great. I realized how much I enjoyed giving back to my community.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on taking steps before leaping to my main goal of being a United Nations nurse by attending college and later specializing in forensics so that I gain plenty of experience and help plenty of people along the way. 


Tyler Curtis

Tyler Curtis. Photo by Victor Moreno

Curtis has grown from being the Maricopa Unified School District spelling champ in elementary school to a virtual repertory actor in four plays a year. She will attend a private conservatory in New York City.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Denver, Colorado
Career goal: Broadway performer

Accomplishment: Cast as Madame Thenardier in “Les Miserables”

Reaction: It was my favorite role out of the 12 I’ve been able to do at MHS.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I’m attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy to pursue musical theatre to continue my training.


Nikolas Mase

Nikolas Mase. Photo by Victor Moreno

An accomplished singer and actor, garnering scores of Excellent and Superior in state competition, Mase came to Maricopa High School from Legacy Traditional School.

Years in Maricopa: 5
Originally from: New York
Career goal: Broadway performer and theater teacher

Accomplishment: Playing Javert in “Les Miserables”

Reaction: I was ecstatic. Javert has been one of my dream roles, and I was amazed that I had the opportunity to portray his character as a high schooler.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I am planning on pursuing an education in musical theatre. After getting the training I need, I am going to move to New York and start auditioning for shows on Broadway. After obtaining my degree I would also like to become certified to teach theatre so I can continue to inspire students just as my high school theatre teacher inspired me.


Karla Orci Vega

Karla Orci Vega (submitted photo)

Orci Vega is on track to earn two nursing certificates through CAVIT by her Maricopa High School graduation. Also a softball player, she is planning to earn her master’s degree in nursing, taking her next educational step at Central Arizona College.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Tempe
Career goal: Nurse practitioner

Accomplishment: Getting accepted into the CAVIT Nursing Program

Reaction: I got a letter in the mail telling me I was accepted into the program. I felt relieved because it was a huge step in the right direction for me. It made me feel excited as well because it would help me determine if nursing would be the right career for me.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals going forward? I will be attending CAC in Maricopa. Then I will transfer to ASU and finish school there.


Abigail Paternina

Abigail Paternina. Photo by Victor Moreno

A child of immigrants, Paternina took several AP classes at Sequoia Pathway Academy after advancing from Leading Edge Academy, received a class poetry award her junior year and was named Homecoming queen this year. She will attend Northern Arizona University.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Clifton, New Jersey
Career goal: Cultural studies

Accomplishment: Full-ride scholarship to NAU

Reaction: I still recall the utmost joy I felt upon receiving the admission call that fateful day in November. I was home alone and could not stop thanking the admissions officer after she told me, and upon my parents’ arrival home, could not stop the beam that overtook my features when telling them the news of my admission.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on achieving these goals by applying and pushing myself toward excellence and beyond boundaries in college, and by exposing myself to new opportunities by putting myself out there. After university, I plan on joining the Peace Corps and embarking on a two-year mission abroad in Colombia, in order to give back to my parents’ home country, which I would be nothing without.


Diamond Sims

Diamond Sims. Photo by Victor Moreno

Sims came to Maricopa High School as a freshman and soon set a goal to obtain a master’s degree in law. Wanting to do that as soon as possible, she attended summer school to put her on the path to graduating a year early and will attend Arizona State University.

Years in Maricopa: 3
Originally from: Joliet, Illinois
Career goal: Criminal attorney

Accomplishment: Completing two classes of summer school to qualify for early graduation

Reaction: During the last day of my summer classes I was anxious and relieved because I knew the following summer I’d be getting ready to go to college to finally start my dream career.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals going forward? I’ll complete 10 years of schooling and within the first eight years I’ll do internships to build up my skill to become a criminal lawyer.


Robinson Torres

Robinson Torres (submitted photo)

An honor roll student at Maricopa High School, Torres is a nursing program student in CAVIT, helping at a clinic in Sacaton. He has worked blood drives and helped feed needy children. He will attend Central Arizona College.

Originally from: Brooklyn, New York
Career goal: Physical therapist/sports medicine

Accomplishment: CAVIT Clinics

Reaction: The CAVIT clinics helped people. It was heart-warming and breath-taking.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? Going to CAC for two years, thanks to my Promise to the Future, then I’ll transfer to a four-year university that specializes in my desired profession. Most important part to achieve my goal is hard work and dedication.


Marina Vasquez

Marina Vasquez. Photo by Victor Moreno

Vasquez leaped two grades to graduate early from Sequoia Pathway Academy, where she took four AP courses, has a 4.3 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. She used online courses to teach herself quantum mechanics. She will attend Arizona State University Barrett Honors College.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Southern California
Career goal: Professional puzzle solver (aka mechanical engineer)

Accomplishment: Graduating two years early

Reaction: The day that it sunk in I was graduating at 15 was the most excited (and terrified) I had ever felt. The sense of accomplishment was so outstanding that all my fears were set aside because I had no doubt in my mind that this was the best choice that I could have made.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I put my heart and soul into everything I do, and my biggest goal throughout college is to keep that passion and find ways to showcase it in my work. I believe grit and work ethic are the two deciding factors for success and I will strive to carry these traits with me in order to help achieve my career goals.


Carlos Venegas

Carolos Venegas. Photo by Victor Moreno

Venegas came to Maricopa High School his sophomore year and has been heavily involved in the MHS Theatre Company, landing leads in “Les Miserables” and “Beauty & the Beast,” and also playing community theater. He will attend the University of Arizona.

