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concert preview

Lily & Madeleine / Shannon Hayden / 76th Street / Crescent Ballroom / Feb. 10, 2015

When: Tuesday, Feb. 10
Where: Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
Tickets: Only $10
Why you should go: Lily & Madeleine are a duo who make music for late at night. These sisters take you on a beautiful folk-pop journey to warm your soul and keep your brain in balance. I think of these songs as adult lullabies — and I mean that in the best way possible. Check out “The Wolf Is Free,” from their 2014 album Fumes. Cellist Shannon Hayden and local Arizona State University duo 76th Street open the show.

high schools

Transfer QB learning to lead Cactus offense

by Jason Stone

The offensive system at Glendale Cactus has always been quarterback-centered with past players such as Jonathan Beasley, Jon Stoner and last year’s starter, Michael Putko.
But if new starting quarterback Talal Yousufzai has the year most expect, the first order of business might be to get public-address announcers to learn how to say his name.
“I haven’t even ventured in how to pronounce it,” longtime Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said, joking. “I just call him Yugo, or Yugoslavia or whatever.”
Yousufzai, pronounced You-sef-Za, is now the man for the powerful Division III Glendale program, which came up just short of winning the school’s third state championship last year.
“I just try to break (the name) down for people so it’s easier,” Yousufzai said.
The junior transfer from Phoenix Washington passed for more than 2,600 yards and 26 TDs in 2011 before his family moved into Cactus’ enrollment zone during second semester last year.
But with Cactus’ complex system to master, the 6-3, 200-pounder is still a work in progress, Fetkenhier says.
“He is spectacular in some moments, and then there are moments where I know he’s frustrated,” Fetkenhier said. “The offense will come around. It’s just a matter of when.”
Fetkenhier said Cactus’ defense, which shut out five opponents last year, is clearly ahead of the offense as it prepares for Friday’s season opener.
Two players Cactus is counting on for big years are linebacker Zac Bradley and cornerback Anthony Alcala. Two former offensive players, backup quarterback Izzy Macias and wide receiver Dallas Allen, will play only defense for the first time as well.
With Cactus losing its top three wide receivers last year, Allen’s move to defense did not seem like a luxury Cactus could afford. But Fetkenhier said he has been so impressed with Alex Armbrust, the team’s fifth receiver last year, and a group of up-and-coming sophomores, that he was able to move Allen.
Cactus has an experienced offensive line back, including starting seniors Ryan Kern (center) and R.J. Deande (right guard).
It adds up to high expectations again even if this year’s team is a little more raw than some in the past.
“I’m never going to use the word rebuilding,” Fetkenhier said. “It’s just somebody else’s turn now. If you use the term rebuild we give ourselves an excuse.”
For the first time, Cactus will be traveling out of state for a game. It will play a team from Bakersfield, Calif., in a game in Los Angeles on Sept. 1.

Published at azcentral.com • Aug. 21, 2012

high schools

Ironwood looks to improve on 7-win season

by Jason Stone

When Ian Curtis took over as head coach for Glendale Ironwood’s football program two years ago, it didn’t seem like a program that needed to rebuild.
But almost a decade removed from its last state championship game and with a series of records around .500, the school was looking for a spark when former coach Larry Allen left after the 2009 season. A host of assistant coaches left after that season, too.
“It was awfully tough,” said Curtis, who was left with three assistants to begin his first year. He quickly realized he had to improve his coaching staff as much as the player personnel.
Ironwood made slow progress the second year under Curtis, going from three wins the first year to seven in 2011. Last year’s improvement included a Division II playoff appearance and a win for the ages — a 69-68 thriller over then-unbeaten Glendale Deer Valley at homecoming.
PHP5032B69F25238Now, with a senior-dominated team and three assistants with head-coaching experience, Curtis said he expects more improvement this year.
Linemen appear to be the team’s strength, led by two-way player Elijah Cox. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior is a tenacious blocker, who is starting to draw college attention, having already received an offer from Northern Colorado.
Brothers Bill and Blake Duckworth man the offensive guard positions, helping give Ironwood what Curtis calls “one of the most impressive offensive lines Ironwood has yet to see.”
That line will be paving the way for running back Michael Alexander. Curtis calls him the strongest player in the program. Ironwood will again utilize Alexander rushing (1,003 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns last year) and receiving out of the backfield.
Curtis said he is also counting on seniors Abram Chairez and Camden Shirey to provide on-field leadership. The two-way Chairez will rarely leave the field, while Shirey (6-1, 220) is a linebacker who Curtis expects to have a breakout year.
Overall, it will be the senior class that will propel the team to great things, Curtis said.
“From the moment I arrived on Ironwood’s campus, this group of seniors has committed itself to becoming the best it can be,” Curtis said. “They are a great group of kids — intelligent, hardworking and self-motivated. I’m proud to be the head coach of this team.”

