By Alex Zener
With football a little over two months away, football fans at both Corona del Sol and Marcos de Niza are most like starting to think about high school football and how their teams will play this season since both teams will have new quarterbacks while the Aztecs have a new head coach.
The Padres lost their three-year starting quarterback Nazareth Greer to graduation.
Greer, who was instrumental in helping the Padres not only get into the Division II state playoffs all three years he was the starting quarterback but make it all the way to the 2015 Championship game against Saguaro in 2015, will be playing football at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania this fall.
Greer, at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, who had a stellar career at Marcos passing for 3,530 yards with 24 touchdowns his senior season, will be hard to replace. All combined, Greer passed for 9,953 yards and 87 touchdowns, his three years as the starting quarterback for the Padres.
Allegheny, a Division III NCAA school, who cannot offer athletic scholarships, gave Greer, an excellent student who plans on majoring in neuroscience, an academic scholarship.
Corona’s New Head Coach
Corona’s new head coach, Jon Becktold, was hired Dec. 15, 2016, to take over the head coaching position from interim head coach, Richard Mettlach.
Mettlach, an assistant coach under then head coach Cory Nenaber, took over for just one year when Nenaber became Corona’s athletic director last summer after Dan Nero decided to retire.
The Aztec football program, after a steady 23 years under Gary Venturo, who retired after the 2009-10 season, hired Becktold to be the fifth coach in eight years that the Aztec football program has experienced.
Zane Zamenski took over in 2010, after Venturo, and ended up with 1-10 season record before the team, under Tom Joseph, went 5-5 in 2011 and 4-6 in 2012.
In 2013, the Aztecs lost their first six games before Joseph left. The season ended on a positive note when the team won three of their last four games under interim head coach, Tim Kelly.
Nenaber, a former Aztec player and assistant coach, returned as the designated head coach in 2014 after a stint as head coach at Maricopa High School. His goal at Corona was to improve the culture and get the team back on track.
After going 1-9 his first season as head coach, the Aztecs went 7-4 in 2015 under Nenaber.
Mettlach’ s goal, when he agreed to take over for the one year, was to maintain continuity with the same culture and program developed by Nenaber.
He also hoped to further develop the defensive side of the game which was more of his specialty as the former defensive coordinator under Nenaber. Unfortunately, the offensive aspect never took off last season.
Becktold, who coached at Washington High School in Glendale for 25 years, 10 as head coach, before taking over the head coaching position at Greenway in 2016, is hoping to get the Aztecs offensive game back on track.
It may be a challenge since Corona will once again be playing in the highly competitive 6A Central region against Mountain Pointe, Desert Vista, Gilbert, Highland and Desert Ridge.
Although Becktold, who has only previously coached in Arizona’s 3A and 4A divisions and may initially find the game at the 6A level a bit more challenging, still has a lot of experience coaching football. Plus, he has been recognized for his coaching ability before.
He was twice named the Black Canyon Region Coach of the Year (2007, 2010), Division 3 Section 6 Coach of the Year (2013), Arizona Cardinals Coach of the Week (2008) and 4A Assistant Coach of the Year (2003).
To aid in the transition for the players, the assistant coaches, most who started at the same time as Nenaber in 2014, were slated to remain with the program.
Becktold, who has a secondary education degree in Math from Arizona State University, will teach math at Corona.
Corona’s football team recently had two players who will be seniors this fall recognized as top football recruits for 2018 by the Arizona Republic.
Top Football Recruits for 2018
Kobee Marion and Trey Bussler were recently named by the Arizona Republic among the top football recruits for 2018.
Marion, the Aztecs defensive back and wide receiver is noted for his speed, athleticism and ability to intercept the ball. Last season, his second year on varsity, he led the team in interceptions. One interception he returned 60 yards to score a touchdown.
In addition, Marion recorded 23 solo and four assisted tackles on defense.
