New era of Skyhawks football takes off quickly

Deer Valley head coach Dan Friedman gives instruction to his players during practice Jan. 18 at Deer Valley High School in Glendale. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Deals come together very quickly when both parties find their ideal match.

A little more than a week after Deer Valley football coach Eric Bolus’ retirement in December, the Glendale school chose its new coach. And it took only one interview of an in-district candidate who was ready to get back in the high school game.

Dan Friedman now leads the program, after working on the coaching staff at Arizona Christian University during that program’s first four years. Prior to that, he was the inaugural coach of the varsity program at Boulder Creek (from 2007-2013), and the head coach at Goldwater (2002-2006).

“I knew I would eventually be a high school head coach again. It was just the matter of the right opportunity coming along,” Friedman said.

He still teaches at Boulder Creek, including systematic conditioning and advanced physical education. Friedman said he plans to teach at Deer Valley next year.

He also knows Deer Valley athletic director Scott Warner, who served as AD at Boulder Creek previously. Friedman said along with this familiarity, he felt comfortable with the school’s administration and its support of the football program — something he said is more rare these days.

From his perspective, Warner said the interview process was quick because the choice his clear.

“We had one in district candidate so we could proceed quickly with that interview. It happened to be Coach Friedman and our interview committee was quite impressed with his presentation and enthusiasm to return to the high school ranks,” Warner stated in an email. “We didn’t feel the need to interview anyone else.”

Freidman’s hiring was announced just before winter break and, thanks to the lifting of limits on practices for all sports by the AIA, he’s hit the ground running.

Practices and workouts started early in January and parent meetings, player bios, flyers and fundraisers are populating the program’s Twitter page.

“He has indeed hit the ground running,” Warner stated. “I knew that he would. Our players are excited, our staff who have met Dan are excited and our booster club is excited. Even though he is a new coach and has some key seniors graduating, Coach Friedman has us all looking forward to success next year.”

Friedman said he has not yet met everyone returning to the program, as Deer Valley’s tradition of multi-sport athletes remains with star junior Dez Melton busy playing basketball and several Skyhawks are wrestling. Freidman said he will continue to encourage football players to continue their other sports.

For now, the key for the new coach is setting up pillars of his program — a team-first culture, a work ethic based on respect and discipline, and to show the kids in the program you love and appreciate them — and seeing who wants to come along.

“I’ve had great success with the kids I’ve met. I know I haven’t met all of them and I know some kids are on the fence,” Friedman said.

The new coach will have a key building block returning on each side of the ball. Melton rushed for more than 3,000 yards in the last two years, yet is receiving major college interest as a wide receiver.

Friedman will serve as the Skyhawks’ offensive coordinator and worked with slot receivers at Arizona Christian. With a mammoth offensive line largely gone and Melton’s skill set, Deer Valley’s new play caller envisions a more open attack that gets Melton a similar amount of touches but probably a few less carries.

“I can see Dez being an 1,000-yard rushing and 1,000-yard receiving kid for me,” Friedman said.

Junior linebacker Alex McKeon looks like a similar foundational piece on defense. The two-year starter was one of the team’s top tacklers.

Friedman’s early staff also has Boulder Creek ties. Defensive coordinator Anthony Paterno moved over from Mountain Ridge and has worked with Friedman for a long time, as has offensive line coach Shawn Wools. C.J. Morgan played with Friedman at Goldwater and will be the primary varsity staff holdover.

The new coach said he met with four coaches of the Deer Valley freshman and JV teams last week and said he feels good about most, if not all, staying on. And the level of comfort with Warner and principal Kim Crooks, another Boulder Creek parent, cannot be overstated.

“Coach Friedman is a winner. He won at Goldwater, he won at Boulder Creek and he was helping them win at Arizona Christian,” Warner stated. “On a personal note, Coach Friedman coached my son at Boulder Creek for four years so I am well aware of the high quality program he runs. His winning is a by product of the high character expectations he has for his players.”

Deer Valley head coach Dan Friedman talks to his players during practice Jan. 18 at Deer Valley High School in Glendale. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

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