Years in Maricopa: 3
Originally from: Salt Lake City, Utah
Career goal: Musical theatre

Accomplishment: Achieved highest score of “superior” for solo in Central Arizona Festival of Theatre

Reaction: I took “Bring Him Home,” so it was a song I was very familiar with. I just let all the practice take over and focused more on calming my nerves and making sure those didn’t take over in my song. … You just try to do the best you can do and wait for the results at the end of the day. It was definitely a really good experience, though, connecting with other schools and competing.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? An actor’s job is not to act but to audition, because you do so much more auditioning than you do performing. So I’ve worked a lot on auditioning with everything I have and being able to display the best me talent-wise that I can put forth. So I’ve been really working on that and hopefully that will help me reach that end goal of being able to perform hopefully for the rest of my life.


Anali Warner

Anali Warner (submitted photo)

Warner is the salutatorian of Sequoia Pathway’s Class of 2017. She will attend Northern Arizona University on a Lumberjack Scholarship. Though her major is undecided, she would like her abilities channeled into community service.

Years in Maricopa: 4
Originally from: Racine, Wisconsin
Career goal: To be well-informed, comfortable and active in helping others in whatever I do.

Accomplishment: Inducted into National Honor Society

Reaction: Joyful and motivated. Being able to achieve such a high award made me realize that I am capable of achieving whatever I strive for and that I am capable of greatness.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on attending college and going on to higher education in the future. I intend to get involved in my community and activism, to improve others’ well-being and my own. I also plan on joining committees and social groups that coordinate with my future career, goals and interests.

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa High School senior Tyra Williams was named 5A Metro Region Player of the Year, and Melvin Mitchell was named Region Coach of the Year. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After the inaugural season of the 5A Metro region’s winter sports, Maricopa High School athletes have drawn notice.

Senior Tyra Williams was named Region Player of the Year in girls’ basketball. She called the honor “awesome.”

Williams averaged 18.4 points per game this year (fifth in the 5A conference), totaling 461. She had 216 rebounds, 87 steals, 32 assists and 56 blocks. Her season high was 33 points in a win over McClintock.

“I’m going to South Mountain [Community College] for a year; then I’m going to transfer to NAU,” she said.

At South Mountain she will be in familiar company. Former Rams Raegene Womack, the Cougars’ top player this season, and Ashliegh Haley were both part of MHS’s 2015 state championship team.

Maricopa’s Melvin Mitchell was named 5A Metro’s first Region Coach of the Year.

“I thought it was really, really cool,” he said. “It definitely feels pretty good to get the honor.”

But Mitchell also felt the honor from other coaches was due to their low expectations of his team after graduating seven seniors including stars like Womack and Danae Ruiz, who has gone on to lead the women’s team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“They figured we’d be OK but not worthy of making the run,” Mitchell said.

The Rams finished on top of the region, eking out a winning percentage fractions better than rival Ironwood. Maricopa lost in the first round of the state playoffs to Ironwood Ridge finishing the season 22-5.

Mitchell had even higher expectations of his team, knowing their hard work, scoring ability and the Maricopa calling card of pressure defense. Even with Williams graduating this year, he has high hopes for next year’s team, with two team leaders coming back – Sydni Callis and Jayla Johnson – and some 6-foot girls moving up from junior varsity.

Callis, a junior, was named First Team All Region. She was second in the conference in steals with 6.4 per game and fourth in assists, averaging 5.6. She averaged 11.5 points and totaled 129 rebounds. Johnson, a sophomore, was named Second Team All Region after averaging 10.9 points. She had 90 steals and 47 assists.

“I think Jayla and Sydni are two of the best in the backcourt in the state, but I might be biased,” Mitchell said.

Among the boys, junior Josh Johnson was named First Team All Region after leading the team into the state playoffs. Senior Darrell Handy-Johnson, in his first season for Maricopa, was given honorable mention.

Apollo’s Holland Woods, who averaged 27 points a game, was Region Player of the Year, and coach Jacob Marin was named Region Coach of the Year.

Four MHS soccer players were First Team picks in 5A Metro.

Midfielder Jacob Padilla and defender Elijah Aviles, both seniors, were named to the boys’ first team, with junior forward Diego Castro making Second Team All Region. The Rams were 8-8-1 overall.

For the girls, senior forward Amanda Maciel, who scored 24 goals, and senior defender Lauren Davis were named First Team All Region. Sophomore forward Shannon Coutre and defender Taylor Russo were named Second Team All Region. The girls were 11-7-1 overall.

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Senior Matthew Dinh is the boys' team's No. 1 player. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School tennis teams both posted wins Wednesday. The girls team bumped their record to 4-3. The boys’ team record is 3-5 with five to play.

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SeniPhoto by Raquel Hendricksonor Jackson Stensgard got the win on the mound Friday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Accumulating 10 hits, the Maricopa High School baseball team defeated 5A Metro rival Ironwood 12-2 at home Friday.

Coming off a dismal loss to Mesquite the night before, the win evened the Rams’ overall record to 7-7, a non-tournament record of 4-2.

Maricopa scored six runs in the second inning and gradually added enough to employ the 10-run rule by the bottom of the sixth for the victory against Ironwood (3-8). The Ram attack came from the plate and the mound, and almost everyone had a hit.

Senior Jackson Stensgard batted 2-for-3, including a double, and knocked in three runs. He also pitched all six innings, giving up five hits and an earned run and striking out eight.

Sophomore Devin Fiala was also 2-for-3 and picked up an RBI. Sophomore Malachi Hogg smacked a two-run double. Junior Carter Paine, junior Taylor Belcher and senior Marcos Cano all also drove in runs.

Against Mesquite the day before, the Rams had managed just three hits in the 12-0 loss. They struck out 11 times against sophomore Davis Heller. Meanwhile the Wildcats tagged Maricopa for three home runs.

