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In its final warmup for Division III, Section VIII rival Bradshaw Mountain High School, Mingus Union High School cruised over Moon Valley High School, 51-20.

Senior Anthony Accurso, in a burst of speed off a misdirection play, blazes 68 yards down the Mingus Union High School sideline early in the second quarter. The touchdown run gave the Marauders a 24-7 lead over Moon Valley High School early in the second quarter of a 51-20 Homecoming win. MUHS opens sectional play Friday, Oct. 2, at home against Bradshaw Mountain High School.
Following the Friday, Sept. 25, blowout, all head coach Bob Young did was refocus his deep arsenal of offensive weapons on the quick defense of the Bears, who will be the sectional opener for both teams Friday, Oct. 2, at MUHS.

“They’re a great team,” said senior slotback Tristan Clark, who caught four passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. “It’s definitely our biggest game of the year, coming up.

“We’re going to have to have better pass protection and pass a lot more than we did [Sept. 25].”

Senior Anthony Accurso ran for two touchdowns and caught another to go with an interception as the Marauders cruised to a 44-7 lead, emptying their bench less than halfway through the third quarter at Bright Field.

“We had a couple good weeks of practice,” Young said. “They had to move their best receiver to quarterback last week, so that changes the whole complexion of your offense in one week. That’s tough.”

Senior quarterback Jordan Upham, who threw for 165 yards and three touchdowns, also ran for 58 yards, spreading the wealth to eight other rushers who rolled up 259 more yards on the ground.

Accurso was the big-play rusher, averaging more than 20 yards per run on just five carries and starting the scoring for the Marauders at the 7:45 mark of the first quarter on a four-yard pitchout.

He was also a weapon in an expanded MUHS air attack that included junior tight end Trevor Galloway, who hauled in a touchdown pass less than 30 seconds later after junior Josh Scalf recovered the first of his two forced fumbles on the Rockets’ 15-yard-line.

For the full story and standings, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 30, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

As Mingus Union High School prepares for the start of sectional play in two weeks, points are getting harder to come by.

Senior quarterback Jordan Upham spins a Cactus Shadows High School player on his back during the Mingus Union High School home win over the Falcons earlier this month. Upham is second in his section in both points scored and rushing yardage after leading MUHS to its first road win, 20-14 over Greenway High School in Phoenix.
But Friday, Sept. 18, the Marauders found a way to achieve their first 3-1 start in four years and win their lowest-scoring game, 20-14, at Greenway High School.

“I think it was just a lot more experienced guys that have played, especially early in the season,” said Bob Young, Marauders head football coach. “It was just a hard-fought battle.”

In 2012, the Marauders reeled off six straight wins after a loss in their home opener on their way to an 8-4 finish and state quarterfinal appearance.

“The last couple years, we started out slow,” Young said. “We’ve just got to keep pushing [and] focus on the long-term plan — getting better every week.”

Senior Anthony Accurso got MUHS on the board first at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter. On his only run of the night, Accurso found the end zone from eight yards out.

But junior Juan Ruiz made it count on the ground, tearing off a 38-yard run to the Demons’ 3-yard-line before taking it in for what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown in the second quarter.

A stout MUHS defense has played a large part in the Marauders’ prominence atop Division III, Section VIII as they head back home for a 7 p.m. matchup Friday, Sept. 25, against winless Moon Valley High School.

For the full story and standings, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 23, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

A second straight shaky start still has Mingus Union High School positioned better to qualify for the Division III state golf tournament, whether as a team or individually.

Keagan Lamb, a junior at Mingus Union High School, tees off from the first hole of the Verde Santa Fe Golf Course on Thursday,  Sept. 10. Lamb fired a three-over-par on the course’s front nine holes for third place as the Marauders finished three strokes out of first place in their first home match, second overall.
The individual with the best shot is junior Keagan Lamb — “our top golfer” for the second straight fall, said Craig Mai, seventh-year head coach for the Marauders.

Lamb’s 39 on the front nine holes of Verde Santa Fe Golf Course was good enough for third place Thursday, Sept. 10, as MUHS finished its first home meet with its second straight second place behind Bradshaw Mountain High School.

“Bradshaw looks like the team to beat in our region,” Mai said. “But we were right there with them — three strokes at home, five strokes at Anthem.”

After opening the season’s first two weeks with rounds of 48 to 50 — if not worse — five of Lamb’s supporting cast members on the MUHS ladder finally began to come alive Sept. 8 at Anthem Preparatory Academy.

“We were finally playing at what I thought our ability level was,” Mai said.