Marion started all 10 games in the 2016-17 season where he had 11 pass receptions for 152 yards or 13.8 yards per game on offense scoring two touchdowns. He was also one of the team’s punt and kick-off return specialist on special teams.
Bussler, on the other hand, at 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs. plays a bigger position as a defensive linebacker.
Bussler recorded 29 tackles, one sack and one interception as a junior last season starting in all 10 games. He is noted for his ability to not only rush the passer but at the same time be quick enough to drop back and cover receivers.
Playing on the other side of the ball, he is a versatile athlete with the ability to catch passes or block for other rushers playing the tight end position.
Speaking of defensive linemen, Cassius Peat, the former two-sport Corona athlete has resurfaced and is once again on the move.
Cassius Peat — Peat, who originally committed to UCLA but then changed his mind in 2015 after visiting Michigan State, was set to return to Michigan State this summer after leaving the team last year for personal reasons.
That was before he got word on June 10, four days before he was to return to East Lansing, not to return.
Peat redshirted his freshman season in 2015 at Michigan State but left the team to attend Pima College last year where he worked with a personal trainer but did not play football.
In the interim, he once again committed to UCLA but then changed his mind for Michigan State midyear.
Peat, who is scheduled to receive an associate arts degree this summer, should be eligible to play football this fall. The only question is where.
Avery Moss — Moss, another two-sport athlete who graduated from Corona in 2012, was recently selected during the fifth round of the NFL draft by the New York Giants.
Moss was a member of the Aztec’s basketball team when they won the first of three consecutive state championships at the end of the 2011-12 season. Andrus Peat and Moss were the big guys in the paint on that first team.
Moss originally went to Nebraska on a football scholarship playing defensive end but ended up at Youngstown State in Pittsburgh, a Division I-AA school, after one year.
He recorded 11 sacks last year on the Penguin’s team and was selected to play in the East West Shrine game.
Corona Tennis State Playoffs
Both the boys and girls tennis teams at Corona qualified for the Division I state playoffs this season in singles, doubles and the team event.
The boys team, with coach Andra Niederkorn, entered the playoffs at the No. 8 seed where they defeated the No. 9 seed, Buena, 5-0 before facing the No. 1 team Brophy Prep in the second round.
The Aztecs played their hearts out, winning three matches before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Brophy 5-3. Brophy went on to win the championship.
The boys team qualified two players in the singles bracket. Sachinda Edirisooriya qualified as the No. 8 seed and Ariz Chang qualified as the No. 7 seed in the Division I State Championship playoffs.
Edirisooriya had a bye in the first found, defeated Nelson from Red Mountain 6-0, 6-0 in the second round but lost to Postillion from Brophy, 6-3, 6-2 in the third round.
Chang had better luck, defeating Rodriguez from Valley Vista, 6-0, 7-5 in the first round, Santamaria of Chaparral in the second round, 6-0, 6-0 before losing to Krimball from Desert Mountain in the quarterfinals 6-1, 6-1.
Liu and Pattalachinti qualified as an unseeded doubles team from Corona for the state tournament where they defeated a doubles team from Camelback, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round before losing in the second round, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 to a doubles team from Marana
The girls team, coached by Carol Sandvig, qualified in the team portion and also in the singles and doubles tournament.
As a team, the Aztecs qualified as the No. 11 seed but lost in the first round to Desert Mountain, 1-5.
Elisa Magtoto qualified as the No. 8 seed in the singles tournament where she defeated Gold from Desert Mountain, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round, Simakuvar of Chaparral, 7-5, 6-1 in the second round, Rosales of Willow Canyon, 6-0, 6-1 in the third round. She eventually lost in the quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-0, to Horizon’s Isayer, who eventually won the championship.
Joycelyn Zhu and Maria Manaog qualified for the doubles tournament where they defeated a doubles team from Desert Ridge, 6-0, 6-1 in the first round, defeated a Mesa Mountain View doubles team 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 in the second round but ended up losing to Corley and Miramelli from Xavier Prep in the third round 6-2, 6-0.