Maricopa is batting .314 as a team this season, led by Paine’s .452. Taylor Belcher leads in runs batted in with 14. The team ERA is 5.70. Paine leads in innings pitched with 24 and a third and strikeouts with 21.

The Rams are 1-0 in 5A Metro and next travel to Kellis on Tuesday.

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Cast members of "And Then There Were None" include (clockwise from bottom left) Tyler Curtis, Lindsay Hubbard, Kade Kruse, Jacob Loomis, Erick Livingston, Hannah Panter, Haley Lemon, Lys Bailey and the first corpse Ethan Stradling.

High school theater students are having fun with Agatha Christie, and so is the audience, this weekend in a student-performed and student-directed production of “And Then There Were None” at Maricopa High School. It is the first time an MHS play has been completely student-produced. The MHS Theatre Company production is directed by senior Dylan Stradling.

Ten strangers, each with a secret, are drawn together to an island resort, where they are bumped off one by one by an unknown assassin. Can they (or the audience) find the killer before there is no cast left at all?

“And Then There Were None” stars Jacob Loomis, Ivie Keene, Tyler Curtis, Kade Kruse, Erick Livingston, Lys Bailey, Lindsay Hubbard, Haley Lemon, Ethan Stradling, Hannah Panter and Brady Hunsaker.

The play opened Thursday and will have performances Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. in the Lecture Hall. Donations go to help state-qualified performers attend the International Thespian Festival in June.

April 1, MHS Theatre Company presents another student-directed play, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Wit,” which will feature MHS faculty members. It is directed by senior Carlos Venegas. Performances will be in the Black Box Theatre in the MHS Performing Arts Center at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

MHS students who received scores of “Superior” this year at the Central Arizona Festival of Theater to qualify for nationals (and benefit from all donations made during these two student-directed productions) were Dylan and Carlos along with Britney Montgomery, Nikolas Mase, Hannah Panter, Kjirsten Lemon, Ivie Keene, Taryn Story, Joycelyn Cabrera, Adrian Perdomo, Jalen Reyes, Alyssa Hollingsworth, Kari Beijmowicz, Chaienne Zoller, Kade Kruse, Morgan Lee.

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Darrell Handy-Johnson comes in for a landing in the triple jump.

Maricopa High School’s track and field teams have had a busy March, and there is more to come.


The boys have won three meets, including the Gaucho Relays in Glendale. The Rams defeated Notre Dame in a head-to-head meet March 8 with a score of 84-53. At home March 22, Maricopa beat McClintock 84-59.

In the Gaucho Relays March 10, Maricopa was one of 20 teams in competition. The Rams proved strong on the track and in the field, earning six first-place finishes.

Among them, Phillip Austin won the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.13. Jesse Gaines won the 800-meter run in 2:01.98. Darrell Handy jumped his own height in the high jump at 6-foot-4 for another victory.

Maricopa’s  4×100-meter relay team took the gold in 43.94. The 4×400 team also won, posting a time of 3:29.92.

Also earning points with high finishes, Austin was second in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 9 inches. Terrell Handy was second in the triple jump at 42-10. Frank Jones was third in the 100 at 11.28, Darrell Handy was third in the triple jump at 42-9, and Terrell Handy was third in the high jump at 6-4. The 4×800 relay team was fifth in 8:39.05. Terrell Hardy was sixth in the long jump at 20-4, followed by brother Darrell in seventh with 19-10. Logan Taylor was seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles in 16.94. Xander Benitez was in a seventh-place tie in the high jump at 5-6. Dakota Halverson was seventh in the discus throw at 120-5, and Johnny Smith was 13th in the same event at 112-7 to earn points for the team.

The junior varsity competed at the Goldwater Underclassmen Invite in Phoenix March 17, finishing fifth out of eight schools.

Jacob Cowing picked up two first-place finishes. He ran the 100 in 11.6 and the 300-meter hurdles in 43.66 for the victories. Taylor picked up his pace in the 110HH to win in 16.47.

The 4×400 relay team placed second in 3:55.47. Taylor was third in the 300 hurdles in 45.79, and the 4×100 relay team finished third in 47.20. David Skelton was fourth in discus at 99-4, and he finished fifth in the shot put with a toss of 33-3. James Cutajar was fifth in discus at 95-1. Jake Meyer was sixth in shot at 32-6.5.


The girls have a win this season, defeating McClintock 105-21 on March 22. The lost to Notre Dame on March 8, 70-57, and JV had a good showing at the Goldwater Underclassmen Invite on March 17

In the Goldwater, the young Rams finished second by just nine points. Alayja Reynolds, Italy Brookshire and Eveyln Corliss won two events apiece.

Reynolds won the 100 in 13.46 and the 200-meter dash in 27.99. Brookshire was first in the triple jump at 27-11 and in the high jump at 5-0. Corliss won the 1600-meter run in 5:48.55 and the 3200-meter run in 13.34.32. The 4×100 relay team was also a winner in 53.10.

Saneya Cowing was second in the 100 in 13.5 and third in the 200 in 28.22. Reynolds finished second in the long jump at 14-8.5. Katherine Gores was second in the long jump at 27-10. Isabella Moe was third in the shot put at 24-8 and fourth in discus at 69-3. Bailey Davis ran fourth in 400 at 1:10.03. Destinee Chavis was fifth in the 100 at 13.97 and in the 200 at 29.12. Brookshire was sixth in the long jump at 12-4.

At the March 10 Gaucho Relays, the girls finished 15th.

Those scoring points were Brookshire with a tie for second in the high jump at 5-0, Leilena Young with third in the shot put at 33-2, Kayla Boich with a tie for fourth in the high jump at 4-10, and Moe with a 14th place in shot put at 26-4.

