Great players, great teams and great traditions set high school football in the East Valley apart. Here’s a look at each of the schools’ notable achievements and prospects for the future:
Nickname: Jackrabbits Colors: Purple and Gold Year opened: 1899 State championships: Four (5A - 1960, 1963, 1990, 1992) Notable alum: Fullback Andy Livingston scored three touchdowns in the 1960 state title game as a junior before making his pro debut with the Chicago Bears at age 19. Biggest moment: The Jackrabbits defeated rival Mountain View, 14-8, in the 1992 state championship game that was marred by a late-game brawl between the teams. The loss so infuriated Toros coach Jesse Parker that he led his team out of the stadium before it could be presented with the runnerup trophy. Program overview: Mesa has one of the state’s most storied programs and is just three victories away from 600 wins. Even with Dennis Parker in his first year at the helm, the Jackrabbits may not hit that milestone until next season.
Nickname: Buffaloes Colors: Blue and White Year opened: 1908 State championships: Two (4A - 1989, 1996) Notable alum: Quarterback Fred Mortensen passed for more than 4,000 yards in his prep career and was named state Player of the Year in 1971 before playing at ASU and for the Washington Redskins. Biggest moment: Quarterback Todd Mortensen found receiver Justin Taplin in the end zone from seven yards out in overtime of a 20-17 win over Ironwood in 1996, capping an undefeated season. Program overview: The Buffaloes seem to have recovered from Tim McBurney’s departure to Basha three years ago. Mark Rhiner posted a winning record last year and is expected to have his team pushing for a playoff spot this fall.
Nickname: Tigers Colors: Black and Gold Year opened: 1913 State championships: Four (3A - 1973, 1975; 4A - 1978, 1985) Notable alum: After leading the Tigers to the 1985 title, running back Remy Carrasco played at the University of Arizona. Biggest moment: The Tigers defense shut down Morenci’s lethal wishbone attack en route to a 27-6 state championship game victory in 1973. The undefeated Tigers surrendered just 32 points in 11 games. Program overview: Former Mountain View coach Jesse Parker arrived at Gilbert in 1999 just as the school was recovering from massive enrollment hits at the hands of new schools Highland and Mesquite. He has guided the Tigers to the quarterfinals and semifinals in the last three years but has failed to get by Hamilton in region play.
Nickname: Wolves Colors: Royal Blue and White Year opened: 1918 State championships: None Notable alum: Tyrone Byrd was named the state’s best defensive back in 1987 before starring at Nebraska. The award for the state’s top defensive back was named after Byrd when he was killed in an automobile accident in 1993. Biggest moment: Art Odom scored both Chandler touchdowns as the Wolves posted a 14-7 victory over unbeaten Tempe High to cap an undefeated 10-game season and claim a mythical state championship in 1949. Program overview: Former Mesa Community College coach Jim Ewan has turned Chandler into a respectable program in his three years at the school, but the Wolves still haven’t been to the playoffs in his tenure. That should change as the program builds size to go along with its speedy skill athletes.
Nickname: Sentinels Colors: Red and Gold Year opened: 1954 State championships: One (2A - 1997) Notable alum: Chris Gummel earned statewide honors as both a tight end and linebacker in 1984. Biggest moment: A 27-6 state semifinal win over White Mountain power Snowflake capped a 10-game winning streak and earned the Sentinels their first 3A state championship game appearance in 2003. They went on to lose to undefeated Show Low, 35-14. Program overview: Tradition is something they don’t take lightly at Seton and the Sentinels are traditionally a strong team. Coach Pete Wahlheim has a tough coaching job to do after losing 26 seniors from his state runner-up team, but if history tells us anything, it’s that Seton will be a factor year in and year out.
Nickname: Trojans Colors: Red and White Year opened: 1957 State championships: None Notable alum: Two-way back Paul Shields was named Phoenix Metro Player of the Year in 1993 before running the ball for Arizona and the Indianapolis Colts. Biggest moment: Led by future NFL players Shields and Steve Bush, the Titans went undefeated in the 1991 regular season before losing to Brophy in the state quarterfinals. Program overview: Paradise Valley has never played for a state title, but it has regularly fielded quality teams. In his fourth year as head coach, Donnie Yantis has the program headed in the right direction and will make a run at the championship with a solid group of seniors this year.
