Monthly Archives: December 2003

high schools

Yeoman’s return highlights GHS reunion

by Jason Stone

When Bill Yeoman laced up his sneakers to play football at Glendale High School in the mid-1940s, there were no concrete bleachers for fans to watch the game like today.
Only a few rows of creaky, wooden bleachers ran alongside the Cardinals’ sideline back then. But that was all that was needed with a school enrollment of only 400 students.
“That was back in the day when Northern and 43rd avenues was the end of the world,” said Josie Griffith, a classmate of Yeoman’s at GHS.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYeoman helped Glendale win a mythical state championship in 1944, but later gained fame as a player with Heisman Trophy winners Glen Davis and Doc Blanchard at Army, then as a longtime head coach at the University of Houston, where he invented a new offense.
Yeoman returned to his roots last week, making a visit to the annual “Party Dogs” reunion of Glendale High graduates from the mid-1940s.
A handful of former players met at a downtown Glendale restaurant last week to reminisce about the old days and see Yeoman for the first time since 1976 — the last year Yeoman remembers being in Arizona.
“I’m here so quick, I can’t even say hello,” Yeoman joked.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association also honored Yeoman for being one of two Arizona athletes to be selected to the College Hall of Fame.
Yeoman’s 160 wins in 25 seasons with Houston, included 18 winning seasons and a handful of bowl appearances, including the Cotton Bowl back when the champion of the now-defunct Southwest Conference was sent there.
But it was the invention of the Veer-T offense in the 1960s, more than his coaching record, that made him a choice for the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
“Fame is fleeting for a player,” said Barry Arney, 74, a teammate of Yeoman’s at GHS. “But he had a lot of success at Houston as a coach.”
Yeoman, who will be 76 next week, is now a consultant for the Houston athletic department and continues to reside in the Houston area.
He will also be with the team in Hawaii today for the Hawaii Bowl matchup against the University of Hawaii.
Yeoman’s visit capped a busy year for the 1944 Cardinals team. Glendale finally received a state trophy from the AIA for going undefeated.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 26, 2003

