By Jon Ladd
With Corona del Sol varsity football’s win at Mountain View on Nov. 20, the Aztecs finished the regular season undefeated at the varsity, junior varsity and freshman levels this season, an amazing turnaround for a program that was viewed as a joke just three or four years ago.
Coach Jon Becktold and his staff are deservedly getting tons of credit for the wonderful job they have done.
I have been around sports at CdS for the last five or six years through the many baseball players in the community I have coached. In football, I have repeatedly seen good players that lived within the CdS attendance boundary choose one of the better nearby football programs through open enrollment, like Chandler High, Mountain Pointe or Desert Vista, instead of going to Corona. I have also seen the best athletes in the school play football as freshmen at Corona and then not come back for their sophomore year as they focused on basketball or baseball.
The person who changed this was Quade Swearingen. Quade is the quarterback and unquestioned leader in this historic time for Corona football. Quade is the example for every player showing how to act off the field, work on the field and in the weight room, excel in the classroom and compete on the football field.
When Quade was in eighth grade, he started and played on both sides of the ball for the Hitmen youth-football team from Chandler that went to win a national championship. I remember…hearing the announcer on ESPN call Quade the best athlete on the field at halftime of the championship game.
The core of that Hitmen group is currently the core of the Chandler High football team, one of the top five teams in the nation and perhaps the best in the history of Arizona high school football. Many people, myself included, assumed when Quade went to high school he would join those kids at Chandler and go on to win multiple state titles.
I remember when his dad told me he was going to his home school, Corona, my reaction was, “He is going to end up quitting football and focusing on baseball after his freshman year. … They won’t have anyone to block for him and they won’t have any receivers that can get open. No way he will be happy winning one or two games a year and being hurt all the time.”
I was partially right. There were a lot of times where no one could block the defenders and no receivers could get open. Quade got hit harder than most could take. During his junior season, when I attended nearly every game, there were 10 to 15 times when he got hit hard that I was pretty sure he wouldn’t get up.
He always did and got back to the huddle to run the next play. He dragged a young, inexperienced team to the playoffs as a junior. Now in his senior year, he leads not just the varsity but the whole program to undefeated seasons, even though the varsity fell in the first round of the Open Division playoffs to Hamilton and finished 8-1.
In my whole life of watching sports, I have never seen any player change an entire program like Quade has. I feel fortunate to have been able to watch his journey.
Jon Ladd submitted this commentary to Wrangler News.