Football coaches love slogans, and Apache Junction High School coach Bruce Binkley is no different.
Spend any time with the Prospectors this season and you’ll hear the word “Gata.” According to Binkley, it stands for one of two things, depending on the moment:
Get After Those Academics.
Get After That Ass.
“Our expectations are sky high,” Binkley said. “We’re coming on.”
Apache Junction High School — which began fall practice Monday in anticipation of its season opener at Tempe Marcos de Niza on Sept. 3 — should have high expectations. The Prospectors return 14 starters — eight on offense, six on defense — from a team that went 3-2 in the COVID-19-interrupted 2020 season.
But it’s not just the individual players that have Binkley excited. It’s the collective spirit of the team and the players’ willingness to be coached hard by Binkley.
“Let me tell you something,” he said. “I’ve never been around a community or kids that are more of a pleasure to be around. I’ve coached a long time and I’ve coached a lot of wonderful kids. You don’t have to beg these kids to work hard. You don’t have to. They’re just great kids.”
That starts with junior quarterback Gavin Limongello, who completed 62.8% of his passes last season with eight touchdowns and also rushed for a team-high 569 yards. Limongello is not just the Prospectors’ most important player; he’s the team leader because of the example he sets every day.
“When your quarterback is the hardest-working and toughest kid on your team you’ve got a shot,” Binkley said.
Remember the Dallas Cowboys Triplets of the 1990s in quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin? Binkley believes he has his own Triplets in Limongello, sophomore running back Isaiah Savoie and junior wide receiver Garrett Garcia. Savoie averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a freshman and Garcia, whom Binkley calls the “best wide receiver in the state,” averaged 12.4 yards per catch as a sophomore.
“I try not to put everything on Gavin but he’s obviously the quarterback and so it all starts and stops with him so to speak,” Binkley said. “But when you have a tailback like Isaiah and then you have Garrett Garcia outside … I’m not a Cowboys fan but I’ve told them, ‘You three are my triplets.’ ”
Limongello deflects any talk of the triplets, pointing out that Apache Junction won’t be successful without the contributions of the offensive line, which returns three of five starters.
“It takes 11 to make a great team,” he said.
Defensively, Apache Junction will have to replace its two leading tacklers last year in linebacker Brody Bullard and defensive lineman Nathon Munoz. But Binkley hopes a more aggressive, blitzing scheme will compensate for their absence.
“I want the defense to match my personality,” he said. “Last year it didn’t. If we’re going to get beat we’re going to get beat my way.”
Binkley believes having the players in his system for a second year only can help the Prospectors. As for those expectations, well, they’re the same ones he has every season.
“We win the games we’re supposed to win,” he said, “and play our asses off in the rest of them.”
Editor’s note: Scott Bordow is Apache Junction Unified School District’s director of communications and community engagement.