Cactus fights until final play in loss at 4A title game

by Jason Stone

All fairy tales must have an ending. For Cinderella, it was the stroke of midnight. For Cactus High School football players, it was a team from Tucson.
Playing in its third 4A state championship in school history last Saturday at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, Cactus fared the same way it did the first two times — with a loss.
Sunnyside, which shocked the state a week prior by knocking off defending champ Chaparral, rallied from a 10-0 deficit in the first half and held on for a 21-13 victory to win their second state title in three years.
4c50a0cf54604.image“It’s terrible,” said Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier. “It will get worse the more it sinks in.”
Fetkenhier, who is in his 20th year as Cactus coach, also experienced the first two state championship losses in 1985 and 1987.
In those games, Cactus was beaten handily 27-0 and 28-6. But with last week’s game coming down to the final play, it is the closest Cactus has ever been to winning it all.
Cobras quarterback Bubba Bradley found an open Kevin Marin for an apparent 39-yard touchdown in the final seconds that would have made the score 21-19 with a possible 2-point conversion try to follow.
But officials ruled that Bradley had tossed the ball from past the line of scrimmage, negating the touchdown.
“I still thought we were going to score on the next play,” Fetkenhier said.
But Sunnyside’s defense, which held Cactus’ high-powered offense in check after struggling in the first two series, sacked Bradley on the game’s final play, leaving a shocked and dejected Cactus team spread out over the field in silence.
Sunnyside, which ended the season with 12 straight wins after starting the season 0-2, improved to 2-1 in state title games, and may be a favorite to repeat next year with most of the starters returning.
But the Blue Devils were sweating out the final drive when Bradley’s play appeared to give Cactus its second amazing rally of these playoffs.
“I thought, ‘Oh (expletive), the (defense) let somebody behind them (for the score),” Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez said. “It was a relief. We haven’t had too many breaks.”
Cactus started the game getting the breaks and it appeared that was what the Cobras needed to finally get over the hump at state.
Despite having one of the state’s best teams each season, the Cobras have never put it all together for a state title.
That appeared to change from the start when Bradley directed a 13-play, 78-yard drive that ate up the first six minutes of the game. Bradley scrambled 13 yards on third-and-4 to keep the drive alive and punctuated it with a 4-yard scamper to make it 7-0.
Sunnyside was held on downs on its first possession and Cactus’ offense went to work again.
A 15-play drive resulted in a 32-yard field goal for Bradley as Cactus dodged two potential turnovers – a fumble which it recovered and an interception that Sunnyside’s Ruben Leyva dropped.
“I was telling (assistant coach Glenn) Posey that we can’t win if we don’t have the ball,” Sanchez said.
With a 10-0 lead, Cactus’ defense then did its part as Sunnyside began moving the ball.
On second-and-3 from the Cactus 26, senior Nick Childs picked off a pass at the 4 and returned it to the 15 to kill the threat.
Unfortunately for Cactus fans, that’s when the Cobra offense went cold for most of the rest of the game.
After Cactus punted following the interception, Sunnyside finally got on the board when quarterback Jaime Cota hit Mike Villalobos on a 17-yard TD strike on third-and-12 with 1:54 left in the half.
Cactus missed a 50-yard field goal right before halftime.
Sunnyside grabbed the lead for good right after halftime as it marched 80 yards for the go-ahead score.
After the teams traded punts, Cactus got the ball back at the 44 after Sunnyside shanked a punt that went only 9 yards.
Nigel Ricks nearly broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run on second down, but was pulled down from behind at the 5.
On third-and-goal from the 13, Bradley scrambled 10 yards to set up one of the key plays of the game.
Instead of electing to kick the field goal to reduce the margin to 1, Fetkenhier chose to go for it on fourth-and-goal.
Sunnyside’s defense came up big with a goal-line stand that proved to be a game-clincher.
“I figured if they didn’t get it down there that we’d be giving them the ball back there,” Fetkenhier said about the decision.
The failure might have led to Fetkenhier electing to go for the field goal in a similar situation on Cactus’ next drive.
Getting the ball back at the Sunnyside 43 after the Blue Devils punted out of their end zone, Cactus slowly worked its way to first and goal at the 10. On fourth down from the 5, Fetkenhier had Bradley try a 22-yard field goal, which was perfect to cut the deficit to 14-13 with 5:29 left in the game.
The teams then traded punts and Sunnyside got the ball back with 3:24 left and a chance to run out the clock.
Junior Xavier Smith, who finished with 120 yards for the game, broke it open with a 50-yard gallop down the left sideline to the Cactus 30. A personal foul on Cactus set the ball at the 10.
With two minutes still on the clock, Sunnyside tried to work off some time to prevent Cactuss from attempting a rally.
But Smith punched the ball in from the 1 with 1:28 left.
“We didn’t want to score too early,” Sanchez said. “We wanted to eat some time off the clock.”
Cactus got the ball back at the 18 with 1:28 left and two timeouts remaining.
Two weeks prior in the quarterfinals against Centennial, Cactus found itself in a similar predicament – down by a score with only minutes remaining.
But Bradley hit a 50-yard field goal to tie it with a minute left and then Cactus won it after recovering what turned out to be an onside kick 50 yards downfield.
Hoping for similar magic in the championship game, Bradley led Cactus on gains of 8, 5, 9, 9 and 12 before the pass play to Marin was called back for illegal forward pass penalty.
With only :09 remaining on the clock, Bradley scrambled one final time to wait for an open receiver downfield, but Sunnyside’s sack ended the game.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 11, 2003