Sophomore Tyre Kim and juniors Ethan Brogdon and Travis Nester turned in rounds of 44 in Anthem and in Cornville, tying for eighth place at both venues.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 16, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

The Cottonwood Outdoor Pool didn’t have a swimming meet scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Mingus Union High School recently formed a diving team to complement their well established swim team. Aspen Stanton performed an inward dive pike at a meet on Tuesday at the Cottonwood Community Pool.
Then again, host Mingus Union High School didn’t have a diving team scheduled for this season either.

Both worked out well for the Marauders in their double dual wins over Coolidge High School and Gilbert Christian School, 43-13 and 42-21, respectively.

It was a nice bounceback victory for MUHS after being overwhelmed by 150 points Thursday, Sept. 3, by the much larger numbers of Verrado High School in their opening meet.

“I don’t think the trepidation of the meet had worn off,” said Kyle Lathom, new MUHS diving coach, after the Verrado meet. “They were relieved, but even though they were done, it was like, what now? That’s to be expected.”

Lathom’s eight core divers were a little more relieved and confident Sept. 8 after being able to dive on their own under his supervision, he said.

“They were a little more sure of what they were doing, especially with me running it. I couldn’t be happier with their progress.”

Lathom, who moved to Cottonwood last year to become athletic director at Oak Creek Ranch School and director of the charter-based Northern Arizona Athletic Association, decided to coach the MUHS diving team “in my spare time” after head swimming coach Gretchen Wesbrock started looking for divers the first couple of weeks of school.

“Honestly, I can’t take credit for any of it,” he said. “I showed up at the first day of practice and introduced the idea.”

Five swimmers chose to give diving a shot that first day, and over the next few days, word spread and three girls with gymnastics and tumbling backgrounds joined, to form a core of eight Marauders slated to competitively dive in at least two invitationals this season.

For the full story, season schedule and more photos, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 9, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Mingus Union High School’s 42-0 win Friday, Aug. 29, over visiting Lee Williams High School seemed, as Yogi Berra is credited with saying, deja vu all over again.

Sophomore Cole Phelps closes in on Lee Williams High School running back Miner Tyler as the Mingus Union High School defense stopped the visiting Volunteers’ last-gasp attempt to score at the end of the Marauders’ 42-0 win on Friday, Aug. 28. The win improved the Marauders' record to 2-0 going into their bye week.
But while it was comparable, it was not identical to the Marauders’ 42-15 opening win over Cactus Shadows High School at home the week before.

For instance, against the Falcons, the offense had a 75-yard touchdown run on its second play from scrimmage.

Against the Volunteers, it took all of three plays.

Senior Tristan Clark took a handoff to the left, powered through the first wave of defenders and outsprinted the secondary to the end zone to give MUHS a 6-0 lead 2:30 into the game.

Following Clark’s score, junior Trey Meyer nailed the extra point. In fact, he hit all six he attempted — another difference. After the Cactus Shadows game, MUHS coach Bob Young had bemoaned breakdowns on special teams, including bad snaps and missed or blocked kicks.

While that problem was solved, he said, another was not.

“Our biggest weakness is pass protection,” he said, echoing assessments he made after the first game and during the preseason. “At some point, we’re going to have to pass the ball.”

Although senior quarterback Jordan Upham had some success passing the ball against Cactus Shadows, he was regularly flushed from the pocket and forced to scramble downfield. Against Lee Williams, however, he failed to complete a pass and again found himself often on the run.

“The line is blocking well in the running game; we just have to emphasize pass protection,” Young said.

He added that his team didn’t get much of a chance to work on the passing game: “We scored so quick, we didn’t need to pass.”

For more photos, standings and the full story, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 2, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

After four years of coaching volleyball at Mingus Union High School, new head volleyball coach Loraine Roethler still can’t stand the Southwestern heat.

Junior Auli Hanks jumps high to spike the ball over the net as the Mingus Union High School varsity volleyball team prepares for its first game Thursday, Sept. 3.
“I don’t think it’s possible if you’re not born here,” she said. “It’s like an oven.”

But if the former Orting, Wash., middle school coach may be slightly superstitious about weather, she has paid her dues to the MUHS volleyball program, coaching the freshman team for a year and junior varsity for another three seasons before being elevated in May to the head coaching position.

More than 40 girls came out for a preseason volleyball camp and tryouts, with 35 still fighting for playing time on the three MUHS teams — including a “solid” 11 on varsity, Roethler said.

“We had a great turnout,” she said. “It’s really amazing. I’m really glad and excited that a lot of girls are really interested.”

