Football preview: Williams Field hitting ‘reset’ after COVID season

This is part two of a two-part series previewing Gilbert high school football teams ahead of the 2021 season. 


The 2020 football season, played during the COVID-19 pandemic, was an anomaly for the Williams Field High School program. 

It was the first time in program history the Blackhawks didn’t make the playoffs. Though, that can be attributed to the eight-team playoff brackets instituted by the AIA because of the pandemic. Normally, 16 teams enter the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Blackhawks, who went 5-3 last season, are biting at the bit to return to postseason play in 2021. 

Head coach Steve Campbell, who has led the team to two state titles, said that ...

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Football preview: Kerry Taylor ready for next step with San Tan Charter

When Kerry Taylor was hired to take over the San Tan Charter football team, a program that would be part of the Arizona Interscholastic Association for the first time, he set out to accomplish specific goals. 

He wanted to establish a new culture, one that weeded out those who were not willing to buy in to a mentality centered around hard work on and off the field. He also wanted to make San Tan Charter a destination school not only for its academics but athletic programs, too. But most importantly, he wanted to use his connections to help send athletes to the next level. 

“The reason I’m coaching high school football is to help them get there,” Taylor said. “I’m blessed and lucky enough to...

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Fall preview: Consistency key for Highland cross country

David Montgomery’s goal for Highland Cross Country every season is clear: make the state meet. 

He doesn’t want runners to get afraid or too hyped up regarding goals. Instead, he preaches consistency as the hallmark of his program. 

Before living in Arizona, Montgomery lived in Eugene, home to the University of Oregon and one of the top collegiate track and field programs in the country. He learned from some of the Ducks’ coaches and applies elements of their experience into the Hawks today. 

According to Montgomery, Highland is not a high-mileage team in practice, with summer runs and a smaller winter track program for distance runners. Yet their success on the course is e...

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High school coaches cautious as COVID-19 rises

The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s new COVID-19 guidelines for the 2021-22 high school sports season are causing a stir among athletes and coaches. 

Some of the key changes from last year’s guidelines open the opportunity for players with no symptoms to present negative tests to come out of quarantine after 10 days rather than 14.

Teams as a whole can have a shorter quarantine period – 10 days from last known exposure – if an outbreak were to occur.

But vaccinated coaches and players are excused from quarantine as long as they do not present virus symptoms.

“We worked with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee,” AIA Executive Director David Hines sa...

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DaVonte’ Neal making positive impact at Higley

DaVonté Neal can easily recall his favorite play from his high school career at Chaparral in Scottsdale.

Neal and the Firebirds were in the semifinals his senior year against Centennial in 2011. He had yet another dominating performance during the regular season in all facets of the game.  

Centennial had success against Chapparal and in the final play of the game, junior running back Jalen Ortiz began to hit the outside but Neal saw him begin to go into a throwing motion. Neal retreated into coverage, caught up with the opposing receiver and picked off the pass.

Neal’s interception sealed the game. Chaparral won 31-30 and clinched its third straight title. 

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Highland football enters summer with redemption on the mind

The Highland Hawks football team navigated through one of the state’s toughest schedules during the 2020 COVID season with few wounds from top programs.

The Hawks fell to Open Division champion Chandler, runner-up Hamilton and a Queen Creek squad many believed to be a contender in the state’s premier playoff bracket. Highland entered the 6A playoffs as the No. XX overall seed and went on to knock off Casteel and Boulder Creek in thrilling fashion to make the championship game. 

But that is where the Hawks’ run came to an end against Chaparral in a 24-14 loss. Now six months later, the sour taste from that loss in the title game remains. But head coach Brock Farrel believes their internal lo...

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