Published at azcentral.com • Aug. 17, 2012

high schools

McClintock fixes culture in hopes of lifting team

by Jason Stone

It’s almost hard to remember when Tempe McClintock was one of the top football powers in Arizona.
The late 1970s and 1980s are known as the “Powerhouse Years” at the school, and coach Matt Lewis has heard about them non-stop from longtime fans since he arrived on campus two years ago.
“So much in high-school athletics has changed,” Lewis said. “We have saturated our high-school athletics (with too many schools) in Arizona. … We don’t live in the days when McClintock is a power.”
But that doesn’t mean Lewis thinks McClintock’s winning days are over. In fact, the former Scottsdale Saguaro offensive coordinator, who helped Saguaro win three state championships, is hoping McClintock can get back to the top thanks to a handful of changes he has brought to the program.
For starters, Lewis led a drive to pour $40,000 into the school’s weight room, which will increase workout stations to 12, from four. The school has also hired a college-level strength coach to implement a year-round lifting program. And in an effort to improve safety, all players received new helmets and shoulder pads before practices began.
ImageA year ago, Lewis began tough, demanding practices that alienated some of the older players.
“It was culture shock for some of them,” Lewis said. “What it takes to be involved in our program is not for the faint of heart.”
The players who have returned are now used to Lewis’ style, and the coach said a six- or seven-win season would be great progress for a team that has not had a winning season since 2006 and only three wins last year.
Running back Sammy Jones (617 rushing yards, eight touchdowns in 2011) is one of the key returners. Jones didn’t even start until halfway through last season when Lewis noticed him dominating on the varsity scout team during practice, and now the coach expects Jones to have a breakout year.
Paving the way for Jones is junior right tackle Amir Andelija, a rising star who started every game his sophomore year. Lewis said Andelija is a legitimate big-time college prospect who should be heavily recruited by year’s end.
McClintock returns six starters on each side of the ball, including its starting quarterback in Xavier Gomez, and two talented defensive players in linebacker Jorge Valles and nose guard Joe Sanford.

Published at azcentral.com • Aug. 14, 2012

high schools

Babb wants to restore Peoria’s old success

by Jason Stone

It’s safe to say Peoria High’s football team has not gone into a season quite like this one. At least in 30 years anyway.
Doug Clapp arrived at the school in the 1980s and led the team to three state championships as he built the West Valley’s premier program for two decades.
But all of a sudden over the spring, Clapp resigned. A week later, the school learned Clapp had lost his teaching job and was arrested for allegedly siphoning money raised for the football team.
With the face of the team gone, and the team’s public perception taking a hit, Peoria is finally something it’s never been: an underdog.
“I think we got a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” said new coach Will Babb, a longtime team assistant and former quarterback under Clapp in the ’80s. “I think the gold in our helmets got eaten away in the public’s mind, and our kids have taken that to heart.”
Peoria’s coaches and players say opponents will be surprised if they think Peoria’s winning ways will change with the offseason turmoil. Peoria hasn’t won a state title in nearly 20 years with the emergence of newer schools nearby, but expectations remain as high as ever, even if opponents take them lightly this year.
Peoria coach Will Babb
Peoria coach Will Babb
“Basically, people doubt us now,” said senior John Foltz, who is affectionately known as “that nasty linebacker” to coaches. “We’ve been the underdogs lately. It’s never been like that. We’re trying to get back to our roots.”
Players like Ira Rojas, Elia Bealy and Darius Aguirre certainly help recall the good old days. Rojas and Bealy provide a 1-2 punch at running back as the duo combined to rush for 16 touchdowns and nearly 1,400 yards last year.
Aguirre is one of the most sure-handed wide receivers in the state and dazzles coaches in practice with the catches he makes. A collarbone injury, however, will likely keep him out of action until the first game.
Foltz is the defensive leader on and off the field, returning as the team’s leading tackler. A talented defensive backfield is led by junior cornerback Evan Ford and senior free safety Tyler Porter.
Babb takes the head coaching job after two stints as an assistant for Peoria. After graduating in 1988, he also coached there from 1994-2002.

Published at azcentral.com • Aug. 10, 2012