They can be rookie head coaches. They can be new to Arizona. They can be new to a school.
Watch for these 10 new coaches to make an impact in 2018 during the Arizona high school football season.
Coaches are listed in alphabetical order.
Sean Freeman, Glendale Copper Canyon
He was a late hire at a school that began taking some positive rebuilding steps in the last couple of years under Shawn Kemmer. Much of Freeman’s coaching career has been spent in the Canyon Athletic Association. He took over at Apache Junction Imagine Prep in 2016, playing in an 11-man league and leading it last year to a 7-4 record and the state final. He’ll turn the Aztecs into a more pound-and-ground team in 6A. Don’t be surprised if they have a winning season.
Jon Kitna, Phoenix Brophy Prep
Kitna has been at Brophy since February, so he’s had plenty of time to get to know the players, his staff, and the area. Brophy had a rare one-win season last year, so the Broncos can only go up under Kitna, a 14-year NFL quarterback, who led Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln to two district titles in thee years and turned around Waxahachie (Texas) in three years. It’s tough duty playing in the 6A Premier against the Chandler district heavyweights, but Kitna will get the most out of his players.
Eric Lauer, Tempe Marcos de Niza
Talent is there for the first-year head coach, who learned under Norris Vaughan at Phoenix Mountain Pointe. Lauer is a strict disciplinarian who will get the most out of his players and will keep them in line. He has a strong voice in the locker room and will demand excellence both on and off the field. The Padres are in the same 4A Desert Sky Region as Scottsdale Saguaro. But they’re capable of finishing second.
Chris McDonald, Chandler Basha
Great fit. McDonald’s personality should resonate, and the offense should click. He had success as head coach at Maricopa, building it into an explosive, high-scoring team. After winning just two games and seeing 10 players quit last season, the Bears are looking to take big strides and keeping everybody together with McDonald in charge.
Mike Mitchell, Wickenburg
This is his first year coaching in Arizona, but he has 50 years coaching experience, even coaching in two other countries. Mitchell, who is coming in from Oregon, usually wins wherever he goes, so if he’s all in at Wickenburg, the Wranglers should improve on last year’s 6-5 record.
Bobby Newcombe, Queen Creek Casteel
This is Newcombe’s first season as a head coach, but he couldn’t have stepped into a better situation. Spencer Stowers confidently left Newcombe the keys to his program on his way to Minnesota this summer. Newcombe, a former quarterback, receiver and kick returner at Nebraska, who was heavily influenced in life by former Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne, commands the room. And he’s got Casteel’s first senior class engaged, ready to make noise in its first year at the 5A level.
Louie Ramirez, Marana
Ramirez may only be 25, but his work ethic is second to none. He’ll make his first head coaching job memorable with quarterback Trenton Bourguet ready to set 5A and southern Arizona passing records. Andy Litten left the Tigers in good shape after they went 9-3 last year. Ramirez will put the right pieces together. Watch his first team take off.
Kerry Taylor, Phoenix Arcadia
Arcadia ruffled feathers at 7-on-7 tournaments in June, but Taylor’s personality was heard loud and clear. The former Arizona State and Cardinals wide receiver is not going to let the Titans be road kill anymore. Last year, the Titans reached staggering depths. Even though Taylor’s first Arcadia team is young, it won’t be shy, and it will let opponents know they are in a battle.
Rich Wellbrock, Phoenix Mountain Pointe
Wellbrock’s fiery personality fits Mountain Pointe better than it did in his one year at Basha. That’s because Wellbrock’s temperament isn’t that much far removed from Norris Vaughan, who became a legend in his time turning the Pride into not only a state power but one recognized nationwide as a feared football team. Adding defensive coordinator Conrad Hamilton to the sideline gives the Pride even more fire. If the players buy in, this could be a team chasing down Chandler and Gilbert Perry for the 6A title.
Mike Zdebski, Chandler Hamilton
A hall of fame high school coach in Michigan, once Zdebski got accustomed to the heat, he got the Huskies used to his personality. He won’t let the defense collapse and he’ll have the offense moving fast with enough talented athletes and lunch-pail players that could return the Huskies back to that bunch the Chandler Wolves struggled against.