Nickname: Titans Colors: Royal Blue and Scarlet Year opened: 1959 State championships: Two (3A - 1960; 5A - 1962) Notable alum: Quarterback Kenny Johnson passed for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior in 1967 before starring at Colorado and playing in three professional leagues. Biggest moment: The Titans capped an undefeated season with a 21-13 win over Douglas in the 1960 state title game. Program overview: The Titans surprised everyone by returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade last fall. Head coach Jim Bevell returns for his fifth season this fall, but he is nearing the end of his tenure, so Arcadia’s future is a bit cloudy.
Nickname: Dons Colors: Scarlet and Navy Blue Year opened: 1961 State championships: One (5A - 1976) Notable alum: Quarterback Greg Brady was named the state’s Player of the Year after leading the Dons to their only state title as a senior in 1976. Biggest moment: The Dons completed an undefeated season with a 17-12 win over South Mountain in 1976. Program overview: Coronado deals with the same numbers issues as neighboring Arcadia and Tempe. The Dons are capable of putting together good seasons, just not on a regular basis.
Nickname: Warriors Colors: Blue and Orange Year opened: 1962 State championships: Two (5A - 1964, 1988) Notable alum: Former ASU quarterback Danny White played four sports for the Warriors and was named the Phoenix Metro Player of the Year before a pro career with the Dallas Cowboys. Biggest moment: In a clash of unbeatens, Westwood edged Camelback 10-7 for the 1964 state championship. The victory came in just the Warriors’ second season of varsity play. Program overview: Westwood seems to field a top-notch team every other fall. In their first year under coach Roger Suchomel in 2000, the Warriors lost in the state championship game. In 2002, they advanced to the state quarterfinals.
Nickname: Prospectors Colors: Black and Vegas Gold Year opened: 1963 State championships: One (2A - 1975) Notable alum: Joe Williams was named the state’s top center in 1980. Biggest moment: The Prospectors defeated Blue Ridge 30-6 in 1975 to win the school’s only football championship. Program overview: The Prospectors just can’t seem to get things together. They have not posted a winning season in this millennium and have gone winless twice in the last five years, including last season.
Nickname: Chargers Colors: Red and Blue Year opened: 1964 State championships: Three (5A - 1977, 1980, 1989) Notable alum: Two-way back Anthony Parker was an allconference performer at Arizona State after being named the state Player of the Year in 1983. Biggest moment: The Chargers capped an undefeated season with a 14-9 state title game win over Washington in 1977 to win Karl Kiefer’s first state title. Program overview: After advancing to the quarterfinals in its first 4A season in 2001, the Chargers have posted two losing seasons and hired two head coaches. Former ASU quarterback Steve Campbell must provide coaching consistency if McClintock is to return to its winning ways.
Nickname: Sabercats Colors: Black and Gold Year opened: 1966 State championships: One (4A - 1995) Notable alum: Current Chicago Bears safety Mike Brown played both running back and defensive back for the Sabercats and was named the state’s Player of the Year in 1995 before winning a national championship at Nebraska. Biggest moment: In 1995, Saguaro defeated Ironwood 42-7 to claim their only title. Program overview: The Sabercats grew into one of the top 4A programs in the state under Stuart Goldstein, who departed prior to last season. Mike Reardon’s first year at Saguaro was tumultuous, but he hopes to turn things around this fall.
Nickname: Eagles Colors: Red, White and Blue Year opened: 1968 State championships: One (1A - 1983) Notable alum: Cactus Shadows coach Chad Degrenier played quarterback for the Eagles before lining up under center for Washington State and the Arizona Rattlers. Biggest moment: With an offense averaging more than 50 points per game, undefeated Pima was the favorite heading into the 1983 eight-man championship game, but unbeaten Scottsdale Christian shut them out in a 19-0 win. Program overview: Less than five years ago, Scottsdale Christian could barely field a team. Now, coach Jeff Fox has more than 50 players in his program. If numbers continue to increase, the Eagles will continue to climb up the food chain in the tough 2A Metro Region.
