November 12, 2004

Just two years into his new gig at Phoenix North High School, coach Stuart Goldstein has his team in the 5A playoffs.

It’s quite an accomplishment, especially considering that the Mustangs hadn’t posted a winning record or advanced to the postseason in nearly two decades.

But as with pretty much everything that bears the former Saguaro coach’s fingerprints, the turnaround hasn’t been free of controversy.

Some in the Saguaro community were surprised to find that four members of North’s varsity squad played football for the Sabercats last year. The number includes Metro Region player of the year Clayton Dowd and all-Metro Region selection Cody Dowd, in addition to regular contributors Max Moyes and Evan Rozell.

"All I say is: if you build it they will come," Goldstein said. "They followed the same rules as everyone else. . . When I left Carl Hayden to go to Maryvale, I had two kids transfer. Kids follow you. The kids want to play for a coach that takes care of them."

According to AIA bylaws, students can transfer schools and maintain their athletic eligibility as long as there is a "corresponding change of domicile" by the student’s parents or guardian.

For example, Clayton Dowd said he is now living with his cousin who lives within North’s attendance boundaries and who has taken over legal guardianship of himself and his brother.

Since the AIA doesn’t police transfers, transfer students are allowed to retain their eligibility as long as the athletic director and principal of the receiving school are satisfied the student’s parent or guardian indeed changed domiciles. Students’ previous schools have no input in the decision on eligibility.

That rankled some in the Saguaro community, who believed the players were recruited to North by Goldstein. Goldstein dismissed the rumors saying, "There was a little whining, but nothing came of it."

For his part, Clayton Dowd said he transferred from Saguaro because his grades were slipping and he liked North’s International Baccalaureate academic program. He added that getting a chance to study at North while getting another chance to play for Goldstein was "like killing two birds with one stone."

Like most of North’s players, Dowd said he respected the discipline Goldstein demands of his players.

"It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made," Dowd said. "He’s a strict rulefollower and that’s what I really respect about him."

North struggled to a 1-9 record last year. But with a full year under Goldstein’s tutelage and the addition of reinforcements from Saguaro, the Mustangs won nine games and grabbed the Metro Region crown this fall.

They will face by far their stiffest test of the season tonight when they play host to defending state champion Hamilton.

"They’re (an angry) team that’s focused on winning a state championship," Goldstein said of the Huskies. "But I’ve been telling my players all week that there’s nothing in the rule book that says we have to lose."

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