The team next competes Friday and Saturday in the Chandler Rotary Meet. Maricopa hosts its annual Ram Twilight Invitational on April 7 starting at 3 p.m. at Ram Stadium.

By Michelle Chance

Maricopa High School will see changes in its administrative staff beginning in the fall. The current dean of students, Brian Winter, will reprise his role as assistant principal beginning in July, after previously serving that position at MHS five years ago.

His new position comes after the June resignation of Jesse Roth, one of the school’s two current assistant principals. Stephen Ybarra is the other assistant principal at the high school.

Winter said he is excited to return as an administrator whose main duties will be dedicated to curriculum and assessments.

New math curriculum will be implemented at the district in July when Winter transitions into his new position.

He said math is always a challenging subject for students, but he hopes the new curriculum “means that we can get the alignment in place so that when students come to Maricopa High School, they have a foundation to better build off.”

Improving test scores and the graduation rate are also on Winter’s agenda. The most recent data from fiscal year 2015 showed the graduation rate at MHS is 69 percent.

In order to increase that number, Winter said he hopes to assist in freshman readiness, to ensure the high school’s youngest students are prepared for the crucial academic years ahead of them.

Maricopa Unified School District to purchasing a new math curriculum this year.
Maricopa Unified School District to purchasing a new math curriculum this year.

“If we can get them off to a good start as freshmen, they’ve got a better chance to complete their requirements within the four years,” he said.

In addition to new curriculum, Winter will also be working with a new school calendar beginning in 2018. Among some of the changes include the expansion of fall, winter and spring breaks – extra time he sees as opportunities for students who have fallen behind academically.

“We are hoping to use those intersessions where we have two week breaks to possibly bring students in for re-teach opportunities and maybe credit make-up,” he said.

Winter has 29 years of experience motivating a variety of student populations in different settings and positions. He has worked as a coach, educator, athletic director and administrator – career experiences he said have shaped his philosophy as an administrator.

“I’m a servant leader and I want to be able to be able to provide support to students as well as staff,” he said.

After leaving MHS following his year as assistant principal and Athletic Director for the rams in 2012, Winter worked as an assistant principal and the athletic director for schools in the West and East Valley.

However, something keeps drawing him back to MHS.

“There is something to be said of Maricopa and it has just kind of grown on me for whatever reason,” he said.

Currently, Winter is interviewing candidates to fill his own seat as dean of students for the upcoming school year.

The position is largely responsible for ensuring the safety of staff and students and overseeing the team of four security guards at the school, as well as doing the bulk of student discipline.

“It needs to be a person who is thoughtful, patient and willing to build relationships certainly with students, but also hold them to a high standard from a behavior aspect,” he said.

Winter said he hopes to announce who that person will be by next week.

Taylor Belcher, a junior, has been effective on the mound and at bat this season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Midway through their season, the Maricopa High School Rams have an even record of 6-6 on the baseball field and are gearing up for region play.

Outside of tournament competition, the Rams are 3-1. In those three victories, Maricopa put up double-digits against the opponents.

After jumping all over Glendale 12-2 on Monday, however, Maricopa dropped Wednesday’s cross-county game to Vista Grande, 5-0.

“We’ve been playing some good baseball,” head coach Andrew Pollak said. “Today obviously wasn’t one of those days, but we had four games last week where we did some really good things. We had a good game Monday night. Today’s just one of those days.”

The Rams have more than a week to practice for their next game, which is March 23 hosting Mesquite. After that, all but three of their games will be against 5A Metro region competition.

“Our team is really young. Before today they’d really been playing solid,” Pollak said.

That is a point of pride, but he is still looking for strong leadership to emerge on the team as competition gets intense over the next month. The Rams play all region teams twice. That includes McClintock, Ironwood, Raymond S. Kellis, Sunnyslope and Apollo.

“We’re in a good spot. We’ve got to take care of our region,” Pollak said.

In Monday’s route of Glendale, Maricopa scored three runs in the first inning. The Rams followed up with five in the fourth and four in the fifth to claim the game via the 10-run rule.

Sophomore Nico Bandin had two hits, drove in three runs and scored three. Senior Marcos Cano was 3-for-3 at the plate and picked up an RBI. Sophomore Devin Fiala and junior Taylor Belcher both had two RBIs. Senior Jackson Stensgard had the team’s only extra-base hit, a double.

Junior Tyler Belcher pitched four innings, striking out nine, for the victory. Only one of the two runs scored against him was earned.

In Wednesday’s loss at home to Vista Grande, the Rams could not get anything started offensively and had some defensive mistakes as well.  The Spartans clung to a 1-0 lead through four innings before breaking out with four more in the fifth.

The Rams managed just three hits, a double from sophomore Malachi Hogg and singles from Bandin and Stensgard.

Carter Paine pitched five innings, striking out four and walking five. Taylor Belcher pitched two innings.

Overall this season, Maricopa is batting .322. That is led by Paine’s .459 average through 12 games. Cano is hitting .400, and Taylor Belcher is batting .353. Bandin and sophomore Renzo Silva are at .324. Stensgard has played in only the last four games and is batting .462.

Paine has pitched 19 and a third innings and has a 2-2 record with an ERA of 4.34. He has struck out 19, given up 19 hits and walked 16. Tyler Belcher has thrown for 14 innings, giving up 11 runs for ERA of 5.50. He has struck out 17 and walked 11.