Nickname: Firebirds Colors: Red and Gold Year opened: 1973 State championships: Three (4A - 1999, 2000, 2002) Notable alum: Before heading to the University of Texas, linebacker Austin Sendlein dominated the middle of the field for two state championship defenses in 1999 and 2000. Biggest moment: In a battle of unbeatens, Chaparral defeated Sunnyside 28-14 to win its second of back-to-back titles in 2000. Program overview: This is the premier 4A program in the East Valley and perhaps in the state. Head coach Ron Estabrook’s Firebirds have won three of the last six state 4A championships.
Marcos de Niza
Nickname: Padres Colors: Brown and Gold Year opened: 1973 State championships: None Notable alum: Two-way end Jimmy Moore was named the state’s co-Player of the Year in 1974 before starring at Ohio State and playing for the Baltimore Colts. Biggest moment: The Padres were undefeated at 10-0-1 before falling in the state semifinals to St. Mary’s in 1974. Program overview: Things have been a bit unsettled at Marcos since Tom Joseph left to become the head coach at Mountain View in 2002. Rookie head coach Roy Lopez takes over this fall for Mike Maluski, who resigned after posting a 12-9 record in two years on the job.
Nickname: Toros Colors: Royal Blue and Red Year opened: 1976 State championships: Eight (5A - 1978, 1983, 1986, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002) Notable alum: Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap played three seasons at ASU after being named the Phoenix Metro Player of the Year as a linebacker and tight end for the Toros. Biggest moment: The 1983 Toros, widely considered Mountain View’s best team, scored 21 unanswered points in the second half of the state title game to bury McClintock 34-14. Program overview: Mountain View has won eight state titles in three decades and has advanced to the playoffs 19 years in a row. The program was plagued by questionable coaching techniques under the previous regime, but third-year coach Tom Joseph seems to have cleaned up the Toros’ act.
Corona del Sol
Nickname: Aztecs Colors: Orange and Yellow Year opened: 1978 State championships: One (4A - 1980) Notable alum: Wide receiver Glenn Dennard holds a Corona del Sol record with 1,539 career receiving yards. Biggest moment: The Aztecs defeated Gerard, 23-14, in 1980 to claim their only state title. Program overview: Corona del Sol has been blessed by incredible coaching consistency in the form of head coach Gary Venturo, who is entering his 18th year at the school. The Aztecs snuck into the playoffs last year, but haven’t had a truly memorable year since 1998.
Nickname: Huskies Colors: Green and Gold Year opened: 1980 State championships: One (5A - 1994) Notable alum: Horizon defensive lineman Rob Waldrop won the Outland Trophy as a member of Arizona’s Desert Swarm defense in 1993. Biggest moment: On fourth-andgoal from the 7, quarterback Jeff Voigt rolled right, avoided a sack and found fullback Brooke Tyree for the gamewinning TD with 24 seconds remaining in the 1994 state title game win over St. Mary’s 16-14. Program overview: Horizon is on its second head coach since Doug Shaffer left the school in 2002. If the program can find some consistency under former Kofa coach Steve Casey, it should once again become one of the state’s best.
Nickname: Mustangs Colors: Blue and Silver Year opened: 1981 State championships: One (5A - 1987) Notable alum: Two-way back Toby Wright played at Nebraska and for the St. Louis Rams. Biggest moment: Dobson avenged one of its two regularseason losses by defeating rival Mountain View, 35-14, to win its only state championship in 1987. Three backs rushed for over 80 yards in the game. Program overview: Dobson seems to be healthy again after bottoming out in its final years under coach Bill McKane. In its third year under Tom DeMassa in 2003, the Mustangs posted a winning record and advanced to the playoffs.
Nickname: Trojans Colors: Royal, Silver and White Year opened: 1982 State championships: None Notable alum: Defensive back Armon Williams went on to the University of Arizona and then was drafted by the Tennessee Oilers in 1997. Played two seasons in the NFL. Biggest moment: Made it to the 2A state championship with a 38-16 win over Kearny Ray. Lost 28-6 to undefeated
Phoenix Christian in state title game. Program overview: Coach Sean Loomer has plenty of raw material to work with this season, and since only four of his players are seniors, the best years at Valley Christian may lie just ahead.
