Show Low’s new football coach graduated as a Cougar in 1990, but not in Show Low — in Casa Grande instead.
Nevertheless, after being hired two weeks ago Carlo Hernandez is already fully vested in the Show Low Cougars and eager for spring football, summer workouts and, of course, the 2021 fall season. His first coaching role came in 1996, and for the last seven years has not been on the sidelines.
Hernandez met his players from the eighth grade on up to high school varsity for the first time last week and made it clear that he does not want to know their names just yet.
“I have watched a lot of film and I believe there is a lot of talent here. I’m new to them as they’re new to me,” Hernandez said. “My style of coaching may not be something they’re used to. We’re gonna be fast. We’re gonna work hard in the offseason through the season. My philosophy when we start spring ball is I don’t want to know a last name because I’m not from here. I’m not tied to anybody here. So I want these kids to feel they’re getting a fair shot not because of who’s before them or who their uncle was or who their dad is or who their mom is. Politics doesn’t play into it for me. I don’t want them to say ‘I’m a big name here’ or whatever. That’s a philosophy I used in Coolidge. I didn’t have any ties with their families or whatnot. You’re coming into this with a clean slate — good or bad. I’m going to evaluate every kid through spring ball and some of these kids may play positions they had no idea about playing. My thought is they’re going to play the position that benefits and the program and themselves to be successful.”
Hernandez takes over for Monte Maxwell, who stepped down after coaching the Cougars for four seasons and being an assistant coach for six years previously.
Hernandez insists on building a “character” team off the field in addition to a successful team on the field. He’s familiar with the Show Low program and others in the 3A East Division for having coached against the White Mountains teams as the coach in Coolidge a few years ago. Returning to a community-based high school program was among the benefits of landing the Cougars job for him.
“The community itself, the way of living. It’s what rural, small-town communities are like. Everybody knows your name, everybody says hi, everybody’s genuine,” Hernandez said. “Once I threw my name in the ring then I started to focus on football and the school. The school’s a great place. Great administration from the top down. Everyone is genuine and talking to them that’s what they want from these student-athletes and that’s what I want to give them. When they leave this program I want to make sure they’re good-character kids, that they’re going to be successful in whatever they do. I think football is a huge tool for life. It teaches you everything you need to be a successful human being as far as teamwork, cooperation, meeting adversity. It’s a whole-character program. If the championship follows that suit then I think that’s icing on the cake. I firmly believe if we build those type of character kids and they’re getting it done not only in the classroom but out there in the community then more than likely they’re getting it done on the field. Hopefully we can bring a championship back to this community.”
In addition to coaching at Coolidge, Hernandez also was the first coach at Casa Grande Vista Grande High and also was an assistant at Maricopa High. He remembers well the battles his Coolidge team had against the East Division teams.
“Being in Coolidge, we were in the same conference. We were both in 3A. We knew, everybody knew down south that the state championship goes through the mountains. In the ’90s and 2000s with coach (Paul) Moro at Blue Ridge and Show Low had a great run for many years with Randy (Ricedorff) and now we got Snowflake. So in 3A still the ball comes through the mountain. I was very familiar with the programs up here. Show Low and Blue Ridge. The first championship game I coached was against coach Moro and Blue Ridge. They showed us what East football was like. They put it to us in the state championship game. And to go full circle, my last championship game — we were going for a three-peat at the time — was against Show Low and, again, Show Low showed us what it was like to play against East mountain ball.”
Hernandez’s Coolidge teams played in six state championship games and won twice.
In terms of football on the field, Hernandez figures speed and toughness will be key components of Show Low’s teams under his leadership.
“I love speed. I have always had a thing where my O’s were faster than your X’s. I know firsthand there’s speed up here in the mountains. Offensively, we’re full throttle. We’re in attack mode. I’d like to say we’re going to be a no-huddle offense but this is all going to come down to personnel. I’d like to say what I’d like to do but once I find out what type of kids we have our style of offense can adjust to whatever needs we have. We will offensively attack.
“Defensive guys will say they dictate what offenses do. I like to think the other way. My offense is going to dictate to you what your defense is going to do. And that’s through a variety of formations, motions. And defensively, I want us to force the issue. You let your players be players. I’m not reinventing the wheel, I’m not splitting the atom in 12 different ways. In actuality I’m just trying to make it simple so these kids can play fast and be hard-nosed. I want these kids to smack you.”