Blogs / Features
Jose GarciaMultimedia Journalist/Historian firstname.lastname@example.org
Joy Christian FB wins school's 1st state titleNov 11, 2012
A well-prepared coach tends to stay one step ahead of the competition and sometimes his own players.
Brian Cole knew a Gatorade shower was forthcoming as the clock wound down in Saturday’s Division VI state football championship game at Phoenix Sunnyslope. If it weren’t for the chilly Valley weather conditions, Cole might have stayed stationary as a Glendale Joy Christian player charged toward Cole with a water cooler.
Joy Christian now knows what winning a state championship feels like, but it still needs to work on properly executing a Gatorade shower because Cole escaped. Joy Christian didn’t let Pima’s vaunted run game slip away, however.
Joy Christian's football program made some history in Saturday’s 60-24 win: It won the school’s first state title in any sport and also snapped the rural schools’ 8-man football state championship streak, which started in 1997.
“This (championship trophy) is for you guys (players),” said Cole after receiving the D-VI state championship trophy. “You guys deserve it. This is yours. Be proud of it. You guys are an awesome team.”
Joy Christian had a chance to end the streak last year but lost that title game 38-6 to Joseph City in Cole’s first season as the program’s head coach.
Cole wasn’t complaining, but his program won’t get to defend its D-VI title game next season.That’s because Joy Christian is moving up to 11-man football next year. But Joy Christian’s 2-year 8-man experience finished with a bang.
The team completed its final 8-man season with an 11-0 record after holding Pima (10-1) to a season low 24 points. But at first it appeared that Pima had the upper hand when Clancy Schmidt opened the game with a 52-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Schmidt was headed for a touchdown, but that’s when Joy Christian’s defense made its first big play of the game. Gerardo Samarripas didn’t give up on the play and caught up to Schmidt, bringing him down at Joy Christian’s 20.
That was a key stop because Pima didn’t score on that drive. Joy Christian only graduated one defensive starter last year, and its offense is known more for its passing game.
But it was Pima’s passing game that helped it take its first and only lead in the game, when Wyatt Reynolds found Calvin James in the end zone on a 4th and 10 from Joy Christian’s 28 to go up 12-8. Joy Christian and Nick Henderson (52 passing TDs this season) then responded with two passing touchdowns.
Henderson also ran up the middle three times to convert his team’s first three 2-point conversion attempts, allowing Joy Christian to take a 24-12 lead. Henderson did make a mistake in the second quarter that gave Pima some momentum, however.
With about five minutes remaining in the first half, Schmidt intercepted Henderson — just the third interception Henderson threw this season — on a first and goal play for Joy Christian. Schmidt returned the ball 97 yards for a touchdown.
“I was already worried about the next drive (after I threw the interception),” said Henderson, who suffered a first quarter injury that kept him out during the remainder of last year’s state title game. “As a quarterback you have to have a short term memory.”
Henderson quickly forgot about his lone interception in Saturday’s game.
After Joy Christian’s defense forced a turnover with 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Henderson found Trevor Deason in the end zone two plays after the turnover. A 2-point conversion gave Joy Christian a 30-18 halftime lead.
Joy Christian put this game away in the third quarter with the help of an 80-yard touchdown pass play to Aaron Martin during the team’s first third quarter drive. Prior to that play, Cole called a timeout because his offense lined up incorrectly.
But Joy Christian didn’t make too many mistakes the rest of the way. Cole declined to take credit after the game for quickly helping turn Joy Christian into a championship program, something he also did at Phoenix North Canyon.
Cole is a firefighter, but besides his fulltime time job and coaching, he also volunteers at Joy Christian, serving as the school’s weight room instructor throughout the school year. He credited his players and assistant coaches for Joy Christian’s early success.
One of Cole’s assistant, Toby Way, choked up during his postgame speech to Joy Christian’s players. Way lost his 22-year-old son, Doug, last year, when he died.
Way’s youngest son, Cody, transferred from North Canyon and played for Joy Christian this season.
“You boys helped me through a tough time, and I want to say thank you,” Way said. “You filled a big void in my heart.”