FRESHMAN TEAM PHOTO 2017
McClintock football has a rich history. The Tempe school opened in 1965 with legendary Karl Kiefer at the helm and in his 26 years with the Chargers, the Red & Blue took home titles in 1977, 1980, and 1989.
But that is in the past. All of the players on the current MHS roster were about a decade from being born. Progress has become stagnant. The last playoff game for the Chargers took place back in 2009 (during a 4-7 season). Since then, the once proud program is 20-50 with no winning seasons in those seven years (3-7 in 2016). And it's happened under three different head coaches.
So, some new blood was brought in to try and inject a little more excitement to boost Charger Pride. The new coach, Corbin Smith, was hired in January and had most his staff in place by the time spring ball began in early May. Smith is the son of Larry Smith, who served 24 seasons as a collegiate head coach at Tulane, Arizona, USC, and Missouri.
This is the first head coaching job for the younger Smith, who has been an assistant coach for 17 years. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Mesquite on the Jim Jones staff in 2015. Last year, he worked with Mesa Community College while enjoying his son Preston's senior year at Mesquite. Preston signed a football scholarship with Weber State in February.
As for this year's Charger staff, Smith will call the plays and his offensive coordinator has deep McClintock ties. Chris Colter, who was retained from the previous coaching staff, was an All-State defensive back on the 1989 5A (big-school) state champions. The defensive coordinator is Zach Griffin, who has been in that same position for the last four years at Mountain Pointe, a fellow Tempe Union District school.
The excitement in the school has begun as the McClintock Zoo Krew has come out with the themes for the Charger students to wear each Friday night to support the team. For example, the home opener on Sept. 8 is a ''USA-out" with fans wearing patriotic colors for the game taking place close to 9/11.
Taking a look at that team on the field, junior Cordell Colter (Chris' son) will start at quarterback. The 5-11, 185-pound signal caller ended last season as the starter. Colter has a big-play receiver to look for downfield with Jerone Davison. Smith called Davison (6-1, 165) his "most athletic player".
One of the things Smith has implemented is changing formations on the fly as the coaches spot mismatches. With the call of a single word, players can swap positions from the slot to outside and still be ready to run the play. This comes from practicing with players in different positions.
As for the running game, Tyrese Green returns for his senior year after compiling 2,000 all-purpose yards last year. The dynamic player plays longer than his listed 5-8 height. The speed at the running back and wide receiver positions is the strength of the Charger offense. But, there's speed in other areas, too.
"Our offensive line has a long way to go," Smith said. "But, they're quick and fast. We don't have kids that are 6-3 and 280 pounds, but they can play with leverage."
Defensively, the team will be an experienced unit. Smith said the Chargers have both safeties back, one of two corners, and pretty much all of the linebackers. With the strength in numbers at linebacker, junior Keyon Lindsey has been moved to defensive end. The defensive line will be anchored by junior DE Quincy Singleton.
The team has been getting up to speed with a new defensive system and is able to start plays from a variety of formations.
"We have the ability to run a 3-4, 3-3, 4-2, or 4-3," Smith said. "The gap assignments don't change much."
Smith has seen what he called "night-and-day" progress since the first day of official practices at the end of July. His team will be tested this Wednesday with a scrimmage at 4A-contender Higley in a three-way scrimmage with 6A-school Gilbert (and Purdue-bound Jack Plummer). Getting meaningful reps against those two teams will help when McClintock faces the teams on its 5A Metro Region schedule.
"The big part to turning this program around is changing the culture," Smith said. "The biggest thing is learning how to work and how to practice."
In the practices at MHS, the players go non-stop. They sprint everywhere. Kids aren't standing around, they get designated team water breaks, but they are constantly in motion.
The Chargers plan to play no-huddle and go fast. And it's not just offense. On the D, the players are chasing the ball carrier down the field and sprinting to the ball.
The team has taken on the mantra of PPT - Pride, Poise, Team. All that's left is the players to buy in totally to what this veteran coaching staff is trying to do. And everyone will see how that is working out on Friday nights under the lights.
"(The most important thing) is to be sound fundamentally," Smith said. "Be where you're supposed to be and we will put ourselves in position to be in every ball game."
The team is athletic and the numbers are up. The question that will be answered this fall is "Can they execute?". Fortunately for the Chargers, the team plays in the Metro Region, which doesn't have a 5A super-team like Centennial, Williams Field, Queen Creek, or Desert Edge. Kellis, Apollo, and Sunnyslope seem to be the contenders for the league title. Kellis went 9-2 last season, lost most of its offense, but returns Josiah Bailey. Apollo has an experienced QB in Frank Sanchez and also brings back O-linemen with plenty of game reps. Sunnyslope (7-3 last year) returns six starters, including disruptive DL Bub Dixon.
McClintock will play its first two games on the road, opening on Aug. 25 in Casa Grande against Vista Grande HS. The following week will bring a trip further south to Marana to take on the Tigers, last year's Sonoran Region champs.