Nickname: Bulldogs Colors: Purple and Gold Year opened: 1987 State championships: None Notable alum: Mitchell Willis excelled as a tight end and defensive end for the Bulldogs in 2000. Biggest moment: A 40-7 state semifinal victory over Northwest Community Christian in 1998 capped a seven-game winning streak and earned the Bulldogs their only state championship game berth. They went on to lose to undefeated Thatcher, 28-12. Program overview: Queen Creek is growing rapidly, and that helps keep the players coming. After an outstanding state playoff team last season, the Bulldogs are reloading. But don’t expect the rebuilding process to take too long.
Nickname: Mountain Lions Colors: Cardinal Red and Black Year opened: 1987 State championships: Two (5A - 2000, 2001) Notable alum: Steve Walker earned all-state honors on both sides of the ball as a running back and linebacker on the 2000 state championship team. Biggest moment: With fewer than two minutes to play, quarterback Steve Smith scampered into the end zone from four yards out to score the winning touchdown in the Mountain Lions’ 13-10 state championship win over Hamilton in 2001. Program overview: Red Mountain has taken advantage of the huge population explosion in East Mesa to become one of the state’s top programs. After struggling during its first decade, the Mountian Lions broke through with back-toback titles in 2000 and 2001 and haven’t missed the playoffs since.
Nickname: Pride Colors: Maroon and Gold Year opened: 1991 State championships: None Notable alum: Former UCLA running back Keith Brown set a Maricopa County record with 2,601 rushing yards in 1995. Biggest moment: The Pride posted their best season in 1995 but came up short in a 44-13 state semifinal loss to undefeated St. Mary’s. Program overview: Mountain Pointe took a hit when Desert Vista opened a few miles away in 1995. The Pride have the state’s most successful coach in Karl Kiefer but haven’t won more than six games in a season since 2000.
Nickname: Falcons Colors: Blue and Silver Year opened: 1992 State championships: None Notable alum: Current Air Force free safety Todd Hadley played wide receiver, running back and safety for the Falcons in 2001. Biggest moment: The Falcons recovered from a 1-8 first season to go 9-3 and advance to the 3A quarterfinals before running into eventual state champion Lakeside Blue Ridge in 1995. Program overview: Fountain Hills is always hovering right around .500 by the end of the season. Playoff trips are not out of the ordinary for the Falcons, but they haven’t broken through so far.
Nickname: Hawks Colors: Black and Teal Year opened: 1993 State championships: None Notable alum: Current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Marquis Cooper starred for the Hawks as a safety before moving to linebacker at Washington. Biggest moment: In their second varsity season in 1994, the Hawks won their first 12 games before coming up a failed twopoint conversion short of the state 4A title game in a 14-13 semifinal loss to Peoria. Program overview: Things were going just fine at Highland until Mesquite opened in 1998 and began siphoning off the Hawks’ talent. Over the last three seasons, Highland has won just seven games and has undergone a coaching change.
Nickname: Falcons Colors: Navy blue and Grey Year opened: 1995 State championships: None Notable alum: Axel Trainer played both ways and earned all-state honors as a punter in 1997 before moving on to Arizona. Biggest moment: Before jumping to 4A, the Falcons were one of the state’s top 3A teams as evidenced by their run to the 1998 state semifinals. Program overview: The move to 4A in 1999 has not treated the Falcons well. Longtime head coach Gary Labelle departed in the middle of the 2002 season and Cactus Shadows has had two coaches since.
Nickname: Wolves Colors: Maroon and Grey Year opened: 1995 State championships: None Notable alum: Chad Christensen played three sports at Desert Mountain and was the starting quarterback at Arizona State University for a time. Biggest moment: Christensen hit Chris Beaudoin for a two-point conversion in overtime as Desert Mountain upset Mountain View 29-28 in the 2000 season finale to finish with a winning record. Program overview: The Wolves didn’t win a region game in three years under head coach Craig Cobley. Now it’s first-year coach John Burke’s turn to get one of the state’s largest high schools to compete on the football field.
Nickname: Thunder Colors: Blue and Gold Year opened: 1995 State championships: One (5A - 1998) Notable alum: Current Chicago Bears wide receiver Bobby Wade was named the state’s Player of the Year after scoring 41 touchdowns as a running back to lead his team to the state title in 1998. Biggest moment: The Thunder capped an undefeated season with a 38-31 win over Brophy in the 1998 state championship game. Program overview: Since winning the program’s only state championship in its second year of varsity play in 1998, the Thunder have developed a reputation for underachieving. In each of the last two seasons, the Thunder have looked good on paper but have bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.
