Monthly Archives: December 2004

Sting fan fires up crowd, becomes arena fixture

Greg Barone sits in the second row directly behind the penalty box with a chip on his shoulder.

The Arizona Sting superfan has just lost a bout with security staff, who told him that his jaunts up and down each section to rile up fans was causing a security concern.

“They told me I can’t move around, so I’m staying right here in my seat,” Barone says.

And he means it.

In an act of protest, Barone stays glued to his seat and barely cracks a smile when the Sting begin to mount a fourth-period rally in an exhibition game at Glendale Arena last Friday.

Barone is clearly upset that arena staff dare tell the building’s biggest fan to sit down.

It doesn’t go unnoticed.

When the Sting score the second of six straight goals in the fourth quarter to rally for a 16-13 win over the Minnesota Swarm, the public address announcer implores, “Where’s Stinger?”

Barone knows the question is directed at him.

“They want me to be some sort of mascot for the team,” Barone says. “But now they won’t let me move around.”

Barone became an unofficial team mascot last year when his 5-foot-8, 280-pound frame, bald head, loud voice and frantic cheering became a sideshow for fans who were still trying to pick up the game of lacrosse.

Now that the Phoenix Coyotes are on indefinite hiatus, the Sting have become the main attraction at the arena and Barone is helping fans get acquainted with the game.

“When we first came last year, I didn’t know all the rules,” says Richard Minear of Phoenix, who is sitting about 15 rows behind Barone. “But I’d look down at (Barone) and if he was cheering, I knew it was a good play for the Sting.”

But on this night, Barone is invisible to the arena’s 10,000-plus fans after the P.A. voice inquired about his whereabouts.

“If it was up to me,” says Barone, who has a heavy New York accent after moving to Phoenix from the Bronx in 1998, “I’d make me a full mascot and lead the team out into the arena with a flag or something. Anything to get the fans going.

“Some of the fans here only get excited when something (big) happens. On the East Coast, fans are into the game the whole time. If you’re not going to cheer, why bother coming? If you wanted to see an opera, go to Gammage (Auditorium). You can see all the opera you want.”

As he stews in his seat, Barone is wondering himself why he bothered coming now that he feels he has been muted.

Truth is, he’s too big a lacrosse fan not to be there.

He has already been connected with the Sting thanks to his appearances in the team’s television ads. His picture has been in rotation on the big screen outside Glendale Arena and a typical game features at least 10 shots of him cheering on the scoreboard monitor.

“It was kind of weird driving by the arena and looking over and seeing my face,” Barone says, recalling the day last summer when he first noticed it. Then, came the television spot. “I only wish they paid me for that.”

Instead, Barone got a free season ticket and the team asked him to sit a few rows back from the glass behind one of the goals so TV cameras can easily turn in his direction after big plays.

That strategy backfires when Barone grabs an open seat behind the Sting penalty box when ushers ask him to sit down.

Barone is a former goalie at Alfred State (N.Y.), a college south of Buffalo. But like most goalies, Barone can’t stay still for long.

The Sting are rallying, the announced crowd of 10,305 is in a frenzy and Barone is finding it hard to stay still.

Finally, Bill Greer fires in a goal with around seven minutes left to give the Sting a 13-12 lead, an advantage that will stand up.

Barone leaps out of his seat, bends over the first row and begins pounding on the glass.

The Sting’s most noticeable fan is back.


Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 22, 2004

high schools

Mountain Ridge dominates all-region picks

by Jason Stone

Mountain Ridge’s late-season surge in football helped the school collect a lot of hardware when postseason honors were dished out.
Quarterback and safety Austin Martin was named both the Northwest Region Offensive Player of the Year and the region’s Two-Way Player of the Year.
Coach Steve Belles was named the Coach of the Year after leading the Mountain Lions from a 1-4 start to an appearance in the 5A state championship game at Sun Devil Stadium.
Additionally, 13 total Mountain Lion players were selected to the All-Region team.
In addition to Martin, who was named to the first team on offense and defense, other Mountain Lions on the first team included Nick Bell, Brad Gaul and Brady Rohlwing.
Deer Valley, meanwhile, garnered 10 all-region selections, including four on the first team.
Deer Valley took third in the final region standings.
The first-teamers included Austin Gaysue, Ed Craft, Jason Their and Matt Corven.
In the Desert West Region, five Ironwood players were named to the all-region team, led by first-team selections Skylar Hagg, Beau Babinchax and Robert Cuthbert.
Ironwood finished third in the region for the second straight year.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 22, 2004

Hockey appears done; AIA coming

by Jason Stone


The NHL’s loss might just be the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s gain.

With the Phoenix Coyotes season on life support and Glendale Arena aggressively trying to fill dates with other events, the AIA and the arena agreed to bring “February Frenzy” to the facility starting this year.

