Mason Crossland could not stay away from the high school football field for long.
The recent Higley graduate, who threw for 40 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards his senior year, recorded his last high school win on November 10, 2016, against west-side rival Cactus High School, and graduated in 2017.
Fast-forward just a couple years to this June, and Crossland was hired as quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator for those same Cobras at just age 20.
After serving alma-mater Higley as the JV offensive coordinator last season, Crossland wanted to take a step up to the varsity level. He called up Cactus coach Joseph Ortiz, the former Higley offensive coordinator in Crossland’s playing days, and the connection made sense instantly.
“Ever since my sophomore year, he (Ortiz) was really the first coach I had a tremendous connection with. I’ve always just been able to talk to him about anything, and even after high school it stayed the same,” Crossland said.
Having run Ortiz’s offense, he was in a sense already helping with coaching duties even during his playing days.
Ortiz can relate to the young coach, having started his own coaching career at 19. More importantly, there is a long-established rapport between the two that could lead to success on the offensive end.
“He knows this offense as well as I do, and now he’s another set of eyes for me and will help developing our quarterbacks. I have all the trust in the world,” Ortiz said.
Rather than a hinderance, Cactus senior quarterback Conner Cordts sees the small age gap — Crossland will be no more than two or three years older than many of the Cobra seniors — as a positive.
The two can talk first-hand about Crossland’s recent playing days, and Cordts can ask questions about exactly what each drill and play call are meant to accomplish.
“I love the fact that Coach Crossland is young. It’ll help build our relationship as QB and QB coach because we can relate to so much more. And he can give me tips and quality information he saw firsthand playing in this offense,” Cordts said.
Cordts is excited about Crossland’s technical ability. From reading plays, decision-making, footwork and more, the two will be spending numerous hours together working on perfecting the passing game.
With a solid offensive line, speed and strength at all the skill positions and a quarterback focused on running a well-oiled offensive machine, there is no reason not to be confident about scoring and moving the ball in the upcoming months.
“The cactus offense is going to blow people away this season. I know it’s Coach Ortiz’s goal to average at least 30 to 40 points a game, and truthfully I think it’s something we can accomplish,” Cordts said.
The team took a week off in early July to celebrate the holiday, with plans to resume preseason training and preparation for the season, which begins August 30 with a home game against Catalina Foothills.
Crossland said he hopes the offense has the potential to break records en route to wins and, more importantly, spark a long playoff run in 4A. The Cobras exited last season’s playoffs in a blowout loss to eventual-champion Saguaro.
Mostly, he is excited to get back on the field that shaped him so much.
“This offense is open for so many opportunities,” Crossland said. “It’s going to be fantastic.”