By Lee Shappell | Former Treasurer and Program Editor, MPHS Football Booster Club
December 18, 2017
Nine years ago tonight, Mountain Pointe was coming off a two-win season, and some of us were wondering if the school was ever going to give thought to elevating football to a varsity sport.
The Pride was looking for a new coach, and at that time it wasn’t exactly a plum job. So when they hired some guy from Wickenburg – Wickenburg! That’s a couple of divisions lower!” It wasn’t a surprise, but not many were excited about the choice, either.
If somebody had told us then that over the next nine years we’d have nine winning seasons, go 8-1 against our rival and reclaim the series lead, make eight state semifinal playoff appearances, three championship games, win a state title and finish among the top five in the country, we’d have taken it on the spot right then.
Nobody would have believed it, yet that’s where we are tonight as we say goodbye to Coach Norris Vaughan and his much, much better half, Ellen.
In his first year, the Pride went 10-0 and advanced to the semifinals, falling two yards short of a TD that would have put them in the title game. It was an incredible turnaround, and it was only the beginning.
Now, Coach Vaughan is not for everyone. He does it his way, and you’re going to do it his way, or you can go play soccer. Some parents didn’t like him. Some players didn’t like him. And I can say unequivocally that none of the referees liked him.
But he IS for anyone who wants to win and is willing to work hard to reach a goal.
In announcing Coach Vaughan’s resignation last week, the school principal was quoted as saying that Coach Vaughan not only turned around a football program, he changed the culture at Mountain Pointe. At a school where more than 60 percent of the student body comes from outside the attendance boundaries through open enrollment, from places like Maricopa, Laveen and south Phoenix, I believe this to be true.
The football team’s success seemed to say to everyone on campus that no matter who you are, or where you’re from, or what you have or don’t have, if you set a goal and are committed to being successful, you can do it.
I find all of that to my liking, so it was my great pleasure to play a small role peripherally in supporting the program. More than that, I made two new friends. I could sit and listen to Norris talk for hours, and have. And if there is a nicer, more genuine human being than Ellen, I’ve yet to meet her.
The Pride went 99-19 under Coach Vaughan. Add 47-5 in four seasons at Wickenburg and he is the winningest high school football coach in Arizona over those 13 years. That covers a lot of coaches at a lot of elite programs.
It was hard to say goodbye tonight at the sendoff for Norris and Ellen. They are on their way to Georgia on Wednesday, moving back home to be near their grandkids.
It could be a sad time, but I’d rather focus on all the great memories from nine years and be grateful for them. I have a smile rather than a tear.
I thank them both and wish them good health and much happiness.
And on his way out of town, I hope Norris puts a yellow hanky in an envelope and mails it to the AIA.