The first half of 2019 saw White Mountain high school sports teams complete one of the most successful winter and spring seasons in history.
The mountain had two state basketball champions and a baseball champion, plus runner-up teams in wrestling, basketball and softball.
Individually in wrestling and track and field, the White Mountains ranked as one of the state’s hotbeds of athletic talent. Four state wrestling champions and three state track and field event champions hail from the White Mountains.
The success continued into the fall season with championships in soccer and football, along with a tie for first all-time for the state's football coaches.
No. 6 seed Lady Falcons defeat strong 2A field for basketball title
The Alchesay High girls basketball team put an exclamation point at the end of a wild and wacky season for Division 2A girls basketball.
The Lady Falcons went to the state tournament as the No. 6 seed, but swept the top three teams over the final three rounds to win the program’s second state title and first state championship since 1996.
Alchesay met good competition all along the way and all four state playoff games were close.
The Lady Falcons clinched the gold basketball trophy with a 40-36 win against No. 4-seeded Scottsdale Christian in the championship game at Glendale Gila River Arena on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The final was moved to Glendale from Prescott Valley because of a snowstorm that hit right before semifinals were to begin on Friday, Feb. 22. Sites and times were changed twice on the final weekend, but the 2A semis were played at Prescott Valley’s Findlay Toyota Center later on Friday.
Alchesay defeated No. 2 Chandler Prep 38-30 in the semifinals.
The state playoffs began on Friday, Feb. 15 and the Falcons defeated No. 11 Phoenix Country Day 54-46.
In the second round on Feb. 16, the Falcons knocked off No. 3 Gilbert Leading Edge Academy, the defending 2A champs, 49-45.
Alchesay finished with 26 wins and seven losses on the season.
Lady Mustangs are champs of 1A basketball
In February, the Mogollon High School girls basketball team capped a 28-4 season with the school’s first state basketball title.
Mogollon easily won the 1A Central championship this season, and although the Mustangs never lost to a 1A team, went to the state playoffs in Prescott and Prescott Valley as the No. 5 seed.
The Mustangs met No. 12 Elfrida Valley Union in the first round at Prescott High on Feb. 15 and easily won, 73-40.
All 13 Lady Mustangs got into the scoring column, with senior Makenzie Willis leading three in double figures with 16 points.
In the second round, Mogollon met a perennial high seed, No. 4 Fort Thomas, at Prescott Valley’s Findlay Toyota Center, on Feb. 16. Again, the Mustangs were dominant and won every quarter en route to a 53-30 victory.
Willis, the Most Valuable Player for the 1A Central, again led Mogollon in scoring. She scored many layups off her game-high seven steals and finished with 25 points, another game high.
Lauren Hancock, another senior, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with 11 points.
A winter storm intervened in the final weekend of the playoffs and up to three feet of snow fell across central Arizona on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 21-22.
“We chose to leave for Prescott Valley Wednesday night because of the AIA’s decision to push forward despite the possibility of severe weather,” said Mogollon head coach Jim Maner.
“This created challenges for all teams involved. Because of the weather and game delays, the Mustangs ended up not playing their semifinal game until Saturday morning at 9 a.m. in the Findlay Toyota Center. Because of the weather, games were delayed and it was decided that the championship game would have to be played on the same day as the semifinals. The Lady Mustangs were in favor of this as they felt they were the deepest team of the final four.”
Mogollon met No. 1 Rock Point on Saturday morning and trailed 37-32 heading into the final quarter.
But as they have all year, the Mustangs surged ahead with their great depth. They outscored Rock Point 17-7 in the final period to win 49-44.
In the state title game later on Saturday, Feb. 23, the Mustangs took on No. 2 Sells Baboquivari and got behind in the first quarter.
Senior Lauren Hancock was too much for the Warriors. She had 17 points, four rebounds, and was three of four from the free-throw line. Jilliana Maner was a beast on the boards. She had 14 rebounds, 14 points and was six of six from the line.
The Mustangs’ coach noticed that the state record book did not include any Mogollon players before this season. Now two Mustangs are in the record book — Jilliana Maner, with 24 rebounds in a single game, and Hannah Whipple, for making 11 free throws in a single game.
St. Johns wrestling team takes second at state finals
PRESCOTT VALLEY — The St. Johns High School wrestling team posted three state champions and a number of top-six medalists to take second overall among nearly 50 teams competing at the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division 4 Wrestling Championships at Findlay Toyota Center on Feb. 7-8. It is the Redskins’ seventh top three team finish at the state finals under head coach Brandon Crosby in the past eight years.