All basketball state tournament championships will now be played at Glendale Arena, instead of America West Arena, which has hosted the game since opening its doors 12 years ago.

The arena will also host the wrestling and spirit line championships.

“I think this is great for the West Valley — especially people in Glendale and Peoria,” said Peoria High athletic director Kevin Forgia, a longtime West Valley resident who has also headed up the program at Cactus in the past. “It certainly makes it convenient for us.”

The addition of the championship games — and possible football hosting spot at the new Cardinals Stadium in 2006 — has given Glendale another feather in its sports cap.

The city already will receive the Fiesta Bowl starting in 2006, the Super Bowl in 2008 and the NHL All-Star Game in 2006.

The Cardinals officially begin play at the new stadium in 2006.


Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 22, 2004

lacrosse

Sting returns for more action

by Jason Stone

Are you ready to be stung? The Arizona Sting pro lacrosse team is hoping so.
The NLL season gets a preliminary start this week when the Sting begins their second season in Glendale with the first of two home exhibition games at Glendale Arena.
The Sting host the San Jose Stealth at 7:30 p.m. Friday. And the best news for fans is the game is free.
Led by All-Star forward Pat Maddalena, and a roster full of up-and-coming players such as fowards Dan Dawson, Gewas Schindler and Kasey Beirnes, defenseman Peter Lough and goaltender Mike Miron, the Sting will attempt to make the playoffs after missing our in their inaugural season in Glendale.
Tonight’s game — and the Dec. 17 game against Minnesota — are free to fans who pick up a voucher at the arena, Desert Schools Coyotes Center in Peoria, McDuffy’s in Peoria or any Wells Fargo branch. The voucher can also be printed from www.arizonasting.com.
The regular season begins Jan. 7, when the Sting hosts Philadelphia.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 3, 2004

high schools

Mountain Ridge hoping to make history

by Jason Stone

It wasn’t the route the Mountain Ridge football team envisioned it would take to the state championship game, but for the 2004 Mountain Lions, the end definitely justifies the means.
Entering this year’s playoffs, no 16th-seeded team had ever won a playoff game. But Mountain Ridge became the first when it knocked off top-seeded Paradise Valley two weeks ago.
Since then, the Mountain Lions have been rewriting the history books.
Mountain Ridge beat Brophy 42-34 last week at Horizon High School to advance to the school’s first-ever appearance in the 5A state championship game.
The Mountain Lions will suit up for a 5:07 p.m. game at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium against Hamilton, the defending state champion.
Mountain Ridge, which started the season 1-4, has reeled off eight straight wins and will try to become the first team in more than 40 years to win state with four losses.
“After the Goldwater game (a close 21-16 win in Week 6), we had a lot of soul searching to do,” said Mountain Ridge coach Steve Belles. “That was the last time we were physically handled on the line. We could have been a little bit down from that.
“But as a head coach, I believed in these kids. I told them even when they were 1-4, they were one of the best teams I’ve ever coached.”
Mountain Ridge entered the season as a state title contender, but most teams in the state wrote them off after the poor start. But now that the Mountain Lions are in the championship game, nobody is looking at them as a No. 16 seed.
“(Before) the season started, they were one of the top teams in the state,” said Hamilton coach John Wrenn, who led the Huskies to the 2003 state championship. “I follow good teams and I know they’re a good team.”
Mountain Ridge’s turnaround came about the time Belles inserted wide receiver Austin Martin in at quarterback at mid-season. Since the switch, the Mountain Lions have not lost. The talented, athletic signal caller is a threat throwing and running with the ball.
“I made a poor decision not making Austin our quarterback (to start the year),” Belles said. “How wrong can you be? If he would have been there all year, I would think hands down we would (have started better).”
Mountain Ridge has been busy paying back teams with Martin at quarterback in the playoffs.
In Round 1, the Mountain Lions avenged an earlier loss to Paradise Valley with an upset of the No. 1-seeded team. Then, last week, Mountain Ridge beat a Brophy team that handed the Mountain Lions an opening-season loss that began the early-season tailspin.
Eliminating Brophy brought personal gratification to Belles, a former All-State quarterback at St. Mary’s, the Broncos’ main rivals.
“I’ll be the last guy who wants to see Brophy win on my watch,” Belles said. “I still don’t wear anything red. My wife tells me all the time to get over it.”
Belles tasted a state championship with St. Mary’s in 1984 and now wants to provide Mountain Ridge’s first title.
Hamilton, of course, will have a lot to say about that. It is the Huskies’ third title appearance in the last four years and in the other years, Hamilton reached the semifinals.
“They’re a great football team,” Belles said. “The bottom line is, we’ve got to play well together. We can’t make many mistakes.”
Hamilton is 12-1, but 9-1 in games against playoff teams.

Published at glendalestar.com • Dec. 3, 2004