No high school football coach could have anticipated this particular offseason, and all of them are learning a new way of life during the spring and summer of COVID-19.
That goes double for first-year head coaches — particularly a pair of first-time head coaches in southwest Surprise.
Paradise Honors’ Josh Goodloe and Shadow Ridge’s Sean Hegarty are bringing together their teams in a spring where school and workouts halted in mid-March. Like every other coach, they missed out on spring ball, learned Zoom and did not see their players face to face until June.
“It was not what I had envisioned as spring ball. I believe, as a staff, we were able to make the best of the situation through online team meetings and installs with every position group. I am still considering ideas for our camp this year as the restrictions change on a weekly basis,” Hegarty stated in an email interview.
Hegarty arrived in February after years as Ironwood’s offensive coordinator, and retained several Stallions assistants. But Goodloe had the benefit of more continuity at Paradise Honors.
Josh Goodloe arrived in 2019 and was the offensive coordinator on Chad Talley’s staff. Talley left for the head coaching job at Copper Canyon, Goodloe moved up and promoted last year’s defensive backs coach, Malik Starks, to defensive coordinator.
The Panthers are installing a 3-4 defense. Goodloe said some defensive terminology changed but the players know their new leader, the basics of the scheme and the expectations.
The major overhaul of the offseason, Goodloe said, was intended to be new strength coach Lyle Hollins and his more intense conditioning program.
“I brought in a strength coach. Trying to get that establishing this offseason has been difficult,” Goodloe said.
Goodloe filled several coaching vacancies with familiar faces from James Carter’s 2016 staff at Millennium — like William Lang and Mike Young, even Hollins.
The Panthers staff was starting to roll out the new look when campus cleared for the coronavirus in March.
“We had started to implement the weight stuff. And we started once a week football school to install stuff.” Goodloe said.
Hegarty was new but retained some of Bob Chappelle’s staff, promoting Chuck Molett to defensive coordinator and retaining offensive coordinator Sean Moran.
Yet most of the changes at Shadow Ridge will be on offense. The unspoken mandate is to modernize, changing from a I formation and huddle to a no-huddle spread.
“The new scheme was in process of being installed both in the classroom and on the field before we were shut down. I would not say we are playing catch up on the new scheme. I started coaches meetings a week after the shut down to make sure all three levels were on the same page. Whole group and position meetings with athletes began shortly thereafter,” Hegarty stated.
After Shadow Ridge and the rest of the Dysart Unified School District shut down, Hegarty said he was able to have individual meetings with each athlete in the program via an online platform. It was the only way to have face to face conversations and discuss goals and other items.
Hegarty said the conversations were definitely positive and allowed me to discuss various topics with the young men in the program. Still the new coach, like his peers, was relieved once players could return to campus on June 1 for small-group weight room sessions and outdoor conditioning.
“I believe they have been very important, not only from a rapport standpoint, but also a social aspect. While we were given very stringent rules to follow regarding social distancing and disinfecting procedures, we were able to implement the summer lifting and conditioning programs,” Hegarty stated. “The young men have done an incredible job understanding the importance of the given protocols while also working hard to adapt to new ideas and procedures.”
With different sizes in student bodies and differing amounts of interest in football, 6A Shadow Ridge and 3A Paradise Honors have different strengths and challenges when it comes to this modified conditioning rules.
Goodloe found one good thing is with less than 50 players in the program, there’s enough time for all kids to work out. He said he enjoyed three weeks working with the kids in person.
Now, though, he will have to wait a while. Paradise Honors halted workouts in all sports June 22 until at least July 7.
“The biggest thing is making sure the kids and coaches are healthy,” Goodloe said.
Dysart has not pressed pause for its schools and Hegarty will continue to get time with his new program.
The amount of interest at this larger school, however, means more players than there is space available in an era of limits in weight rooms and outdoors.
Younger Stallions are missing out.
“The athletes have adapted extremely well to the modified weight room and conditioning,” Hegarty stated. “Due to space and time restrictions I have not been able to get every athlete into the summer program. I have double digit waiting lists for the morning and evening sessions. While I am grateful to have the numbers currently attending, I feel terrible that I cannot bring in numerous returning and incoming freshman athletes.”
The Panthers’ summer camp moved from Winslow to Paradise Honors, but for now is still scheduled to begin July 13.
Most importantly for the long term, Goodloe said, Paradise Honors began a feeder team for its middle school students in grades six through eight. The young Panthers were able to play two games this spring before the season ended prematurely.
After only playing varsity football this year, Goodloe said Paradise Honors has 15 freshmen in camp and enough sophomores to combine them and form a junior varsity squad.
“We have 48 kids in the program and we got to see the 48 kids at different times the last three weeks,” Goodloe said.
Hegarty also said, despite all the unexpected difficulties this offseason, the Stallions are making progress.
However, like everyone else in Arizona high school football, where the team is at is hard to tell since players cannot do anything remotely close to a competitive practice.
“The only part of my vision we have not been able to realize is the competition aspect. Due to the restrictions, we are not able to utilize equipment, practice 7-on-7 and truly compete,” Hegarty said. “I believe the mental game of the program is on point but I need to see the practical application of the schemes against an opponent to truly gauge the progress we have made.”