Roethler replaces Amanda Puckett, who chose to focus on her new baby and job as general manager of a local fitness gym after three years with the program.

“We have some similarities,” Roethler said of her former head coach. “I think we both are really into good, strong technique. I really like the technical stuff. I have a strong dislike for missed serves.”

For the full story and volleyball schedule, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 2, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Bob Young has been coaching a long time, and he’s got it down.

Senior Tristan Clark breaks through the line and into the secondary during Mingus Union High School’s 42-15 season-opening win Friday, Aug. 21, against visiting Cactus Shadows High School at Bright Field. Clark carried the football eight times for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Prior to Mingus Union High School’s season opener against visiting Cactus Shadows High School, he talked up the opponent, noting that the Falcons had plenty of experience and a size advantage in the trenches.

Then, after his Marauders flattened the Falcons, 42-15, on Aug. 21, he downplayed his team’s apparent dominance.

“We’ll find a lot of things we need to work on,” he said with a smile, referring to studying game film this week. “We had special teams breakdowns and pass protection was a weakness.”

However, the coach was impressed — though not surprised — by the performance of Jordan Upham.

The senior quarterback ran for 185 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns. He also completed four of six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s that kind of guy,” Young said. “Our offense is tailored around him.”

It didn’t take long for Upham  to impact the game. On his second play from scrimmage, Upham ran an option right, kept the ball and broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run.

The extra point was blocked, but the Marauders had a 6-0 lead just 43 seconds into the game.

During the preseason, Young said his defense looked sharp. It carried over into the game, with five turnovers forced — three fumble recoveries and two interceptions — and six sacks.

After Upham’s opening score, the Falcons got good field position on the kickoff, then advanced on a defensive holding penalty. However, Mingus stopped them and forced a 58-yard field goal attempt that came up well short.

The next drive, in a classic bend-but-don’t-break series, the defense allowed the visitors to drive to the Mingus 31, but junior Aizik Romero stripped the ball and the Marauders took over on the 27.

The offense spread the ball around on the ensuing drive. Senior Anthony Accurso caught a 21-yard pass; senior Alec Phyfer ran for five yards, followed by a 12-yard run by Upham. Then, senior Pete Kelly carried the ball eight yards to the Falcons’ 19-yard line, which set up the Marauders second touchdown, a run by senior Tristan Clark — a “great perimeter guy,” Young said.

Clark would finish the night with 106 yards on eight carries. The Marauders ran for almost 400 yards and averaged over eight yards per carry overall.

For the full story, more photos and sectional standings, please see the Wednesday, Aug. 26, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

While defense is a source of confidence for Mingus Union High School heading into its opener Friday, Aug. 21, at home against Cactus Shadows High School, the offensive line needs to step up, head coach Bob Young said.

Senior quarterback Jordan Upham has been executing a strong running attack but didn’t receive enough protection from his line to have time to pass, Young said.

“That’s the big thing right now — mainly, giving the quarterback time to throw,” he said. “Our offensive line did a nice job run blocking, but pass pro[tection], we had some breakdowns.”

Junior Stephen McClanahan accepted his share of responsibility in not giving Upham at least three seconds to throw.

“I was one of those guys,” he said. “I need to work on my pass protection, definitely.”

Senior line mate Nathan Jones believes success there is a simple matter of mechanics.

“We’ve just been working really hard on pass-block technique,” he said. “We work really well together as a line, have really good unity.”

The Marauders’ defense gave up no touchdowns Wednesday, Aug. 12, in 60 scrimmage plays against Alhambra, Copper Canyon and Sandra Day O’Connor high schools.

“Our first and second defense looked sharp,” Young said. “That was encouraging.”

He was also heartened by what senior slotback Tristan Clark and junior tight end Trevor Galloway showed they were capable of doing on pass plays.

“If [defenses] are crowding the box with eight or nine guys, we’ve got to be able to throw the ball a little bit,” he said. “Our offense is dictated on taking what defenses give us.”

After watching film on the Falcons, who, along with MUHS, were reclassified by the Arizona Interscholastic Association from Division II to III, Young knows his team will need to respond to a size disadvantage.

“They’re going to be bigger than us on the line of scrimmage,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of guys coming back — seven on offense and, I think, seven on defense.”

Photos of the Mingus Union High School varsity football team in preparation for its home opener Friday, Aug. 21, against Cactus Shadows High School were not available to the Cottonwood Journal Extra. Photographer Zack Garcia could not take pictures of practice Monday, Aug. 17, as he had been ejected from campus earlier by Athletic Director Allen Mitchell in violation of First Amendment protections of the media and the public's right to know.

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