St. Johns seniors Chase Jarvis and Kaiden Smith won their championship matches and their first state titles and junior Tanner Crosby won his second consecutive state title.
Eloy Santa Cruz, led by three undefeated individual champs, won the team championship with 182.5 points. St. Johns was second with 155.
Round Valley finished eighth overall in another strong effort with one strong runner-up and four podium finishers leading the way.
Elk senior Colter Hogle (40-6) was pinned by undefeated freshman Diego Chavez (60-0) of Santa Cruz in the closing seconds of a hard-fought 160-pound final.
The Show Low High School wrestling team had one state champion and two runners-up en route to a fourth-place overall finish at the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division 3 Wrestling Championships at Findlay Toyota Center on Feb. 7-8.
Tanner Fellows led the Cougars by winning the state title at 113 pounds. Fellows defeated Chino Valley’s Colby Evens 7-3 in the title bout.
Conner Schweigert, a junior, was pinned by Pueblo’s Damond Lujan in the second period of the 120-pound championship.
Show Low senior Roper Howard was pinned by Yuma’s Jayden Dobson halfway through regulation in the title bout at 195 pounds.
Alchesay boys are runners-up for 3rd consecutive season
The Alchesay boys basketball team had another state title run in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division 2A Championships last month.
The Falcons, the No. 2 seed in the state playoffs, easily won their first two games, then defeated an improving Pima team in the semifinals on Feb. 22.
But top-seeded Scottsdale Christian ended Alchesay’s run with a dominating, 72-41 win in the title game, relegating the Falcons to a third consecutive runner-up finish.
SCA made it all look effortless thanks to crisp passing and easy baskets. The Eagles made 28 of 47 shots (59.6 percent) from the field, including 11 of 12 from beyond the three-point arc.
Mustangs score in 11th inning flurry, win state baseball title
Thanks to a couple of hit batsmen, fielders’ choices and a base on balls, the Mustangs got their first five batters on base, loading the bases on three occasions, and scored four runs to clinch a dramatic 6-2 victory over defending state champ Bagdad in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 1A Baseball State Championship at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Monday, May 13.
The score was 2-2 heading into a fourth extra inning and the top two seeds in the state playoffs were putting a classic duel between pitching staffs on display.
But even the relieving pitchers in the defensive showcase had gone five innings when the Mustangs scored the winning runs.
A pair of fly balls and a ground ball to second led to three quick outs in the bottom of the inning and the Mustangs started celebrating the school’s third state baseball title.
Freshman Malaki Porter led Mogollon at the plate with a 3-for-4 outing, including an RBI triple in the fifth inning, which gave the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
Seth Reidhead, a senior, was 2-for-5, including a single in the 11th which brought home the Mustangs’ sixth and final run.
Junior pitcher Dallin Rice went 5 2/3 innings on the mound to start the game. He scattered five Sultan hits and gave up two earned runs during his stint and struck out four batters.
Timmy Porter, another junior, pitched the final 5 1/3 scoreless innings, gave up four hits and struck out two for the win.
Mogollon, the No. 2 seed, began the state playoffs at Goodyear Baseball Complex on Friday, May 3, and defeated No. 15 Fort Thomas 15-1 in five innings.
Mogollon defeated Anthem Prep 10-3 in the second round on May 4.
In the semifinal round on May 10, Mogollon took a 3-1 lead and added three runs in the fifth for insurance for a 6-1 win against Sells Baboquivari.
The Mustangs finish the season with 23 wins and four losses — the best record in school history. Mogollon was 20-8 after winning the 1A title last in 2006. The Mustangs finished 17-5 after winning the school’s first championship in 1992.
Snowflake girls win second straight track and field state title
The Snowflake High School girls track and field team won the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division 3 state championship for the second year in a row on May 3-4 at Mesa Community College.
The Lady Lobos scored points in 11 of the 18 events and had one event winner: sophomore Reagan Olson in the triple jump. Olson also took fifth in the long jump.
Elaine Zook, a senior, was second in the 100 hurdles and third in both the 100 and 200 dashes to lead Snowflake in scoring points.
Mignon Ritz, a sophomore, took fifth in the 1600, seventh in the 800, and anchored the Lobos; second-place 4x800 team. Caitlyn King, Hallie Nichols and Alyssa Hall also teamed up on the 4x800 team.
Snowflake’s 68 points was well short of the 90.5 the Lady Lobos earned in the 2018 state finals, thanks to six event wins, including Olson’s first in the long jump and triple jump.
