Zach Woolley is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Casteel High School athletics.
Despite its successes as of late, people often forget Casteel High School is still the newest school in the Chandler Unified School District.
It is said that establishing a culture is the key to building any program, and for Casteel and its head football coach Bobby Newcombe, it may have just found it, in terms of its defense.
“There is a collective group of guys that all have a strong voice,” Newcombe said.
The defense is flooded with senior talent, especially on the defensive line. Seniors Ronan Bowers and Shakaun Bowser anchor the line, and both can tell a difference in the team this year.
For them, the key is having people commit to the team. That helps when you have players who have played together for a long time at the school, and are able to bond not only inside the gridiron, but away from the field as well.
“In the past we had dudes that just weren't as committed as this year,” Bowers said. “Instead of being just a team, we are more of a family.”
In recent years, both teammates spoke out about what had become commonplace at Casteel: transferring. Being that they were still the new school, that also meant that they did not get to play in 6A like they do now, instead climbing up the ladder as they met enrollment requirements.
Players would simply see another opportunity and leave, creating a hole in the leadership department at times.
“Freshman year it was definitely crazy, we had a lot of kids come in and out,” Bowser said. “We had the loyal ones who stuck with us, and the ones who stuck with us is why have that chemistry because we went through the trials and tribulations together.”
Riding a boat with no captain is hard, and for Bowser, the 14th top ranked recruit in the state of Arizona for the class of 2022, he wanted to make sure his heavy recruitment did not play a distracting role for his unit.
“It was definitely weighing on me going into the season and I wanted to get it done (committing) as soon as possible,” said Bowser, a Colorado commit. “I needed to get that done early so I could devote 100 percent to my team, not just 95.”
Outside the field, each of the 24 seniors in the Casteel program have a vision for the future of the program. They want the chemistry to keep building, and it is something that they will tell their younger teammates.
It is noticeable when you go and talk to one of the younger players and leaders of the defense, sophomore J.J. Newcombe.
“This is probably the best defense we have had at Casteel,” Newcombe said. “Moving forward when they (seniors) leave, I hope we get new leaders next year.”
Regardless of positional leadership, the thing that makes the Casteel defense run is the team, not just the players. They are a unit, a unit who has brought a culture of togetherness both on and off the field.
“Everyone is accountable for their own positional group,” Bowers said. “We all take responsibility for the team as a whole.”