Feb. 22-25    Pinon-Huffman Tourney
Tempe                   W     4-3
Higley                    L     4-10
Dobson                  L     5-9
Apache Junction    W    11-7
March 2        Sierra Linda           W    10-2
March 3        Desert Edge           W    11-7
March 8-11   Boras Baseball Classic
Corona del Sol       L    0-5
Prescott                 L    3-14
Centennial            W    8-7
Arcadia                  L    2-5
March 13      Glendale               W    12-2
March 15      Vista Grande         L     0-5
March 23      Mesquite          4 p.m.    Home
March 24      Ironwood*        4 p.m.    Home
March 28      Kellis*              3:45       Away
March 30      Casa Grande    4 p.m.    Home
March 31      Kellis*             4 p.m.     Home
April 4          Sunnyslope*    4 p.m.    Home
April 6          Verrado            3:45      Away
April 7          Sunnyslope*    4 p.m.    Away
April 11        Apollo*            4 p.m.    Away
April 12        Ironwood*       3:45       Away
April 13        Apollo*            4 p.m.    Home
April 18        McClintock*        4 p.m.    Home
April 20        McClintock*        4 p.m.    Away
April 21        Williams Field    4 p.m.    Home

*5A Metro

The Maricopa boys track team placed fifth in the Aztec Invitational to start the season.

The Maricopa High School Track & Field teams will bring multiple state pre-qualifiers to their meet Wednesday at Notre Dame prep, carrying on with what will likely be a successful season for the Rams.

Head coach Sheldon Hutchinson believes his well-rounded athletes, several of whom have already qualified for state, are on the verge of breaking school records, while others are improving so fast they could be winning medals and breaking records in no time.

Junior Jesse Gaines ran a two-minute 800-meter run in last week’s Aztec Invitational in Tempe, coming within one second of the MHS 800-meter record at 1:59.

The Rams finished fifth out of 21 teams at the March 3 competition.

“I think both our teams, our boys and girls, have a lot of strengths,” Hutchinson said. “For the boys’ side of things, the strengths are going to be in the jumps.”

Three MHS jumpers prequalified for state at the Aztec invitational.

Clearing 22 feet 2.75 inches in the long jump, Phillip Austin is just one leg of the state-bound trio.

Seniors Darrell Handy and his brother Terrell are the other two pre-qualifiers, jumping 6-4 and 6-2 respectively at the high jump.

The brothers also prequalified at the triple jump with Terrell grabbing gold by jumping 44-9 and Darrell finishing fourth with a jump of 42-5.5.

As for the girl’s, Hutchinson said, despite being young, some are showing signs of remarkable progress.

“We have a lot of new [girl] throwers,” he said. “But they’re actually improving each time they throw.”

Though not qualifying for state, junior Leilena Young came in 15th out of 59 throwers in the shot put event at the Aztec Invitational, throwing 30-2.

The lady Rams also did well at long distance running, with Megan Carr finishing 46th of 65 in the 1600 with a time of 6:22.26.

Hutchinson had nothing but praise for his current roster, though he did indicate it’s proving hard to develop and retain track and field athletes because of an unfortunate competition between interscholastic sports and club sports.

“It’s always a struggle with so many club sports going on,” Hutchinson said. “A lot of our athletes just get sucked away because, of course, it’s a financial commitment they’ve committed to, so it’s hard to keep them in and keep them going.”

The girls and boys track teams will face off against Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale today at 4 p.m.


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Maricopa tennis teams are playing to win as new season begins.

The Maricopa High School tennis teams began their seasons Thursday at home against Desert Ridge.

Both the girls’ and boys’ teams changed divisions this year, a factor that could mean a much easier season compared to last year, according to girls varsity head coach Heather Abel.

“Last season we had the toughest schedule I’ve ever had as a coach, playing some of the top teams in our section, and really some of the top teams in the state,” Abel said. “So, I’m looking forward to this season, playing some teams that we can compete with.”

All six spots on the girls’ varsity team will be filled with returning players this year. Among those returning are Abel’s daughter, senior Bailey Able, in the No. 1 spot, and sophomore Blesha Romo in the No. 2 spot.

Coach Able believes the team developed a lot last season, something she hopes will reflect in this season’s play.

“I think with all of them, their confidence has grown. But I’m not sure if playing those [harder] teams helps or hurts that.”

For boys’ tennis, the opposite is true when considering their new division, head coach Paula Pavlosky said. Despite the team finishing with a 9-6 record in 2016 and most of those players returning, she thinks this year will be more difficult than the previous not just in terms of their competitiveness, but in terms of distance and frequency as well.

“We do have a few matches that are far away,” Pavlosky said. “We have some in Cibola, which is near Yuma, and we have them back to back so we have three matches in a row in one week.”

Returning to the court this year for the Rams boys’ team in the No. 1 spot is senior Matthew Dinh. Pavlosky has tremendous confidence in Dinh, calling him “the best out there.” However, she knows the dedication of her other athletes is equally considerable.

“They are strong and I know they go out there with all their hearts and play to win,” she said.

The girls and boys schedules are the same but complementary, meaning when the girls play one school at home, the boys will play the same school on the road.


MHS Boys’ Tennis Schedule
Feb. 23      Desert Ridge        3:30      Away
Feb. 28      Casteel                 3:30      Home
March 1      Combs                 3:30       Away
March 9      Higley                  3:30      Home
March 21    Casa Grande         3:30      Away
March 23    Williams Field    3:30       Home
March 28    Cibola                  3:30       Away
March 29    Tolleson               3:30      Away
March 30    San Luis               3:30      Home
April 4        Millennium          3:30      Home
April 5        La Joya                  3:30      Home
April 11     Westview              3:30      Away
April 13     Kofa                       3:30      Home

MHS Girls’ Tennis Schedule
Feb. 23       Desert Ridge        3:30    Home
Feb. 28       Casteel                 3:30    Away
March 1      Combs                   3:30    Home
March 9       Higley                  3:30    Away
March 21    Casa Grande          3:30    Home
March 23    Williams Field      3:30     Away
March 28    Cibola                    3:30    Home
March 29    Tolleson                3:30    Home
March 30    San Luis                3:30    Away
April 4         Millennium         3:30    Away
April 5         La Joya                 3:30    Away
April 11       Westview            3:30    Home
April 13       Kofa                     3:30    Away

MHS photo


The Maricopa High School Lady Rams softball team is starts its 2017 season with a three-game home tournament Friday.