But unlike the 2018 state meet in which two teams dominated, this year’s state finals were extremely competitive at the top with event winners from 10 different schools and 11 teams scoring 27 or more points.
The Lobo girls edged Prescott by 10 points in the final tabulation.
Snowflake boys bring home runner-up trophy in track and field
It was just like the old days in the Division 3 boys state track and field finals, with traditional, rural track and field powers, Safford and Snowflake, beating out all the heightened competition from the Valley and Tucson.
Safford took first with 50 points, Snowflake was second with 48 and Buckeye Youngker third with 46. Scottsdale Saguaro bested the rest with 39 points.
Lobos swept the top two spots in the high jump for yet another year. Senior Nathan Kay cleared 6 feet, 6 inches for first and junior Dallin Hipps took second with a height of 6-4.
The Lobos’ 4x800 team of Keaton Flake, Patrick Henderson, Noah Fish and Ryan Kay, finished second to Page by mere hundredths of a second.
High jumpers lead St. Johns at D4 state track, field meet
MESA — All eyes were on the high jump area as the field events in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Track and Field Championships wound down on Saturday, May 4.
While a gaggle of metro-area private schools decided the Division 4 state title race on the track, a pair of St. Johns Redskins — senior Austin Oppen and sophomore Preston Wilson — were again leading the way in the high jump.
Oppen, who finished sixth in the high jump as a freshman before winning the event in 2017 and 2018, had shown lots of improvement during his senior year and was close to establishing a new record for D4. Wilson also greatly improved his marks after taking third in the event as a freshman in 2018.
Oppen and Wilson took first and second on Saturday to lead the Redskins to fourth overall in the team scoring. Oppen cleared 6 feet, 8 inches to take first; Wilson was second at 6-5.
After winning his third consecutive state championship, Oppen set his sights on the state record of 6-10, set in 2007. Oppen just missed on three attempts at 6-10 1/4. His best mark before this season was 6-4.
Another top finisher for St. Johns at the state meet was junior Caleb Myers, the defending champion in the pole vault. Myers cleared 13-0 for second on Friday, May 3.
Led by Brooke Patterson’s second in the high jump, the St. Johns girls took 15th among 37 schools earning points in last weekend’s D4 state finals.
Snowflake softballers take second in state playoffs
The No. 4 Snowflake Lobos and No. 7 Sabino Sabercats met for the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 3A Softball Championship on Monday, May 6, to cap what has been a sensational season for the division.
And while the Sabercats advanced to the title game with three consecutive shutouts, the Lobos won a pair of exciting 3-2 games to get to the final.
But in the championship, Sabino’s offense came alive to complement its stellar defense and the Sabercats defeated the Lobos 14-2 to finish 23-3 on the season.
“Our girls did what they needed to to get here,” said Snowflake head coach Aaron Huish. “State runner-up is nothing to be ashamed of. We tried to represent the White Mountains well. We wanted to let the seniors leave a legacy for the next year and the year after that.”
The Lobos finish with 26 wins and 11 losses.
Sabino out-hit Snowflake 18-8 in the championship.
Kaylee Thomas, a senior, led the Lobos with a 3-for-3 outing. Heather Whipple, a junior, was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Senior Hallie McCray hit a solo home run.
Snowflake sophomore Anna Berger allowed three hits and five earned runs in the first three innings to take the loss. She struck out three. Sydney Bauer, a senior, pitched the final four innings and gave up five hits and eight earned runs.
Snowflake overcame a 2-1 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and went on to defeat Sahuarita, the defending 3A champion, 3-2 in the semifinals at Phoenix Rose Mofford Complex on May 4. Each team got eight hits.
Snowflake defeated No. 5 Show Low 3-2 in front of a huge crowd at Rose Mofford in the second round on May 3. The Lobos got 10 hits in the much anticipated rematch (the teams split wins in two region games during the regular season).
Snowflake defeated No. 13 Phoenix Northwest Christian, 13-2 in five innings, in the first round at Rose Mofford on April 27.
Teams from the East Region had dominated the rankings all season. Winslow went to the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, and Payson, Snowflake, Show Low and Blue Ridge entered the playoffs ranked third through sixth, respectively. Sabino, at No. 7, was the top-ranked team from the South, but No. 9 Sahuarita, the defending state champion, and No. 14 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian made it to the semifinal round.
No surprise, since teams from the East and South have met in nine of the last 10 3A/Division 3 finals. Sabino’s win in this year’s title game made it five championships in a row for the South Region.
