Best in the West: 2023 New Faces

The Arizona High School Football coaching carousel goes in motion every summer. For some coaches, they earn the opportunity to step from an assistant to the head of the pack. Others receive a fresh start and earn the chance to rebuild a program.

This week, Best in the West caught up with some of the new head coaches in the west valley who are making their final adjustments before their first test with their new program in just a few weeks.


Knights Armor Up

Sean Moran takes over as the head coach of Westview just as the Knights get moved down to the 5A Conference. This will be the first season since 2015 that WHS hasn’t played in the top Conference/Division of AIA football.

In the past two seasons, Westview has gone a combined 2-18 after only having one losing season since 2006. Now, Moran is excited to help lead Westview back to their winning ways and secure their first postseason appearance since 2018.

“The first year has been going well so far, we have had a tremendous amount of player buy-in as well as community buy-in,” Coach Moran told Best in the West. “We have a small senior class this year but have a very big sophomore class. We will be playing a lot of sophomores this year and we are excited to see what the young pups got on a Friday night.”

Moran looks at Jaden Garcia, Alex Gonzalez, and offensive lineman Noah Perez, as primary leaders on offense. He’s also excited to see how the receiving room grows behind the hands of seniors KB Ehrhart and Octavio Arias, teaching some of those ‘young pups.’

On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights will be led by seniors, Jaden Garcia, David Garcia, and Steven Vasquez. The trio combined for 54 tackles in 2022. Jaden Garcia will be a two-way player as a linebacker and running back while David Garcia will man the offensive and defensive lines.

“These players are working tirelessly to improve their games and help establish a winning culture,” Moran said. “I am excited to watch our D-line this year, they are fast and very physical. Whatever they lack in size they make up for in speed, technique, and motor. They are coached by Jonathon Parks who was a player for me when I was a Verrado.”

Westview will begin the season with a three-game road trip at Millennium on August 25, Cesar Chavez on September 1, and La Joya on September 8.


Momentum to Build On

Last year’s 7-3 record was Carl Hayden’s best in program history, dating back to 1958. Regardless of schedule, results, or anything else, it’s something to build on. While a 7-3 record was reason to celebrate alongside winning the 4A Copper Sky Region Championship, the Falcons were only ranked 27th in the 4A Conference due to a subpar strength of schedule featuring 4A and 3A schools.

A new coaching staff has come into the fray for CHHS with Jay Nunez taking the reigns. Only two coaches return from the previous staff, Diego Rodriguez and Jerry Ballard, and the programs add nine new coaches.

“The staff is new to the kids and each other, but we have fun together,” Coach Nunez told Best in the West. “The kids are still getting accustomed to the pace of practice but have done an excellent job adjusting on the fly.”

A key attribute to this year’s Carl Hayden squad is their overwhelming youth. The team boasts a high volume of sophomores and juniors, and only returns five starters from last year.

Coach Nunez says the offense will get a facelift but remain in familiar waters. Junior quarterback, Jonathan Montes, has been a part of the varsity roster since his freshman year. Montes completed 15 of 37 pass attempts for 176 yards and a touchdown as well as 159 rush yards as a sophomore and has been a great leader through the coaching transition. Don’t lose sight of junior, Gervin Marroquin, returning as the anchor of the offensive line, while senior, Lee Renterias, moves from the o-line to become a possible offensive weapon at tight end.

Renterias will be a lead two-way player for the Falcons along with Montes and Marroquin. Also, keep a lookout for a pair of sophomores, Chris Barnett and Alex Montes, to command the secondary.

After winning the region title last year, the Falcons move to the 4A Skyline Region with teams like Glendale, Peoria, and Greenway, who have all had spurts of playoff runs over the past few graduating classes. Carl Hayden takes a trip north to open the season to battle Coconino on August 25.


A Clean Slate

It has been a rough two seasons for Estrella Foothills. After hovering around .500 for four seasons, the Wolves have lost 18 of their 20 games in the past two seasons. Now, a fresh-ish face enters the scene as former Trivium Head Coach, Michael Spencer moves from an assistant with EFHS last year to the head coach of the program.

“We are providing a chance for players to start with a clean slate,” Coach Spencer told Best in the West. “Past records may no longer be a burden, allowing players to focus on their potential and growth and open up opportunities for players to showcase their skills and earn their spots on the team based on their current performance and dedication.”

Seniors have been stepping up to lead under the new coaching staff, such as senior running back, Simeone Koroush, who entered the endzone three times last year and caused two fumbles on defense. Senior Caden Gable did a little bit of everything for the Wolves last year. Jaxon Richardson returns bringing leadership in his senior season after leading the team in tackles last year with 65 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. Fellow senior leaders this offseason have also included Alan Becker, Damian Lopez, and Elijah Alvarado.

“With a new head football coach and system, the players are adapting to unfamiliar strategies and approaches, which can create initial difficulties,” Coach Spencer said. “The biggest hurdles to overcome this year will involve learning the new system, building strong player-coach relationships, and enhancing team chemistry.

“Additionally, the team may face the pressure of improving their performance and breaking free from past struggles. It will take time, dedication, and perseverance to achieve positive results under the new leadership and system.”

The Wolves kickoff 2023 on the road against sister school, Youngker, on August 24.


The season is nearly here, so be sure to go out and support your local teams as a new chapter begins in just a few weeks! Join in on the conversation on Twitter using #FridayNight360AZ and follow @Sports360AZ to keep up with the action from across the state this season!