Nickname: Huskies Colors: Maroon and Silver Year opened: 1998 State championships: One (5A - 2003) Notable alum: Current Baltimore Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs became the most decorated player in ASU history after being named the state’s Player of the Year as a running back at Hamilton in 1999. Biggest moment: Hamilton outlasted undefeated Mountain View in a triple OT thriller to win the 2003 state championship. Program overview: The Huskies won their first state title last season after falling to the eventual state champion in each of the previous two seasons. Hamilton has huge enrollment figures and a top coach in John Wrenn, so it should remain among the state’s top three or four programs for the foreseeable future.
Nickname: Wildcats Colors: Royal Blue and Silver Year opened: 1998 State championships: None Notable alum: Quarterback Jake Stoltz played both ways and led his team to its first playoff berth in 2002. Biggest moment: Mesquite rolled to a 48-0 win over Camelback in its first ever playoff appearance in 2002. The Wildcats fell to region rival Hamilton in the quarterfinals. Program overview: In just six years Mesquite has become the largest high school in Gilbert and the seventh-biggest in Maricopa County. Combine that with a stable coaching staff led by Rich Iverson and the Wildcats should continue to prosper over the next few years.
Nickname: Coyotes Colors: Forest Green and Gold Year opened: 1999 State championships: None Notable alum: Running back Jeremiah White. Biggest moment: Goldwater scheduled its homecoming in just the fourth week of the 2002 season, but the joke was on the Bulldogs as Skyline pulled off a 26-22 upset. Program overview: The Coyotes have never posted a winning season and are already on their second head coach. As East Mesa’s population boom continues, Skyline should fill up allowing the football team to produce more wins.
Nickname: Pioneers Colors: Navy and White Year opened: 2000 State championships: None Notable alum: Offensive lineman Ben Muth signed with Stanford after the 2003 season. Biggest moment: A seasonending 24-21 victory over Shadow Mountain in 2003 clinched the first winning season in the program’s history. Program overview: After winning just seven games in its first three years, former Chaparral assistant Dana Zupke was hired to change the program’s attitude. The Pioneers immediately produced a winning season and should be a playoff regular once the undeveloped areas around campus grow up.
Nickname: Knights Colors: Silver and Blue Year opened: 2001 State championships: None Notable alum: All-state running back Jefferson Clark piled up 1,605 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Biggest moment: Only a late rally by Queen Creek prevented Higley from pulling off the upset in a 22-17 loss that would have helped the Knights to their first winning season in 2003. Program overview: Higley has never had a winning season but has reached .500 in each of the last two seasons. Close losses last season to Queen Creek and Seton have the Knights thinking this could be their year.
Nickname: Jaguars Colors: Black and Red Year opened: 2002 State championships: None Notable alum: Defensive back Shawn Rees was a second-team all-Tribune selection last year as a junior. Biggest moment: The Jaguars won their first football game when running back Adam James converted a two-point conversion in the third overtime to lift his team to a 14-13 win over
Apache Junction. Program overview: Desert Ridge won just once in its inaugural varsity campaign. The team returns most of last year’s lineup this fall and will be playing with a full crop of seniors for the first time.
Nickname: Saints Colors: Purple and Gold Year opened: 2002 State championships: None Biggest moment: The Saints kicked off varsity play with a 57-13 loss to Sunnyslope last week. Program overview: Former St. Mary’s assistant Scott Bemis, a Karl Kiefer disciple, has been building the program at Notre Dame for two years now.
Nickname: Bears Colors: Back, Green and Gold Year opened: 2003 State championships: None Biggest moment: The Bears got things started right last week when they defeated Apache Junction 34-7 in their first varsity game. Program overview: Basha did well in luring coach Tim McBurney away from Tempe two years ago. McBurney won a state title in his last stop.
Note: The AIA did not crown a 5A champion until 1959, a 4A champion until 1968, a 3A champion before 1960, a 2A champion before 1964 and a 1A champion before 1959. Any championships won before those dates were not included in a school’s total since they are considered "mythical."