Snowflake’s title-game appearance was its first since 2005. The Lobos last won the state championship in 2001.
“White Mountain softball is going to stay on top,” Huish said. “Winslow will return a lot, Show Low has a lot returning, Chris Fraze has Blue Ridge playing well and Payson has a couple of absolute stellar players coming back.
Lobos 2nd at state golf championships
The Snowflake High School golf team rallied on Day 2 of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division 3 Golf Championships at Tucson National Golf Club.
The Lobos cut 12 strokes off their first-round score with the second best team score on Day 2 — a 324 on the Catalina course. The team was fourth after the first round after a combined score of 336.
Snowflake finished with a two-day score of 660, 28 strokes behind state champion Chandler Valley Christian, to claim the runner-up trophy.
German exchange-student Marius Gessl led the Lobos with a total score of 79-78-157 for 12th overall.
Snowflake placed four golfers among the top 32 in besting 13 other schools which had team scores at the state tournament.
Lobos T.J. Davis (88-78) and Tyler Olson (85-81) each had a two-day score of 166, tying for 27th and Blake Scott (84-87-171) was 32nd.
Ronan McShane was 14th overall with a 79-80-159 to lead Blue Ridge (349-354-703) to seventh overall.
Blue Ridge soccer caps perfect season with state title
In 2019, the Blue Ridge High School varsity soccer team met no equals.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, Yellow Jackets capped the best season in fall soccer history by defeating Chino Valley for the state title, 3-0, at Gilbert Williams Field High, and finishing with 23 wins and no losses.
It is the program’s first state soccer championship since 2012 and 10th title in the 26-year history of the fall state tournament. And it came one year after Blue Ridge missed its first state title appearance since 2008, as well as a string of five consecutive seasons of state runner-up finishes.
Those years of frustration led to a renewed work ethic which culminated in a return to the top for the state’s winningest fall soccer program.
“I’ve lost this thing a couple of times and all these guys I’m playing with now I’ve seen them all cry,” said Blue Ridge senior striker Tommy Pederson. “We came together every single year after (those seasons that ended in a loss). We told ourselves ‘we gonna push it and be the best team.’ We went through every single team, 23-and-0, pushing it. The captains and I came up with this motivation for the team called “Conquer From Within. We stuck with it and we say it before every single game. It means you get over all those anxieties, all those other teams. We conquer everything that comes our way. Thats what we did this year, we stuck with our motive.
Thoughout this season, the Yellow Jacket forwards, midfielders and defenders were able to control their opponents and find teammates in scoring position.
The Jackets wasted little time gaining the advantage on a familiar title-game opponent. Pederson scored off an assist in the opening minutes to take a 1-0 lead.
Blue Ridge held that advantage until midway through the second half, when Pederson again found the net on an agressive move up centerfield.
A few minutes later, following a corner kick, Pederson got to the ball again and scored his third goal for good measure and a commanding 3-0 lead with just a few minutes left.
This year’s state championship is the fourth for Blue Ridge head coach Bryon Crain, who led the Jackets to three consecutive state titles between 2010 and 2012.
The Jackets opened the state tournament with a 9-1 win against No. 8 Bisbee in Lakeside on Wednesday, Oct. 30. In the semifinals at Williams Field High on Friday, Nov. 1, the Jackets defeated No. 4 Willcox 8-0 to advance to the state title game for the 17th time in school history, more than any other team.
The 10 state championships is also the most of any team in fall soccer history. This year’s title snaps a two-year title run by Phoenix Country Day. Chino Valley is second with four straight, all over Blue Ridge, from 2013 to 2016.
St. David unseats Mogollon for 1A volleyball title
SCOTTSDALE —The Mogollon High School varsity volleyball team came into the state playoffs ranked where the Mustangs had been all season long, at No. 1.
The Mustangs had not lost to a 1A team all year (and had only one regular-season loss, at Snowflake on Sept. 4) and the team did not lose a set in returning to the state championship match with three 3-0 victories on Nov. 8-9. In the final match, Mogollon met a No. 2 seed — St. David, a team that had also swept into the final with consecutive 3-0 wins— in a rematch of the 2018 title match.
And the final lived up to all the expectations of a great final. The scoring was close in every set.
Mogollon won the first set 25-22, but St. David came back with straight-set wins for a 3-1 victory and the Tigers’ first state championship since 2016.
St. David won the second set 25-23. Both teams had set point in game three before the Tigers surged ahead for a 27-25 win. St. David won the fourth and deciding set 25-21 to dethrone the defending champions.
The Mustangs finished the season 26-7 overall.
