Western States Football League insiders agree that former Red Mountain High School assistant Dan Dunn not only was the right man for the vacant Mesa Community College coaching job, but he was also the guy who could turn the struggling program around immediately.
After four WSFL games, it appears that Dunn is doing just that after MCC traveled to Yuma and soundly whipped a solid Arizona Western College team by a 37-20 score last Saturday in a game that wasn't as close as the final indicated.
MCC led 17-0 at the half, and had held AWC to only one first down to that point. The victory was the second straight for the Thunderbirds (2-3, 2-2), who pummeled New Mexico Military Institute a week earlier in their only home game so far.
Dunn and the Thunderbirds have played three league games on the road, first losing to No. 2 Dixie State and then Eastern Arizona, who were a combined 6-0 after three weeks of league play. AWC is still an honorable mention NJCAA Top-20 selection.
MCC figures to challenge for a spot in the NJCAA rankings and is on a collision course with No. 12 Glendale Community College (3-1 WSFL) for a Valley of the Sun berth. Barring an unforeseen breakdown by either club, the berth (which goes to the Maricopa County school with the best record in the WSFL) figures to come down to the final game of the season when MCC travels to GCC for a Nov. 15 showdown. Mesa hasn't made it to the bowl game since 1998.
Mesa could pull even with Glendale this week. MCC figures to have no trouble with Phoenix College on Saturday, at MCC.
GCC will travel to play Pima College, which seems to be revived after shocking Scottsdale Community College three weeks ago. Since then, Pima gave Dixie State its best game of the year in a 27-23 Dixie win. Pima defeated New Mexico Military last week. Glendale has looked vulnerable the past two weeks as No. 15 Snow College clobbered them throughout most of the game two weeks ago in a 41-36 Snow win and in a win over Scottsdale last week that was close into the third quarter. Glendale is also playing without Ramel McIntosh, one of the WSFL's leading rushers, who is out with a separated shoulder and could be lost for the year.
Dunn didn't get down on his club after the 0-2 league start and it's clear that his club didn't get down, either.
"We've played well the last four weeks," Dunn said. "When you play Dixie, you can play real well and still get your butts kicked. That first part of the schedule was pretty brutal when you're on the road three times. I think we're starting to play better. We started out from Square 1, with a new offense, a new defense. We're young, and the guys are starting to buy into the system."
Mesa's Nagui Sabbagh, a graduate of Saguaro High, captured his second ACCAC Player of the Week award of the year last week after scoring a goal and adding an assist against Paradise Valley CC and two more goals against South Mountain, both MCC wins. MCC and Chandler-Gilbert CC tumbled this week in the wild ACCAC men's soccer division where three teams are ranked in the NJCAA's Top 20.
MCC, at No. 5, will likely drop a few notches after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to Arizona Western. No. 13 CGCC fell to No. 6 Yavapai, 5-0, last Saturday. Heading into the weekend, Yavapai leads the ACCAC with a 13-2 record, slightly ahead of MCC and CGCC, which are both tied at 12-3.
CGCC has had a solid year on both sides of the soccer program, as both the men's and women's teams have qualified for the NJCAA Region I playoffs, with the men reaching the playoffs for the second consecutive year and the women qualifying for the first time.
The CGCC women (8-5) have battled injury problems throughout the season, but are entirely healthy for the first time as they'll try to rise from the No. 5 seed over the season's final three games.
Mary Jo Rana, a graduate of Hamilton, is second in the league in scoring with 32 points (12 goals, eight assists). Christine Shoffner (Dobson) has 17 points and Jenny Hagan (Mesa), who has missed four games, has 15 points. MCC's Kristina Burris, the defending scoring champion, leads the league with 35 points. The battle is still on for the lead on the women's side between No. 6 MCC, which entered the week at 11-1-1, one game ahead of Cochise (10-1-1).
The two hooked up Thursday night.
A preseason poll among the coaches of men's teams in the ACCAC indicates that not a whole lot is expected out of either Scottsdale or Mesa this season.
The preseason poll has SCC eighth, one spot ahead of MCC. Yavapai, Cochise and Arizona Western are the top three.
Scottsdale is ranked No. 2 in the nation, its highest ranking yet and remains atop the ACCAC with a 13-0 record (26-4 overall).
SCC's Abra Amwake leads the nation in digs with 6.36 per game. Teammate Sharisa Shiflet is third in the nation in assists (12.8). Chandler-Gilbert's Hayden Johnson is second in the ACCAC in digs with an average of 5.25.