1 Hannah Hickey – Fr
2 Sydney McDill – Fr
3 Hope Barajas – Fr
4 Chantel Holquin – Soph
5 Caitlin Wilson – Jr
6 Andrea Harker – Fr
7 Kianna Miller-Gomez – Fr
8 Kielee Keys – Fr
9 Elaina Olivarez – Soph
10 Bailey Petty – Fr
11 Julliette Hawthorn – Sr
12 Kayla Occhiline – Fr
13 Kennedy Glen – Fr
14 Daisy Guzman – Soph
15 Stephanie Palafox – Sr
16 Sabrina Montoya – Sr
17 Andrea Gallegos – Sr
22 Joy Breul – Soph
24 Mikaila Hogg – Sr

Head coach Brandi Howell said her varsity line-up is somewhat young this year with only one returning player.

“It’s a whole new group of girls,” Howell said. “So, they’re definitely working hard, but we have lots to learn. Holguin [Chantel Holguin] is working hard and she’s really stepped up as a leader.”

Howell admitted one of the biggest challenges so far is the learning curve. With such inexperienced players, she has been working extra hard to teach them the ins and outs of the sport. The progress they’ve made, she said, is a great sign of things to come.

“We’ve come a long way from the first day already,” Howell said. “It’s like night and day.”

Howell believes the tournament is a perfect way for the relatively inexperienced team to pick up some hard knowledge of the sport before regular play begins.

“We definitely [still] have a lot to learn,” Howell said.  “So, we’re using these tournaments as a learning tool.”

The mistake that her players make are “young” mistakes, she said, but their ability to catch on quickly is tremendous and you just can’t beat real-time learning.

“There is no better time to learn than in a game,” Howell said.

The team is carrying a larger than normal roster going into the tournament – 19 players, a measure Howell is taking in order to help get some of the less knowledgeable players see the game up close.

“With us being so young we think its super valuable for them to be around the game learning these things,” she said.

The varsity roster will likely shrink to around 13 players after the tournament.

Holguin returns as a sophomore utility player and pitcher. Also notable is a recent transfer from California, senior outfielder and infielder Juliette Hawthorn.

The Lady Rams will faceoff first against McClintock at 9 a.m., second against Peoria at 3 p.m., and last against Higley at 5 p.m., all on Friday at Maricopa High School.

Krysten Diehl Tourament – Maricopa High School
Feb. 24     McClintock    9 a.m.
Feb. 24     Peoria            3 p.m.
Feb. 24     Higley            5 p.m.
Feb. 25     TBA                TBA
Feb. 25     TBA                TBA

2017 Schedule
Feb. 24-25    Krysten Diehl Tourney    TBA    Home
Feb. 28           Sierra Linda                    4:00   Home
March 3           Desert Edge                   4:00   Home
March 6           Glendale                         4:00   Home
March 7            Vista Grande                  4:00   Away
March 9           Williams Field               3:45   Away
March 15         Youngker Invitational    TBA    Away
March 23         Mesquite                       6:30   Away
March 24         Ironwood*                      3:45  Away
March 28         Kellis*                            4:00   Home
March 30         Casa Grande                   3:45   Away
March 31          Kellis*                           3:45   Away
April 4              Sunnyslope*                 4:00   Away
April 6              Verrado                          4:00   Home
April 7              Sunnyslope*                  4:00   Home
April 11            Apollo*                          4:00   Home
April 12            Ironwood*                      4:00   Home
April 13             Apollo*                          7:00   Away
April 18             McClintock*                   4:00   Away
April 20             McClintock*(Senior Night) 4:00   Home

*5A Metro


The Maricopa Rams started the season Wednesday on their home field in the Huffman Tournament against Tempe. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School Varsity Baseball team will swing into their season today with the Pinon-Huffman inter-city tournament in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

2 Anthony Lumactod  – Sr
3 Nico Bandin – Soph
4 Isaac Herrera – Jr
5 Marcos Cano – Sr
6 Carter Paine – Jr
7 Renzo Silva – Soph
8 Mason Williamson – Jr
9 Jackson Stensgard – Sr
10 Jose Leyva – Soph
11 Devin Fiala – Soph
14 Tyler Belcher – Jr
15 Jonathan Aguilar – Soph
16 Kevin McDill – Jr
18 Taylor Belcher – Jr
23 Malachi Hogg – Soph
24 Andres Gusse – Jr
29 Trey Keel – Soph

The Rams will enter the eight-team pool-play style tournament competing over the next three days against three teams at Maricopa High School – Tempe, Higley and Dobson. The winners from each pool will then square off on Saturday against the winner of a four-team bracket in Casa Grande – Poston Butte, Casa Grande, Apache Junction and Marana.

Maricopa head varsity coach Andrew Pollak hopes the momentum from last year’s season will carry over to this season. However, this year, after the Arizona Interscholastic Association redrew the map for many districts, Pollak said, some of their new opponents could prove to be challenging.

“It’s going to be a tough region. We play a bunch of the west side schools,” Pollak said. “It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be tough.”

The line-up this year is relatively fresh with few returning upperclassmen, he said, a factor which adds to the challenge.

