Blogs / Features
Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
No. 6 in 100: Mitton deserves to have field named after himSep 12, 2012
West Phoenix was teeming with growth, new housing subdivisions, new businesses and new schools, in the early 1970s.
Bill Mitton was a teacher and assistant football coach at Phoenix Maryvale, which was busting at the seams with around 4,000 students. The school and its west-side sister high school, Phoenix Alhambra, had been on double sessions off and on for a few years.
To ease the overcrowding, a new school was built at 75th Avenue and Catalina Drive, just north of Thomas Road. It was named after a Phoenix Union High School District administrator, Trevor G. Browne.
Mitton was selected to be Trevor Browne’s first varsity football coach. The team didn’t have a field during its first season in 1972 and played its home games at Maryvale.
Back at Trevor Browne, officials were wondering what to do about a large hole that had been left during the construction process. Finding that much dirt and refilling the hole would be too costly.
“Someone suggested that they put the football field there,’’ Mitton recalled. “It was recessed about 20 feet and they made sort of a bowl out of it.’’
It remains one of the most unique fields/stadiums in the Valley to this day.
As for the type of football that was played on that field by Mitton’s teams . . . the Bruins ran the ball much of the time behind big offensive lines, with a strap-it-on, knock-your-socks-off defense.
The result was win after win after win.
The team became one of the most feared in the state, swapping paint with the southeast Valley powerhouses and teams such as Phoenix St. Mary’s and Phoenix Moon Valley. And Maryvale, of course.
Trevor Browne appeared in the then-Class 5A state championship game three straight years, in 1980, 1981 and 1982, defeating a Tucson Salpointe Catholic team coached by the great Ed Doherty in the middle year.
Mitton went on to win 206 games in 29 years at Trevor Browne. He never dreamed when he started with the orange and brown that it would reach the level that it will on Friday night (Sept. 14), when the football facility is named Bill Mitton Stadium as the Bruins take on Phoenix Central.
The naming effort, led by Trevor Browne business teacher Phil Kohm, was approved by the PUHSD Governing Board at an Aug. 9 meeting. Mitton was in attendance, as were a few dozen former players, family members and friends.
“When I first found out, I was in a little bit of awe. I mean, wow!!’’ said Mitton, who now lives in Camp Verde, has horses and rides them two or three times a week.
“It is a wonderful thing, and was a wonderful thing to coach all of those guys. It’s even more rewarding that they are good citizens, raising good families. I think playing football was a great experience for them, something they will remember all of their lives, all they went through.’’
Mitton had been a graduate assistant at his college alma mater, BYU, before coming to Arizona and coaching for four years at Maryvale under Ken Stites.
“I learned the most about football from Kenny as much as anybody,’’ Mitton said. “He always said, “We might lose, but it will be because other teams might have a few players who are better, but they are not going to outwork us. I always tried to keep that philosophy.’’
There were times along the way when colleges attempted to lure Mitton, but he preferred to sit tight at Trevor Browne and not move his family. He enjoyed the school too much. Now 68, he has been asked to help out other programs around the state since leaving Trevor Browne in 2000, but he said he is enjoying his time with the family and his horses.
Coaching is a different world now, he said.
“It’s a 24-7 deal, 12 months a year,’’ he said.
I remember the days when Mitton’s sons, Tait and Chad, would serve as ball boys on the sideline, wearing Trevor Browne jerseys. They soon would wear them for real, each having a solid prep career. Now they have families and Mitton is now a grandpa.
“The most important thing is not the wins and losses, not the division titles, the state championship games, the 62 all-state players, the Coach of the Year award, but how he treated kids,” Chad Mitton said.
“On my son’s first day of class one year, my teacher called my name, and asked ‘Are you a real Mitton?’ He told my son that he had his grandfather as a teacher in the early 70s, and told him that is the reason he became a teacher.”
“He is a man of character and was the cornerstone of the Trevor Browne community. As kids, we wanted to go see Trevor Browne on Friday nights,” said Alex Lucero, who played quarterback on the last Bruin playoff team Mitton coached, and is now a teacher and coach at Trevor Browne. “He put family first. He would ask us, “If things get tough, are you going to give up on your family?’ He instilled the same thought to the team.
“Not often you can say thanks to someone who you hold in such high esteem. Putting his name on that scoreboard will be leaving the bar that we should all try to reach.”
Mitton coached some high-profile players such as Forrest Valora (Oklahoma) and Darin Tupper (Arizona State), both of whom have been involved in the naming project.
“I never, ever heard him swear, never heard any profanity,” said Tupper. “ “Doggone it’ and ‘That is unpardonable’ were the worst things he said. Coach Mitton never said a negative thing about another opponent. Our opponents had our respect.”
So it is with respect this writer says, Bill, you did a great job and this honor is well-deserved. It was great working with you. Keep riding high in the saddle, and we’ll see you again somewhere along the trail.
Throughout the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years aia365.com will celebrate the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 100th anniversary by unveiling 100 of the top moments and people who helped shape the landscape of high school sports in Arizona.