When the 2017 high school football season begins on Aug. 25, the McClintock High School football team will take the field with a new commander-in-chief.
When McClintock head coach Corbin Smith was growing up, his father, Larry Smith, was a football coach at the University of Arizona for seven seasons from 1980-1986. At the time, McClintock was one of the powerhouse football programs in the Phoenix area. Now, after a string of losing seasons for McClintock, Smith has an opportunity to rebuild a storied program.
“When this job came open, I wasn’t really in the head coaching loop. I was really out of that, I just wanted to coach to coach,” Smith said. “I already knew, in my mind, that I wanted to go after it and if I got it I would take it.”
Smith alluded to the demographics and the diversity of the school being more his style than any other school in the area. There was one other thing that stood out to him when he was interviewing for the position. It was the challenge of rebuilding a program that he grew up knowing was so strong and so storied.
“That challenge is something that was an honor and it’s a privilege,” Smith said. “I felt very honored, and I felt like I owe it to all the guys that made that program what it was.”
Coach Karl Kiefer was one of those guys that made the McClintock football program what it was. According to maxpreps.com, Kiefer held a record of 218-73-3 from 1964 to 1991 at McClintock.
After a 3-7 season in 2016, Smith knows that there is work to be done if he wants to rebuild McClintock to its former glory. He said that starts with laying a foundation to build on for the upcoming season.
“The big thing I am on the kids about is discipline and having high expectations of themselves, of the program, of their school, and being accountable for what they do every moment of every day,” Smith said. “So that’s where the foundation started.”
The Chargers have built on that foundation throughout spring ball and the summer. They played in 7-on-7 tournaments, where they have had the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in Arizona, like Chandler, Hamilton, Saguaro and Mountain Pointe.
They are lifting weights four days a week at 7 a.m., getting bigger, better and stronger. Smith has also implemented something new at McClintock, something that he said he has wanted to do for a long time. Once a week, Smith brings in Donna Chasan, a local yoga instructor to teach his players yoga.
“I think that it’s great for your core. It’s great obviously for flexibility and learning your body and understanding the dynamics and the mechanics of the way your body moves,” Smith said. “Once you start doing that, and incorporating the body mechanics, your body control changes and your strength increases.”
The new leader of the Chargers hopes that with the number of athletes that he has this season, the work in the gym will transfer to the field in the fall. Also, he won’t be surprised if the Chargers catch people off guard this season as this team reminds him of the 2013 Mesquite team.
“When (former coach) Jim Jones came in his first year, he had a bunch of sophomores and juniors who had played the year before and they went 2-8,” Smith said. “Basically, the structure and the foundation he laid and the kids were so hungry to win and we had great athletes at that time. They just bought in to what he was doing and they went 11-2 and lost in the semifinals to Chaparral.”
Smith is hoping for a little of the same in 2017 and believes that with the team he has, they have eight must-win games on their schedule.
“When I say ‘must-win games’ I’m talking about eight games that where if we play sound fundamental football and do what were coached to do, we can, from a physical standpoint, win those games,” Smith said.
The Chargers start their road to their first winning season since 2006 on August 25 at Vista Grande High School.
– Contact Greg Macafee at email@example.com or at 480-898-5630 or follow @greg_macafee on Twitter.