“Personnel-wise we’re pretty young,” Pollak said. “We have basically all sophomores and juniors that we’re going to play with, and one returning senior starter.”

Despite their age, Pollak feels the team’s defensive prowess is what will set them apart.

Junior pitcher Carter Paine
Junior pitcher Carter Paine

“I think defensively we’ll be pretty strong,” Pollak said. “We’ve got an infield that’s pretty solid and we’ve got some strong outfielders.”

The Ram’s hitting and pitching game is the only area of concern for Pollak, though he does have a strategy for that.

“We are going to have to find a way to score some runs though,” he said. “And [offensively] our guys are going to have to pitch to contact ground balls, or use the defense behind them. We’re not going to throw by anybody.”

The AIA also recently approved a proposal to dissolve the MHS freshman baseball program, a move which will likely mean more underclassman playing JV and varsity ball in the future.

Pinon-Huffman Tournament Schedule
@ Maricopa High School
Dobson v. Higley at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.
MHS v. Tempe at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Dobson v. Tempe at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23.
MHS v. Higley at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Higley v. Tempe at 3:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24.
MHS v. Dobson at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

@ Casa Grande High School
Apache Junction v. Poston Butte, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Casa Grande v. Apache Junction, 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Poston Butte v. Marana, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Marana v. Apache Junction, 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.
Casa Grande v. Marana, 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

2017 Schedule
Feb. 22-25    Pinon/Huffman Tournament    TBA      Home
Feb. 28           Sierra Linda                             3:45     Away
March 3           Desert Edge                            6:00     Away
March 8           Boras Classic                           TBA     Tempe
March 13         Glendale                                 7:00     Away
March 15         Vista Grande                           4:00     Home
March 23         Mesquite                                4:00     Home
March 24         Ironwood*                              4:00     Home
March 28         Kellis*                                    3:45     Away
March 30        Casa Grande                            4:00    Home
March 31        Kellis*                                     4:00    Home
April 4           Sunnyslope*                            4:00    Home
April 6           Verrado                                    3:45    Away
April 7           Sunnyslope*                           4:00    Away
April 11         Apollo*                                   4:00    Away
April 12         Ironwood*                               3:45    Away
April 13         Apollo*                                   4:00    Home
April 18         McClintock*                            4:00    Home
April 19         Williams Field (Senior Night)4:00    Home
April 20         McClintock*                            4:00    Away
*5A Metro

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Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa High School Theatre Company debuted its production of the classic comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” in the Black Box Theatre at the Performing Arts Center Thursday. Performances continue to night at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.

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Maricopa's 5-foot-4 guard Josh Johnson led the team's scoring with 27 points, including seven 3-pointers. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa Rams have been a bit cursed this season having the Apollo Hawks not only in their conference but also in their region.

Apollo was undefeated in 5A Metro competition and in conference play (24-3 overall). Two of those 10 region wins were against Maricopa, by scores of 90-63 and 74-52.

So after the Rams overcame a disintegration midway through the season by fighting their way into the state playoffs, it was their misfortune to be seeded 16th and bracketed against Apollo immediately. The resulting 90-66 loss to the Hawks in Round 1 was neither shocking nor shaming.

“They’re a good team and they did not have a letdown,” Maricopa coach Tony Fuller said.

Apollo’s senior point guards Dre Marin and Holland Woods put on a shooting clinic. Marin hit seven 3-pointers and scored 35 points. Woods score 27.

Junior Josh Johnson led the Rams with 27 points. He also nailed seven 3-pointers. Senior Terrell Johnson scored 18 points and brother Darrell Johnson 14.

Maricopa took the lead early and stayed close until the middle of the first quarter, when Apollo forced turnovers and started hitting nonstop from the field. The Rams trailed by nine points at the end of the quarter.

The second quarter was a disaster for the Rams, who were held to just nine points. The Hawks grew their lead to 47-29 at the half. Maricopa went on some scoring runs but could not get close to Apollo again.

Junior Cameron Sanders hit two buckets for Maricopa and Senior Roscoe Gray hit a 3-pointer to round out the scoring.

“It’s rough when they shoot the ball like that,” Fuller said. “I think the best team won, but I’m still proud of my team.”

The mood in the locker room was somber afterward, the coach said, “but I still see a sense of pride that I didn’t see when I first arrived.”

Many of the players exited red-eyed or in tears. That included Darrell Johnson, who said the team became much closer as friends as the season went on, and the final loss was frustrating.

“We played our hardest tonight and tried to get the job done,” he said.

“But you win some, you lose some.”

Twins Darrell and Terrell Johnson were newcomers to the Rams this year and were consistent top scorers and rebounders. They are among six seniors leaving the team and, at 6-foot-4, the only true height on the squad.

It was an up-and-down season for a team that started strong with two tournament victories but then lost key players to academic struggles. That contributed to a four-game slide late in the season.

With all of the missing players back, they were good enough to get into the top 24 and qualify for the play-in tournament. There, they upset 10th ranked Deer Valley in dramatic fashion to earn a spot in the playoffs.

Fuller said the Rams would have to be a lot sharper to beat a team like Apollo. And he is still concerned about the academic struggles of a lot of students with basketball skills who could not be on the team because they could not make the grades.

“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of what a real basketball program is about,” Fuller said. “The cultural dynamic has to change.”

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Maricopa juniors Sydni Callis and Josh Johnson are key players as Maricopa High School's basketball teams move into the post-season. Photos by William Lange

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team climbed up the 5A rankings in the final week of play to finish seventh.

That automatically qualifies the Rams for a slot in the state tournament. The bracket will be announced Sunday. The state tourney, which Arizona Interscholastic Association calls February Frenzy, starts Tuesday.

