The Aztecs set their major goal soon after last season: Work hard in the off season to win more games than they did last season. It is a simple goal, but at the same time, a difficult one to attain when playing 5A Division I football against some of the best teams in the state.
Under second year head coach Tom Joseph and the leadership of the eight returning starters—four on offense and four on defense—the players on this year’s team are buying into Corona’s rejuvenated football program in an attempt to achieve this goal.
“Our main goal is to make improvements on last year’s 5-5 season,” said one of the top returning lineman Aaron Simons. “It’s time for us to win some games. To show, not only to our fans but other teams, that we really pushed ourselves in the off season and we are capable of beating teams that people do not expect us to.”
One positive sign that Corona’s program is on the upswing is that the increased number of players who committed to work out after the team did not make the playoffs last fall.
“We had 35 players that made a commitment to work in the off season and they have worked hard ever since to make this season a success,” said coach Joseph.
The Aztecs currently have 46 varsity players on their roster versus 39 in 2011. Of those players, 16 were on varsity last season so they are a relatively young team with 30 players new to varsity.
Returning starters Simons and Sam Radford will be expected to lead a group of these young players in shoring up the offensive line after the loss college-bound Andrus Peat and Avery Moss.
“We may be young, but we have a solid team this year with a lot of talent,” said Radford. “When we have everyone on the same page and doing their job, we will surprise a lot of people.”
On offense, the Aztecs also return junior Tevin Mayfield, the leading receiver from last season who caught the ball 19 times for 349 yards.
“Besides Tevin Mayfield, Maceo Brown, Carter Colton, and Kion McKinley should all help us at receiver,” said Joseph.
Also returning from last season is senior running back James Contes, the second leading rusher on the 2011 team. It is hoped Contes, who is being recruited by Division I schools, will be able to succeed in replacing the rushing yards and points scored by Dominic Mercurio the last two seasons.
Also expected to contribute in the rushing category are junior running backs Blake Jones and George Wright.
The Aztecs have three quarterbacks challenging for the starting position. All should be able to help this season’s football team according to Joseph.
Senior Evan Kinney backed up Kyle Busk last season and was expected to takeover the position until juniors Will Sorenson and R.J. Rhiner entered the picture. Coach Joseph thought he would be able to determine the starting quarterback after the scrimmage, August 15, but said it was still too close to call at press time.
Rumor has it, though, that Kinney may need to miss the first couple of games due to injury.
The Aztecs return four starting defensive players from last season’s team.
“We should have a solid front defensively with Conner Stuhmer returning and newcomers Nick Plott and Tom Turley,” said Joseph. “Linebacker Beau Sitton is returning on defense along with Billy Clemens and James Corwin. These players, with the help of Jake Riedell and Cassius Peat, should all contribute to our defense.”
Sitton is one of Corona’s top returning tacklers, who is also heavily recruited by Division I schools, averaged almost nine tackles a game last season while 6-foot-4 230-pound Stuhmer should bring size and experience to the defensive line.
“We have cornerback Maceo Brown and Quinn Robertson returning in the secondary,” said Joseph. “George Wright, Kion McKinley and Isaac Niemtschk should see some defensive playing time as well as returning players Colton and Contes.”
The Aztecs lost to graduation kicker Zach Von Allworden, who was the second leading scorer last year which shows how important the kicking position can be. No kicker had yet been named as starter according to Joseph, but Niemtschk and J.T. Link are the only two kickers listed on the roster.
Other players returning from last year’s varsity team are seniors Nathan Avila, Brennan Langille and Collin Fergus.
The Aztecs have their first game at home August 24 against Basha and then face off against Westwood August 31 at Westwood.
“We are anxious to see how good we are against Basha August 24,” said Joseph. “Until then we keep working hard.”
Corona’s Swim and Dive Teams
The season following a summer Olympic year usually gets the competitive juices flowing and increases the number of swimmers who try out for high school teams. This year was no exception with 77 swimmers coming out for Corona’s boys and girls swim/dive teams.