high schools

Cobras get shot at 4A state football title

by Jason Stone

As the final seconds ticked down in Cactus football’s 4A semifinal win last Friday night, a small group of Cobras players stood near the bench and debated the merits of dousing coach Larry Fetkenhier with a Gatorade cooler full of ice water.
“We haven’t won (anything) yet,” one player reminded the group about this week’s championship game. “Don’t do it.”
The warning might have been easier to heed had a packed crowd of Cobras fans at Glendale Community College not been chanting “A-S-U! A-S-U! A-S-U!” – site of Saturday’s 4A state championship game against Sunnyside.
4c50a0d4d9a03.imageWhen a clear path to their coach opened up, the players shot the water at Fetkenhier, who turned and jumped mostly out of harm’s way at the last second.
“No more water,” Fetkenhier yelled to the team.
Do not expect Fetkenhier to attempt to avoid the bath if the Cobras beat Sunnyside at Sun Devil Stadium this week.
After 20 years of coaching the Cobras, it would be the first state championship for Fetkenhier and Cactus after years of close calls.
“I (had) to let it sink in a little and then it’s back to work,” Fetkenhier said about last week’s convincing 31-8 semifinal victory over Washington. “It’s a tribute to how hard we worked all season.”
Cactus, the seventh seed in the playoff bracket entering the tournament, beat the second seed in the second round (Centennial) and took care of the third seed (Washington) in the semifinals.
Now, the Cobras play No. 5-seed Sunnyside, a dangerous team that beat top-seeded Chaparral and one that won the 2001 state title and appeared in the 2000 title game.
Cactus players said they’re ready for the challenge.
“It feels so good,” said senior linebacker Mike Phillips, whose second-half interception return for a touchdown put the final nail in the coffin for the Cobras. “It feels good to get a chance to win state.”
Cactus dominated action in the first half but only led 10-0 at the break. The Cobras stopped Washington on a goal-line stand on fourth down that would have made the game close early.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 4, 2003

high schools

Cobras, Sunnyside make even matchup

by Jason Stone

For those who follow the 4A playoff seedings, there is no way Cactus and Sunnyside could have met in Saturday’s state championship game.
But Cactus, the seventh seed, and Sunnyside, the No. 5 seed, proved they belong in the finals.
The two teams are the hottest in the state right now, Cactus having beat the second and third seeds in previous rounds, while Sunnyside knocked off No. 1 Chaparral last week, the Blue Devils’ 11th straight victory.
“We know it’s going to be a big game,” Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez said. “We know they’re a quality team. They’re well coached. They’ve got an outstanding quarterback, an outstanding defense and an outstanding tailback.”
4c50a0d4d9a03.imageSunnyside, a Tucson school that won the 4A title in 2001 and played for the championship the year before, struggled out of the gate this season, being outscored 76-24 in the first two games.
However, those games came against 5A power Salpointe and Chaparral.
Chaparral was Sunnyside’s nemisis over the last four years, beating the Blue Devils for the 2000 championship and eliminating Sunnyside in the semifinals a year ago.
“Our guys just decided we were tired of losing against them,” Sanchez said.
Chaparral entered last week’s game averaging 55 points and had not scored less than 52 since mid-September.
Cactus also sports a high-powered offense, making that matchup perhaps the key to the game for both teams.
Each team sports a talented running back. Salpointe junior Xavier Smith has rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Cactus has been relying on Nigel Ricks and his 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Ricks has become a dangerous weapon receiving as well. The senior leads the team in receptions (46), yards (710) and touchdowns (four) and lines up a good part of the game as wide receiver.
Then again, varied formations are Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier’s forte. In his 20 years as the Cobras’ coach, he has been one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the state. Yet, the Cobras are still searching for that elusive state championship.
“I get nervous before every game,” said Fetkenhier, who led the Cobras to the state title game in 1985 and 1987 — both losses. “I think if you lose any part of that, it’s time to get out.”
While Cactus does not have a player with a state championship appearance, six players on Sunnyside’s team do. Six seniors were on the 2001 team that won state and most of the coaching staff was around for both title game appearances.
“We’ve been there before,” Sanchez said. “We’re talking to them about what to expect and we’ve got the other players who have been there, talking to them about what we have to do.”
This will be the first meeting between the schools.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 4, 2003