Nearly a week has passed since Chaparral made the last tackle of the 2010 season, the longest in Arizona high school football history.
Champions were crowned (some repeatedly), games were won and lost in eye-popping fashion.
Coaches were hired, fired, or something in between.
A few programs soared to the sky in success never seen before. Others fell into an abyss (hopefully for only 2010).
There’s plenty to remember and plenty more to forget, so here are two handfuls’ worth of stories — in no particular order — that defined this epic season:
Notre Dame vs. Williams Field: Undoubtedly one of the best games the past few years, this 4A Division II state semifinal lived up to every subplot. Two evenly matched teams exchanged touchdowns (passing, rushing and kickoff returns) with neither team able to stop the other. That is, until Notre Dame drove 80 yards in three minutes for a potential game-tying touchdown in the final 10 seconds. With three defensive starters injured, Notre Dame elected to go for the 2-point conversion and the victory rather than force overtime with an extra point, but quarterback Jordan Gehrke was tackled at the 1-yard line and the Black Hawks preserved a 49-48 victory. The 1-yard-line stop sent Williams Field into the 4A-II championship game, where the Black Hawks were on the other end of agony in an overtime loss to Phoenix Thunderbird at Sun Devil Stadium.
Zane Zamenski: Hired at Corona del Sol in March as the fourth coach in school history, the former South Mountain coach ran into trouble immediately. A letter on behalf of more than a dozen players was sent to the school and Tempe Union High School district administration alleging lewd comments and behavior by the coaching staff. An investigation confirmed some of the allegations, but Zamenski retained his job. Then, in the midst of a 1-10 season, he was put on the hot seat again for allegedly having kids practice even though the medical staff hadn’t cleared the kids to participate following concussions and other injuries. A second investigation led to Zamenski’s dismissal as coach (he’s currently still teaching health classes at the school), and the Aztecs subsequently hired former Mountain View coach Tom Joseph as its new coach last week. Did Zamenski overtly cross ethical boundaries? Or was it a case of doing what many football coaches do and getting caught in a web of already unhappy parents and staff? We may never fully know.
Bernie Busken: He continued Mountain View’s dynasty in the late 1990s and early 2000s after Jesse Parker, but Busken wasn’t allowed to return for the 2002 season following an investigation into hazing, “pink bellies” and other transgressions under his watch. He left town and made a few small-college stops around the country, but always maintained a residence in the East Valley and wanted to come back. Basha obliged when the school hired him after it cut ties with former coach Tim McBurney, who had been the only coach in school history. So far, so good. The Bears won the Central Region title and earned the No. 2 seed in the 5A-I playoffs, but were knocked out in the first round by Gilbert.
Mountain View: The Toros have been around since 1976, but never had a losing season until 2010. A powerhouse program not long ago, the Toros have enjoyed plenty of success since 2002 under Tom Joseph (a state championship, two other championship appearances, six region titles, .800 winning percentage), but the demands at Brown Road are sky-high. After an overtime loss to Desert Vista in the first round of the 5A-I playoffs, the Toros fired Joseph. A coaching search is underway for the best candidate to handle this pressure-cooker, with a new coach expected to be in place before the end of January. Joseph, meanwhile, didn’t stay in the stands for long. He was hired by Corona del Sol last week.
Golf, shuffleboard and an Arnold Palmer: The youthful shift continued as more longtime coaches stepped down from the coaching ranks. Three more of the longest-tenured in the East Valley now seek greener pastures. Mesquite coach Mike Reardon called it a career after 42 years in coaching, where he won a state championship at Saguaro this decade before bringing success to Mesquite. Jim Beall won a couple state championships at the lower levels, came to Higley when the school opened and built the Knights (literally in some cases) into a competitive program at the Class 3A and 4A levels. He’ll still teach at the school, where he remains an iconic figure. Jim Ewan spent 40 years at high schools and community college, including the last decade at Chandler, before stepping down at the end of the season. Don’t be surprised if any or all of these three show up on the sidelines again in the future, but being “the guy” of a program took its toll on guys more interested in coaching than dealing with all the accessories that go along with today’s coaching culture.
Queen Creek’s turnaround: There was no adjustment period in the coaching transition from Curt LeBlanc to Joe Germaine at Queen Creek. Although Germaine didn’t have any head coaching experience, he came in and led the Bulldogs to a 10-3 record and a berth in the 4A-I state semifinals. Quarterback Adam Brzeczek and running back Chim Nga led a balanced offense, and the defense played well for most of the season. Queen Creek’s biggest win came on Oct. 1 when it knocked off defending 4A-II champion Cactus in triple overtime. Queen Creek’s only losses came to 4A-I state title-game participants Saguaro (twice) and Canyon del Oro.
Morgan’s move: Valley Christian coach Bill Morgan resigned from his post in March, which caused his standout son, Jordan, to transfer. Originally, Jordan, a California verbal commitment, went to Chandler, but eventually ended up at Blue Ridge. The school was investigated for an alleged recruiting violation, and then Show Low, the team’s rival, was also investigated for a possible recruiting violation involving Morgan. No punishment was handed down, but Morgan sat out the first three games of the year while the matter was ironed out. Blue Ridge eventually lost to Show Low in the 3A championship game.
Desert Ridge’s offensive flip-flop: Through eight and a half games, the Jaguars were a throwing team that kept teams honest with their running game. But quarterback Parker Rasmussen went down with a knee injury, and with the fleet-footed Jordan Becerra taking over, a transformation was the only option. Desert Ridge adjusted on the fly, and couldn’t have asked for better results, storming to the championship game as the No. 10 seed. Desert Ridge ran for an average of 386 yards in the first four games after Rasmussen went down, and ran for 268 yards on Hamilton in the title game, 57 more than any other team this season. However, a late drive fell short as Desert Ridge’s magical season ended in a 21-13 title game loss.
Tempe Prep’s no-frills success: Tempe Prep is such a small school that it doesn’t have a field, a weight room, cheerleaders or a gymnasium. But it does have quite the football team. The Knights are still relative newcomers to 2A, but they had a year to remember. Tempe Prep made it to the 2A quarterfinals this season before losing to Thatcher in the final minutes. The Knights shocked the conference during the year, beating traditional East Valley powers Valley Christian and Scottsdale Christian, among others.
Dynasties: It was a good year for Goliath. Hamilton went 15-0 to improve its winning streak to 40 games and won a third consecutive state title. Chaparral went undefeated and won a second consecutive 5A-II state title. Saguaro lost two games early in the year, but rebounded to beat Canyon del Oro in the 4A-I state championship for its fourth title in five seasons. Hamilton loses a lot of playmakers, but always has talent waiting in the wings, and Chaparral has top players Connor Brewer and Davonte Neal returning next season. Both teams will be preseason favorites again next season.
• Unstoppable duo of Teddy Ruben and D.J. Foster lead Saguaro to 4A-I state title
• Davonte Neal transfers to Chaparral and leads Firebirds to second consecutive state championship
• Ahwatukee revival as Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe make headlines by reaching 5A-I semifinals
• Ron Wisniewski begins new era of Red Mountain football
• Surging Gilbert slips into playoffs and upends No. 2 Basha in first round of playoffs