• Victories: 349
• Seasons: 43
• State titles: Six
• Retirement: Now
Mike Morgan, the coach who has won the most games in Arizona high school football, has had enough.
The erstwhile 66-year-old coached his final game on Nov. 12 in St. Johns’ 2A quarterfinal state playoff game in Benson. The Redskins lost 48-6.
“I’m not coming back. I’ll be retiring,” Morgan said Monday in a phone interview with the White Mountain Independent.
Morgan leaves after 43 years of coaching, 33 of them at St. Johns. He also coached at Ganado, Chinle, Apache Junction and Mesa high schools. His St. Johns teams won state championships from 1992-94, in 2002, 2007 and 2008. Two other times the Redskins were runners-up, in 2000 and 2003.
On Oct. 16, 2000, St. Johns won at Holbrook, a victory that elevated Morgan to No. 1 on the Arizona coaching list at 337. That night he surpassed the late Paul Moro, a former Blue Ridge coach and an inductee in the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame.
The victories and accolades mean less to Morgan than the personal feelings developed over his long career, he told the newspaper.
“It’s not everything,” he said regarding the wins record. “Relationships along the way, fun, development of kids through the sport of football mean a lot more to me than winning games, having a winning record; the friends I made along the way and the kids I coached along the way. Good memories.”
Morgan was not specific about his plans post-coaching, and he’s not even sure he will remain living in the White Mountains.
“I think I’ll just relax, do some things I’ve wanted to do,” he said.
This season the Redskins won four straight games to turn around a 2-3 record and march toward the playoffs. They ended the regular season with a loss at Alchesay but won their first-round playoff game by virtue of a 28-0 shutout at Camp Verde. That was followed by the quarterfinal blowout defeat at Benson last week and the season’s end.
“We knew we were young coming in. We had a lot of inexperienced kids. We graduated 13 seniors last year,” Morgan said. “Our goal was to get into the playoffs and we wound up even winning a playoff game, which we thought was successful for us. We would’ve liked to finish better than 7-5. That’s a winning record at least. We’re proud of that.”
A rocky start to the season left the Redskins at 1-2 after three games and 2-3 after five, with all three losses coming against teams that all reached the playoffs.
“We had a tough schedule the first three or four weeks of the year with Round Valley, Show Low and Morenci. Those were all real good teams. We struggled but we found ways to win other games, kept our head up, did our best,” Morgan said.