The two-month search for a new Shadow Ridge football coach ended with the selection of former Ironwood offensive coordinator Sean Hegarty on Jan. 17.
Hegarty played football at Paradise Valley High School, then Glendale Community College and New Mexico Highlands University.
Stints as a football assistant coach followed at North Canyon and Goldwater before Hegarty spent the past nine years on the Ironwood staff.
He coached defensive linemen and wide receivers before moving up to offensive coordinator — not to mention serving seven years as the Eagles’ head baseball coach.
"What we envision Shadow Ridge football is a team that others around the state want to play because if their fiee competitice nature every game. Coach Hegarty and his coach staff is looking to take on this challenge right away," Shadow Ridge athletic director Matthew Kuffel said.
Hegarty said he watched tape of Shadow Ridge during its 6-4 season in 2019 and came away impressed.
“They’ve got a good base of talent there. Their coaches did a great job building that program up. I’m grateful for everything they left me with,” Hegarty said. “I’ve been over there and they are some great kids. Going out there for the interview process I was very impressed with the community and the community involvement.”
And the new coach needed to get involved with the Southwest Surprise/Waddell community very quickly. The school dismissed coach Bob Chappelle less than a week after the season ended despite the varsity improving from 2-8 in 2017 to 4-6 in 2018 and 6-4 in 2019.
Chapelle said he was taken by surprise by his removal, particularly within a week of the season ending. He believed the varsity progress and 6-2 record of the freshman showed a program headed in the right direction.
"Improving year to year I think we had the thing going to where we were going to compete for more in the next year," Chappelle said. "Everyone thought the games we lost, maybe except Brophy, were all competitive football."
The decision prompted some blow back on social media. The chorus grew on Jan. 7 when the SRHS Football Twitter account posted a (since-deleted) tweet about the length of the coaching search causing the Stallions to fall behind on offseason weight room sessions and drills.
"It doesn't matter about me, a staff or the parents. My concern has always been the kids. I felt bad them because they felt they were a little bit abandoned," Chappelle said.
The former coach did say the new hire was made in time to make up the early offseason time the Stallions missed.
Less than a week after his hire, Hegarty tackled this issue at a meet the coach night.
“Any time you have turnover there is going to be the fear of the unknown. So the first thing I did was to go and start meeting with people that were on staff last year and meeting with the booster club. Last week we had a meet the coach night and there was a lot of support for that and lots of great questions. People out there want the best for Shadow Ridge and Shadow Ridge football,” he said.
This was the first year Hegarty searched for a head coaching job, he said.
The two-month gap between head coaches made setting up weight room sessions and installation of offensive and defensive schemes the first priority.
He said Ironwood has been very helpful allowing him to visit Shadow Ridge for long stretches. He is getting used to the drive to the growing area that is still new.
“Driving through the community and seeing all these beautiful new homes that are going in the community and the district, for that matter, it was definitely something I look forward to,” Hegarty said.
He has retained three Shadow Ridge assistants. Chad Mitton will be the defensive coordinator, Sean Moran will remain as the offensive coordinator and Shane Persons is the defensive line coach.
Hegarty said he has received a lot of interest in roles on the staff.
For his first head coaching job, he plans to take a piece of expertise from everybody he played for and coached with. In short, he wants the Stallions to play aggressive football on both sides — and he’s bringing a spread offense to one of the few local high school teams that did not run it often.
“My philosophies offensively are very consistent with what we did as Coach Curtis’ offensive coordinator. A fast-paced offense similar to what Noel Mazzone has done at U of A and other places. A no-huddle style of offense moving the ball as fast as we can and taking advantage of the defense being out of position,” Hegarty said. “Defensively we’re going to attack as well.”
Despite the way everything played out, Chappelle will be rooting for the Stallions next year. He said he will not coach in 2020.
Instead, he will watch his son play his senior season as Shadow Ridge's top lineman. And that is also - not coaching his boy one more year.
"They took that away from me and that's the toughest part," Chappelle said.
Classroom campus and community are the tentpoles of his philosophy. Hegarty said he wants kids to play multiple sports and support other programs. He also plans to get them into the community, reading books to Kindergartners and students at feeder schools.
Hegarty is a special education teacher at Ironwood and will assume the same role at Shadow Ridge once the school year ends.
"Use of time coaching is critical when getting a team ready to compete. Of course there is the physical development of an athlete but equally as important is the mentality to compete. Coach Hegarty brings us an expertise in special teams that can win games or change momentum. Finally, he will be working closely with our special education population from a rich expertise," Kuffel said.
And moving over to the Dysart district means he will experience the benefits of athletic classes for coaches.
“You look across the state and those programs that are having great success on the football field and other sports have these sports specific classes. You can teach the kids through film and morning classes while shortening up the afternoons. There are a lot of possibilities,” Hegarty said.