Coach Ron Musgrave is expecting the Olympic year enthusiasm and the fact that 80% of his return swimmers joined a swim club after last season to increase the chances of Corona qualifying more swimmers for the state meet this year.
“I couldn’t be more proud to learn that over 80% of our returning swimmer joined a club and have been competing at a higher level than last year,” said Musgrave. “I believe we will be competitive against a tough schedule. This team has a lot of heart and determination.”
This year’s team is a mixture of experienced and novice swimmers and divers such as Chloe Hacker, who will be going for her third state championship diving medal, and Karilyn Quan, Simon Werkhover, Axel Floyd and Trace Langley who are expected to have an impact in the pool this year according to Musgrave.
“Karilyn should be a great addition to our team. She is well respected locally in the club scene,” said Musgrave. “Trace, who switched from football to swimming, is becoming very talented in the pool and I expect his to challenge Karilyn’s brother, Nick Quan, in many events,” said Musgrave.
Sophomore Nick Quan fell just short of qualifying for the 100 backstroke at state last year, as a freshman and swims in several boys relay teams.
“Sophomore Axel Floyd joined a swim club and came out this season as one of the most improved swimmers,” said Musgrave. “The sky’s the limit for Axel.”
The Aztecs also return veteran swimmers Nicole Holly, Amy Hong, Matt Hurst and Ryan Riley.
“Sophomore Nicole swims the butterfly, free, IM but her goal this year is to become a 100 yard breaststroker,” said Musgrave. “Amy qualified for state in the 100 backstroke and swam in a relay last season.”
“Senior Matt Hurst joined a club team where he worked extremely hard,” said Musgrave. He will be very competitive in many events including the 200 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle and relays.”
“Ryan, one of our senior captains, should qualify early for state in the 50 freestyle,” said Musgrave. “He has a goal of going under 23 seconds this year and I know he will do it.”
Corona should be very competitive in the boys relay events this year and could possibly take two teams to state.
“I want to take at least 8-10 boys to the state meet this year including Hurst, Langley, Chris Tate, Ryan Riley, Rick Riley, Nick Quan, Mike Ortiz, Werkhoven, Brandon Haws and Nathaniel Kroger,” said Musgrave. “But we could also qualify two relays depending on which 4 or 8 boys will step up their conditioning and focus.”
In addition to Hacker, Corona’s dive team should see more divers quality for state this season with the return of Jackson Whitten, who qualified last year, Andrew Tate and Haley Vanderbur.
Musgrave will be counting on the leadership of senior captains Ryan Riley, Tate, Ortiz, Megan Miller, Emily Richardson, Maddi Doren, Andrea Urias and junior Josh Gus to help the team accomplish these goals.
The Aztecs first competition will be August 30 against Desert Vista and then Sept. 5 with McClintock. Both will be home meets held at West Chandler Aquatic Center starting at 4:00 p.m.
Corona Girls Golf
Although Coach Pat Reed returns only two starting golfers, she expects her team this year to be as good as or better than last season’s team.
Junior Halie Carpenter is probably the most experienced player on the team after qualifying for state last season but coach Reed is expecting to see improvements from junior Katy Consoer and senior Heather Harry after all three golfers worked hard over the summer lifting and playing in tournaments.
The new varsity players who will end up playing in tournaments along with Carpenter and Consoer are Kelly Robb, Heather Hittenberger, Harry and Maddi Rosebrugh according to Reed.
The Lady Aztecs first meet was August 22 at Camp Verde. They will be competing at Desert Vista August 27 and at home with Marcos de Niza on August 29 at Ken McDonald golf course.
Corona’s first official tournament against several Division I teams will be Sept. 7-8 at McCormick Rank at the Antiqua.
All-American Wrestlers at Corona
In the last edition, Ethan Tursini was erroneously described as the first All-American at Corona. It should have been stated that Tursini is the first Cadet All-American at the Asics Cadet National Freestyle Tournament according to head coach Jim Martinez.
Other All-American wrestlers from Corona included Luke Macchiaroli, Derek Felton, Kasey Turner, Ryan Miller, Mike Howard, Robert Holbrook, and Trevor Stapp according to former head coach Dave Vibber.