Mogollon defeated Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa, the No. 16 seed, 3-0 in the first round at Scottsdale Coronado High on Friday, Nov. 8. The Mustangs won by scores of 25-9, 25-10, 25-12.
In the second round, also on Nov. 8, Mogollon defeated No. 9 Anthem Prep 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-20).
On Saturday, Nov. 9, at Coronado High, the Mustangs faced No. 4 Rock Point and again won in straight sets, 3-0. The Mustangs won by relatively closer scores, 25-18, 25-22, 25-22.
Coaching legend Paul Moro dies, Mike Morgan ties Moro’s career-win mark
St. Johns head coach Mike Morgan won his 336th career game as a head football coach on Friday, Nov. 8. The mark ties former Blue Ridge head coach Paul Moro, who died in January following a battle with cancer.
With their first three touchdowns set up by interception returns, No. 6 St. Johns defeated visiting No. 11 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, 35-7, in the first round of the AIA Division 2A football playoffs on Nov. 8 to tie Morgan and Moro on the all-time list.
On Friday, Nov. 15, in the second round, Phoenix Christian defeated the Redskins 27-20, so the two coaches remain tied heading into next season.
Elks rally past Phoenix Christian for 2A football title
SCOTTSDALE — Round Valley overcame a 28-13 deficit with 21 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes to defeat Phoenix Christian, 34-28, in the Arizona Interscholastic Association 2A Championship at Coronado High School on Friday, Dec. 6.
It had been 39 years since Round Valley had claimed a state football championship, despite coming close a few times. The Elks advanced to this year’s title game for the third time in the past four years.
The top-seeded Elks got two touchdowns from quarterback Tayvin Bevell, two TD’s and a run for a two-point conversion by Marc Irigoyen, and an extra point and a pair of field goals by Sergio Camunez.
Round Valley punted only once in the title game — on the first series of the contest. The Cougars drove 72 yards in 10 plays on No. 3 Phoenix Christian’s first offensive series to open the scoring. Senior running back Man-man Freeman, the 2A rushing leader, capped the drive with a 1-yard run up the middle.
The Elks responded with a 14-play drive that stalled on a holding penalty, and Camunez kicked a 35-yard field goal to make the score 7-3.
Round Valley took the lead six plays later after recovering a Cougar fumble at the Phoenix Christian 8 yard line. Irigoyen scored on a 1-yard run on a fourth-down play and the Elks went up 10-7 with 8:16 left in the second quarter.
The Cougars responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive to retake the lead with 2:06 left before halftime. Freeman ran 2 yards for the TD and PC led 14-10 at the half.
Four plays after the Cougars received the second-half kickoff, junior running back Howard Russell raced 42 yards for a touchdown and PC took a 21-10 lead with 10:10 left in the third.
Round Valley drove to inside the Cougar 20 on the next series, but had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Camunez, which cut the lead to 21-13 with 6:23 left in the third.
On the ensuing possession, Russell scored on a 44-yard romp to cap an eight-play, 87-yard drive and help give the Cougars a 28-13 lead with 2:25 left in the third.
But the Elks were not done.
A 39-yard kickoff return by sophomore Jovan Ortiz set up a three-play, 53-yard scoring drive. Bevell got free along the sideline and raced 45 yards for a touchdown and Camunez’ point-after made it 28-20 with 43.2 seconds left in the third.
Senior defensive lineman Trevor Wilson tackled Russell for a loss on the first play of the next series, and Freeman recovered his own fumble for a short gain, and the Cougars were forced to punt.
Round Valley scored in nine plays to tie it with 6:02 left in the game. Bevell capped the drive with an 8-yard keeper and Irigoyen ran for the two-point conversion to make it 28-28.
The Elks stuffed Freeman for no gain on the first play of the next series, and after two incomplete passes, the Cougars were forced to punt again.
A punt on the Cougars’ next series was partially blocked, setting up a five-play, 41-yard, game-winning drive by Round Valley. Irigoyen, who ran four times during the series, bowled over several would-be tacklers and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 28-yard run.
Camunez missed the PAT, leaving the score 34-28 with 2:06 left. The Cougars were unable to sustain anything offensively, and the Elks took over on downs and ran out the clock.
The Elks amassed 305 total yards, including 296 on the ground. Bevell led the team with 164 yards on 21 carries.
The win clinched Round Valley’s first state football championship since 1980, when the Elks shared the 3A state title with Snowflake. This year’s state title is the seventh for the Elks since 1964, which was the first year for 2A playoffs.