Division II, Section III
Coach: Matt Lewis
Last year’s record: 3-7, did not qualify for Division II playoffs.
Returning offensive starters: 6, including running back Sammy Jones, who carried the ball 120 times for 617 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
Returning defensive starters: 6, including defensive lineman Devin Strickland, who had 48 tackles and three forced fumbles last season.
Aug. 23 vs. Tempe; Aug. 31 vs. Cesar Chavez; Sept. 7 at Camelback; Sept. 14 vs. Willow Canyon; Sept. 21 at Chaparral; Sept. 28 at Shadow Mountain; Oct. 4 at South Mountain; Oct. 12 vs. Marcos de Niza; Oct. 19 vs. Notre Dame; Oct. 26 at Perry
Aug. 23 vs. Tempe: The annual rivalry game isn’t what it once was in terms of prestige, but these programs still look forward to the intra-city clash. McClintock won last year’s game easily and isn’t expected to have too much trouble in this one.
Sept. 7 at Camelback: The Chargers lost to Camelback, 28-0, last season, which pretty much spelled doom on any hopes of a quick turnaround under new coach Matt Lewis. These are the types of games McClintock needs to win to revive the program.
Sept. 14 vs. Willow Canyon: The schedule gets very tough after this game, with matchups including Chaparral, Marcos de Niza, Notre Dame and Perry. Willow Canyon handled McClintock last season but is not the same consistent program as the East Valley powers and the Chargers may have a chance if they play well.
Matt Lewis lost more games last year as coach of McClintock than he did in his previous four as offensive coordinator at Saguaro. Despite the slow start, he’s seeing progress within the Chargers program.
McClintock will return 12 starters this season from a team that went 3-7 a year ago. Lewis is pleased with the play of his freshmen and junior varsity teams from a year ago and believes the overall dedication this year will pay dividends.
“I don’t like to bring up the Saguaro thing very much, but those kids figured out how to work,” said Lewis of a program which won three state titles in his four years there. “Our kids are learning how to prepare like champions do."
The team’s two top offensive weapons are back. Quarterback Xavier Gomez threw for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns a season ago and ran for 583 yards and four more scores. Sammy Jones took over as the starting running back with five games remaining and finished with more than 100 yards in three of them, including 199- and 187-yard performances against Shadow Mountain and Perry. Jones finished the season with120 carries for 617 yards and eight scores and Lewis hopes he leads a running attack that gives defenses trouble.
“It’s very important that you do something well,” Lewis said. “In all aspects last year we didn’t really have anything we could hang our hat on.”
Lewis is very encouraged by his a core of junior wide receivers, led by Kyree King and Dominic Orona.
The majority of the team’s secondary returns and so do several linebackers. The Chargers had trouble stopping teams last season, but Lewis hopes an entire offseason of weight room dedication will translate on the field.
The gains may be small right now - a playoff berth this season would probably be a pleasant surprise - but Lewis can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The change of style had a pretty dramatic effect,” Lewis said. “Our younger kids, they embraced the change because they’re going to be there longer. In a lot of ways I saw more of our future in our JV and freshmen programs. These kids are starting to learn what work ethic is. They’ve cut out the excuses. We’re not done yet but my team is totally different than last year.”