West Valley Preps
After years of trying to solve the complex equation of building a successful 11-man football team at an academically-focus Latin prep school, the problem required new eyes and new ideas.
Glendale Prep football has both as the 2019 season nears, with first-year coach Robert Addicott and new athletic director Jerome Garrison working to grow a varsity-only program that played most of 2018 with 14 kids total.
Addicott said the program has 23 players right now, the largest since 2016 — which, probably not by coincidence, was the Griffiths first year of 11-man football. He said he hopes some more come in before the season opener.
“We’re hoping to get close to 30, to pick up some new kids coming in. A couple kids should be out there but haven’t bought in yet,” Addicott said. “The big thing is, about eight of our guys are home schooled. The AD that was here before said a couple of key players were home-schooled kids. Once we started doing stuff, I think there were about four more that said hey, it’s rolling and came in.”
Former athletic director Steve Drake hired Addicott, who coached wide receivers and defensive backs for three years at Sunrise Mountain, bouncing between the junior varsity and freshman teams.
Then Drake left at the end of the school year and Garrison was hired at the end of May. The former Grand Canyon University basketball player served the same role at Imagine Avondale Middle School, where he started that school’s athletic program.
Here, he mission will be to rebuild and grow football and other sports that have struggled since the school’s growth bumped the Griffins’ teams up to 2A.
Former coach Jamie Self led Glendale Prep football to a Canyon Athletic Association 8-man state title in 2012, and playoff berths in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 8-man division from 2013 through 2015.
“It’s all about painting a vision. We try to help our student-athletes understand their unique position. They can leave their mark. They can build this, in terms of 11-man. There was a group that built 8-man. Who’s going to be the group that builds 11-man?” Garrison said.
To start, the task falls to Addicott. He said when the 2018 season ended, he was not planning to leave the Sunrise Mountain staff or seek out head coaching jobs.
Then a close friend called.
“Before I met with Coach (Steve) Decker to do our end of season interviews, a good friend of mine whose son goes here had just found out the coach here wasn’t returning. We have a long history so he came to me and asked if I was interested,” Addicott said. “I told Coach Decker, “Hey, there’s a small chance I get this job.’ I didn’t think I get it. He was very supportive.”
He learned the ropes at the high school level from Decker and Mustangs head junior varsity coach Chris Alvarez. Then Addicott lucked out, as Alvarez came out of retirement to work as the offensive coordinator.
Glendale Prep’s campus is actually closer to Sunrise Mountain’s than rival school Liberty. This fall, the Griffins will have a large strand of Mustangs in their DNA.Alvarez is transitioning from Self’s double wing to a spread that will resemble the Mustangs’ attack.
Recent Sunrise Mountain players Jake Radon and Lucas Handwerk will coach the defensive and offensive lines respectively.
Addicott’s son, Charlie, moved over with his father for his senior season.
He decided to import the Mustangs’ approach to camps, spring football and regular weight sessions. Addicott said parents have been supportive of the increased offseason emphasis.
When the games start, juggling a roster will be considerably different in 2A than in 5A.
“We’ve sat down and looked at our starting offense and defense. Then we have to be strategic and make sure we have guys that are going to give them breathers. It’s going to be different from Sunrise where I had 15 defensive backs,” Addicott said.
Previous to the Mustangs, he coached youth football at Christ’s Church of the Valley and led the Knights youth football program.
That experience, along with Garrison’s in nurturing middle school sports means more at Glendale Prep than a typical high school. The charter school’s North Peoria campus includes a middle school for grades 6-8.
“The biggest thing here is they do have a middle school program so it’s kind of like your feeder. We’re bringing those coaches in to try and learn the system. What I had heard is some of the eighth graders coming in as freshmen didn’t want to play their freshman year because there’s only a varsity team. We tried to get the word out that they will get coached up and have opportunities,” Addicott said.
In the offseason, he said, the weight room rearranged and used more.
A more visible Glendale Prep football program could translate to more buy-in from middle school students moving up. And if numbers increase, the possibility of a lower-level program — allowing younger players to grow before being thrown into the varsity fray — would alleviate a common parent concern.
“Coach Addicott and I, when we first met, realized we had a lot in common. It was the perfect fit. We spent a lot of time laying out the vision for the next couple of years. We’re not just thinking about this year. We both know we’re in a unique position and we want to provide the students and families with the best environment that we can,” Garrison said.
The opener is still a month away, but the Griffins are in the midst of something entirely foreign the last couple of years — a quarterback competition.
Sophomore Sam Terpstra, the returning starter, is being pushed by senior Matthew Hawkins, who played sparingly as a freshman and ran cross country the last two seasons.
While this group, like last season’s 1-8 team, is not very big, Addicott said he is impressed with their speed, quickness and toughness.
And the new coach said he inherited a very smart group of players who can translate their problem solving skills and dedication from the school’s demanding curriculum onto the field.
While translation of passing league success to the 11-man game is spotty, the Griffins saw some promising results this summer. Most of all, the program had a presence it has lacked the last two years.
“We did more 7-on-7. We went to the Bourgade 7-on-7 and we did well against two higher-level team. That was without some of our key players. They saw that when they do what they’re coached to do, they can be successful. I think parents started taking note. We got comments from some of the other 2A programs, several said they were happy to see we had some numbers,” Addicott said.