Winning the final six games of the season, Maricopa is 21-4 overall.

The final two games were on the road. The Rams defeated Williams Field 57-30. They were led by 22 points from senior Tyra Williams and 12 each from junior Sydni Callis and senior Clara Morris. Williams and junior Natausha Hall each had eight rebounds, and Callis had eight steals.

At Apollo, a 5A Metro rival, Maricopa ran over the Hawks 63-38. Callis led the scoring with 18 points. Junior Jayla Johnson scored 17, and Williams contributed 14. Hall led the rebounding with 10, while Callis had 12 assists and eight steals.

The dominating play of the Rams lifted them three places from their No. 10 ranking at the start of last week.

Teams ranked 9-24 must compete in the conference play-in tournament. Instead, the Rams get a rest.

Maricopa’s boys’ team has a bigger, more immediate challenge.

Posting a 17-10 overall record, the Maricopa boys’ team achieved a 23rd ranking in 5A. That landed them a spot in the conference play-in tournament for a chance to qualify for the state tournament.

The Rams are set to play Deer Valley on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Deer Valley High School in Glendale in the conference tourney.

Head coach Tony Fuller said staff has been watching tapes of 10th-ranked Deer Valley extensively.

“They are an excellent team,” he said. “They have a good guard, good post guys. They’re a lot like us. They’re big and their tough, but I think we’re ready.”

The Rams had lost some players to academic problems, but they are reloaded. The ranking of 23 is now considered imaginary by the coach.

“We’re healthy and we’ve got everybody back,” Fuller said. “The guys are trying to do something that hasn’t been done here in a very long time.”

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Halverson wins section title

Dakota Halverson (left) and Luis Alvarez celebrate their sectional performances with MHS head wrestling coach Coach Erick Fierro. Both seniors qualified for the state tournament. Submitted photo

Dakota Halverson, a senior at Maricopa High School, is Arizona’s Division II Section IV champion.

Halverson won the top spot with his performance at the sectional meet at Campo Verde High School on Saturday. He is ranked second in the state in Division II’s 285-pound class. His record this season is 41-6.

He will wrestle at the Arizona State Tournament Friday and Saturday in Prescott Valley.

And he won’t be alone.

Fellow Ram Luis Alvarez, also a senior, took second place in the 132-pound weight class on Saturday. That qualified him for state, as well. His record is 26-9 this season.

The state championships are at the Prescott Valley Event Center.

Maricopa Unified School District is creating an alternative school to get high school students who are "credit-deficient" back on track for graduation.

The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board discussed at a Wednesday meeting an implementation strategy for the district’s newly founded Alternative Secondary Program.

Per the district’s description, the purpose of the program is to encourage “remediation leading to graduation,” meaning through the program students who are “credit deficient” or otherwise do not conform to a “comprehensive school” model can not only graduate with a diploma, but also do so on time.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut has high hopes for the program not just as a service to students who don’t wish to participate in regular high school program, but to students who may just need a semester or two to get back on track.

“We think that some of them could and should get caught up and then maybe go back into the regular program,” Chestnut said. “But we think that some of them may want to spend their last two years of school in this program.”

The current program design is based on nine-week semesters, Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with two-hour blocks and new students being able to cycle into the program every nine weeks.

The district hopes the program will be able to accommodate as many as 120 credit-deficient students in grades 11 and 12, and hopes in the future they will be able to accommodate ninth and 10th grade. However, due to budgetary restrictions, the underclasses will be excluded from the alternative program’s current design, a fact which has board member Torri Anderson concerned.

“If we can catch them as freshman and sophomores, they don’t have to be in it for junior and senior year,” Anderson said. “So, my idea is let’s do something that is preventative.”

Chestnut agreed with Anderson, and acknowledged the district is still dealing with limited resources and he wants the current program to succeed before it is expanded upon.

He said the program is not necessarily limited to 11th and 12th grades. The 120 slots will be filled on a case by case basis with “the kids who are in the greatest need,” including ninth and 10th grades. However, the target groups remain juniors and seniors who are approaching graduation.

There was also talk of implanting a case manager to assist special-needs students who may benefit from the program.

Currently the plan is to utilize four classrooms at Maricopa High School located in the automotive building. The board also plans to purchase two portable buildings, which will accommodate two other alternative school classes.

Final approval of the program plan has not been made. Most board members agree on key items and, because of the timeliness of the matter, plan to have the wrinkles ironed out sometime in February.

The program is set to begin with the 2017-18 school year.

Tyra Williams (30) and Sydni Callis wait for the call after a Sunnyslope player takes tumbles out of bounds. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team has compiled a record of 14-3 with nine games left in the regular season. The Rams defeated Sunnyslope 68-40 Tuesday.

They are at the top of the 5A Metro region, tied with Apollo (11-5) at 2-0. With the exception of a game at Williams Field, the rest of the season is Metro competition for Maricopa. In the statewide 5A conference, Maricopa is ranked ninth.

In Tuesday’s game against the Vikings, the Rams ran off with a 25-7 run in the first quarter and were up 37-22 by halftime.

Senior Tyra Williams led the scoring with 22 points. Junior Sydni Callis had 17 points, and junior Natausha Hall 14.

Remaining Schedule
Raymond S. Kellis    Home    7 p.m.
McClintock                Away    7 p.m.
Ironwood                   Away    7 p.m.
Apollo                       Home    7 p.m.
Sunnyslope               Away    7 p.m.
Raymond S. Kellis    Away    7 p.m.
McClintock                Home    7 p.m.
Williams Field          Away    7 p.m.
Apollo                       Away    7 p.m.

See more photos at https://www.inmaricopa.com/photos-sports/