When McClintock head coach Corbin Smith was growing up, his father, Larry Smith, was a football coach at the University of Arizona for seven seasons from 1980-1986. At the time, McClintock was one of the powerhouse football programs in the Phoenix area. Now, after a string of losing seasons for McClintock, Smith has an opportunity to rebuild a storied program.
“When this job came open, I wasn’t really in the head coaching loop. I was really out of that, I just wanted to coach to coach,” Smith said. “I already knew, in my mind, that I wanted to go after it and if I got it I would take it.”
Smith alluded to the demographics and the diversity of the school being more his style than any other school in the area. There was one other thing that stood out to him when he was interviewing for the position. It was the challenge of rebuilding a program that he grew up knowing was so strong and so storied.
“That challenge is something that was an honor and it’s a privilege,” Smith said. “I felt very honored, and I felt like I owe it to all the guys that made that program what it was.”
Coach Karl Kiefer was one of those guys that made the McClintock football program what it was. According to maxpreps.com, Kiefer held a record of 218-73-3 from 1964 to 1991 at McClintock.
After a 3-7 season in 2016, Smith knows that there is work to be done if he wants to rebuild McClintock to its former glory. He said that starts with laying a foundation to build on for the upcoming season.
“The big thing I am on the kids about is discipline and having high expectations of themselves, of the program, of their school, and being accountable for what they do every moment of every day,” Smith said. “So that’s where the foundation started.”
The Chargers have built on that foundation throughout spring ball and the summer. They played in 7-on-7 tournaments, where they have had the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in Arizona, like Chandler, Hamilton, Saguaro and Mountain Pointe.
They are lifting weights four days a week at 7 a.m., getting bigger, better and stronger. Smith has also implemented something new at McClintock, something that he said he has wanted to do for a long time. Once a week, Smith brings in Donna Chasan, a local yoga instructor to teach his players yoga.
“I think that it’s great for your core. It’s great obviously for flexibility and learning your body and understanding the dynamics and the mechanics of the way your body moves,” Smith said. “Once you start doing that, and incorporating the body mechanics, your body control changes and your strength increases.”
The new leader of the Chargers hopes that with the number of athletes that he has this season, the work in the gym will transfer to the field in the fall. Also, he won’t be surprised if the Chargers catch people off guard this season as this team reminds him of the 2013 Mesquite team.
“When (former coach) Jim Jones came in his first year, he had a bunch of sophomores and juniors who had played the year before and they went 2-8,” Smith said. “Basically, the structure and the foundation he laid and the kids were so hungry to win and we had great athletes at that time. They just bought in to what he was doing and they went 11-2 and lost in the semifinals to Chaparral.”
Smith is hoping for a little of the same in 2017 and believes that with the team he has, they have eight must-win games on their schedule.
“When I say ‘must-win games’ I’m talking about eight games that where if we play sound fundamental football and do what were coached to do, we can, from a physical standpoint, win those games,” Smith said.
The Chargers start their road to their first winning season since 2006 on August 25 at Vista Grande High School.
– Contact Greg Macafee at email@example.com or at 480-898-5630 or follow @greg_macafee on Twitter.
Art Greathouse, part of the backfield that helped make Tempe McClintock one of the greatest football teams in the state in the mid-1980s, returned to his alma mater on Wednesday.
New coach Corbin Smith, working to return a history that was lost somewhere between Karl Kiefer and the line of coaches that came after him in 1990, asked Greathouse to talk about what made McClintock great.
It started with Kiefer and discipline.
"I mentioned bringing back the discipline," said Greathouse, who was recruited out of high school by Smith's dad, Larry Smith, to play football at the University of Arizona. "It was great to see the kids had great eye contact and respect. The kids didn't have their sleeves rolled up and shirts up to here and all that flashy stuff.
"These are a good group of kids. I'm proud and excited to see what they have to work with."
It's going to take a lot of work.
Coaches who came from great programs haven't been able to return to the McClintock football machine of the 1970s and '80s that Kiefer churned out. The school's last state championship came in 1989 when Kiefer was at the end of his McClintock career, before starting up Phoenix Mountain Pointe's program.
McClintock went 5-15 the last two years under Spencer Waggoner, who had come from a strong program at Chandler, where he was an assistant.
Matt Lewis was part of three state championships at Scottsdale Saguaro, where he was offensive coordinator. But that didn't translate into consistent success at McClintock, where he has a losing record in four years, before Waggoner took over.
"We're out here teaching and trying to build morale, and instill some accountability," said Smith, who was an offensive coordinator at Gilbert Mesquite two seasons ago. "We want to make sure these guy know they can win."
This is Smith's first head coaching job, but he has grown up with football. His dad led Arizona, Missouri and USC to success. Larry Smith died in 2008 at 68.
Smith learned to surround himself with good people.
He talks to Kiefer frequently, always picking his brain.
He welcomed Zach Griffin as his defensive coordinator. Griffin came over from Mountain Pointe, where he was defensive coordinator the past four years, including the Pride's first unbeaten, state championship season in 2013.
Griffin said he let Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan know in December that he needed a change.
"We want to bring tradition back," said McClintock linebacker Alay'jon Tamplin. (Photo: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)