West Valley Preps
TEMPE — Early in Centennial’s 5A football championship showdown with Notre Dame Prep on Dec. 1 at Sun Devil Stadium, the Coyotes’ Eric Cire Fields II made his presence felt.
The senior linebacker tipped a pass to himself, snagging an interception and quickly halting the NDP drive.
“In that formation, that’s the only play they’ve run,” Cire explained. “In practice, we ran that like 25 times — I knew it was coming.”
On the Centennial sideline, Cire’s father Eric — a defensive line coach for the Coyotes — was having flashbacks to his playing days on the same field as a four-year starter at linebacker for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
“I made a few plays out here, too,” said Eric, an ASU standout from 1998-2001. “This place means a lot to me. I told Cire about the legacies and my memories of Sun Devil Stadium this morning before we got here. He obviously got the message.”
Cire said his father’s words sparked him to raise his game on the biggest stage.
“I had motivation to play even better because this is where my dad balled out,” Cire said.
After Centennial completed its perfect 2018 season with a 60-7 shellacking of NDP, father and son met for a huge bear hug near the 20 yard line.
“He has taught me everything,” Cire said of his father. “I don’t know where I would be without him.”
Eric said he started teaching Cire the game at an early age.
“As a father, I’ve coached him since flag football when he was 4,” Eric explained. “I have two boys and football is a huge part of our lives.”
When father and son play the same position, there will always be comparisons to one another. Eric sees both similarities and differences in the two.
“Cire is more rangy and lanky than I was,” he said. “But I played a linebacker spot that allowed me to go out in coverage quite a bit and Cire does that a lot, too. He’s not quite as intense as I was but Cire has always stayed true to himself. He has worked hard.”
The hard work began as a sophomore when Cire was injured and sat out the entire football season. He rehabbed and returned as a junior safety in 2017, helping Centennial to its sixth state championship. Ironically, that victory was also over Notre Dame Prep.
Heading into his senior year, Cire, 17, grew nearly two inches and put on 20 pounds. Centennial coaches shifted him to linebacker, where Cire was a key contributor to what has to be considered the best defense in Centennial’s three-decade history. In asserting their dominance, the 2018 Centennial defense set a new school record in allowing just 85 total points in 14 games while registering five shutouts.
“It took me a while to catch on at linebacker,” Cire admitted. “In spring ball, it started to click.”
During his senior season, Cire had 55 total tackles with 12 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage. He added five sacks, seven quarterback hurries, two interceptions, a fumble caused and a blocked punt.
“He may not have all the size or monster stats but he loves the game of football,” Eric said of his son. “Cire plays for himself and not for me and that’s what I really love.”
Cire (6-3, 205) has designs on playing college football. A few offers are already on the table.
On Dec. 22, Centennial will play in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series, giving recruiters another look at the Coyotes’ talented linebacker. That game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
“Cire is just 17 and still growing,” Eric said. “The sky is the limit. Someone just needs to see his potential, give him the opportunity and I guarantee he won’t let them down.”
Long after the Coyotes had secured Centennial’s seventh state football title, father and son were still all smiles.
“It feels great to be the best,” Cire said. “We’ve worked hard for it.”
His father agreed.
“The icing on the cake is his last high school game is on the same field where I played in college,” Eric said. “To see Cire, after all he has been through, out here on this field making big plays for his team — it’s special. I don’t know that you could write a better script than that.”