Zone Read: Let’s Build Something Together

Arizona Sports News online

Start Me Up

“When you have your first child, everyone tells you how it’s going to change your life, but you have no idea how it’s going to change it. You have no idea how it’s going to change your life because you haven’t experienced it before. It’s kind of the same thing.” – Crismon High School head coach Corbin Smith

Corbin Smith, the son of the late Larry Smith, who was the head coach at Tulane, Arizona, USC, and Missouri, is no stranger to playing and coaching football at the high school and collegiate level. Corbin’s expansive coaching resume includes assistant stints at Missouri, Arkansas State, and Mesa Community College. He most recently served as McClintock High’s head coach for five seasons before resigning in January

Crismon, situated on Riggs Road just west of Schnepf Farms and the Queen Creek Olive Mill, is different.

It’s new.

Brand new.

The Rattlers, who presently have around 35 players in the first-year program, will play a 10-game split schedule in their debut season in 2022. The first five games will be freshman-sophomore games, the second five will be JV games this fall.

Smith, who spoke to several other coaches who started programs, most notably former Perry head coach (and coincidentally Smith’s ex-brother-in-law) Preston Jones, and Eastmark’s Scooter Molander, said most of the advice he received had a common theme: buckle up.

“The one thing they told me was, ‘Hey, you’re going to have this in place but for the first year, it’s going to be wild,'” Smith explained to the “Zone Read.” “Things are going to change, things are going to happen. Expect the unexpected. Roll with the punches. Be adaptable.”

Despite all the unknowns starting programs, like Crismon who will eventually reach an enrollment of around 3,000 students and compete in 6A according to Smith, has great appeal and brings a unique challenge in building from the foundation up.

 “I got to a point, after my second year as a [high school] head coach, where I said, ‘I want to do this, if something comes up, I want to do it,'” Smith said about starting a new program. “I want to end my career teaching and coaching at Crismon…that’s what I want to do.”

According to Smith, another benefit of a first-year program, from a player’s perspective, is being coached and mentored all four years by varsity coaches.

“I said, ‘I’ve never coached lower levels,’ he explained of a recent practice discussion with his team. “‘So if you think I’m going to back off, or not coach the way I do at the varsity level, you’re wrong. Trust me when I tell you, you will develop a lot quicker than most other freshman and sophomores.'”

Despite starting at the 3A level, Smith and his staff are convinced the long-term gain at Crismon will help keep district players in Rattler uniforms, despite the temptations to play at bigger neighborhood schools like Queen Creek and Casteel – another program which started in 3A and is now 5A.

“You have to have the big picture in mind,” he said.

That was one of the points passed along by Jones, who won 90 games and sent 87 players to play in college before retiring in December after 14 seasons with the Pumas.

“I told him to treat it like a marathon and not a sprint,” Jones said to the “Zone Read.” “Try to slow down and enjoy the process when you have nothing but younger kids. I also told him it will be the coolest thing you ever do, but the hardest thing you ever do.”

The vision is clear.

“We’re all working for one goal,” Smith noted without hesitation. “That’s to make Crismon High School the premiere school in the Valley.”

Sure, there will certainly be some unexpected twists and turns, and bumps in the road, but the structure is already in place and the house is slowly being build.

As the Lowe’s commercials say, “Let’s build something together.”

West Valley One to Watch

The 2022 Arizona high school football season is just around the corner and. in the coming weeks, “Zone Read” will be highlighting a handful of players you may not be familiar with, but who could make big impacts this fall.

One head-turner this summer was Desert Edge junior tight end/wide receiver/H-back, Victor “Alex” Chavez who transferred in from Avondale La Joya this off-season after his family moved closer to the Goodyear campus. He will be eligible after sitting the first five regular season games due to AIA transfer rules.

After playing limited varsity action last season as a sophomore, he has impressed the DE staff early with his strong hands, body control, and ability to high point the ball in traffic.

“My first practice with DE was at [summer] camp and it was extremely fun,” Chavez, who also runs track, said. “It motivated me to do better and compete and want to practice. I also came here because I wanted to best shot to achieve one of my dreams which is play college football out of state.”

Listed at 6’3, 190 pounds, Chavez, who also carries a 3.2 GPA, appears to be another weapon for promising sophomore quarterback Hezekiah Millender and the Scorpions who are looking to make some serious noise in 5A and, possibly, beyond.  

Getting Social

“Zone Read” heard about a couple of on-line brush fires this summer, as well as some finger pointing between coaches, involving possible tampering and (gasp!) “recruiting.”

Well, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

As has been stated in this column several times, the AIA, with its ballooning collection of members (283 schools this fall), can’t police everything that is happening, especially when you consider how many players, coaches, parents, and administrators check in (and keep up) on social media.

I’m going to keep this PSA as clear, and concise, as posssible: if you’re a coach, especially a head coach, who doesn’t help promote your own players on social media, don’t cry wolf when one of you own hops on Twitter, sees a neighboring head coach attempting to elevate the status of one of their own players, and said player decides to transfer out for “a better opportunity” or “a new beginning.”

It happens more often than you think and this, by no means, falls under recruiting or tampering. 

Social media accounts are free, relatively easy to set up, and a great way to showcase your own program.

Successful high school coaches don’t recruit, their programs do. More importantly, kids talk to kids.

If head coaches don’t evolve to “keep up” with what their players are seeing on-line from other coaches, there’s probably a good chance that coach, and their program, will get left behind.