Assistant Coach Jerry Watson holds up the play call to the offensive unit during the Wranglers’ first day of practice in shoulder pads last week. The players will go to full pads this week in preparation of the season opener on Friday, Aug. 30 at Parker.
By Kevin Cloe
He was happy to see the larger turnout; now it’s time to determine roster spots for all his players.
Mike Mitchell, starting his second year as Wickenburg High School’s head football coach, was growing a little concerned about the low number of players who had participated in summer programs and the first couple days of official practice after the opening of the new school year.
“We’re up to 45 players now,” he beamed after conducting the Wranglers’ first practice in shoulder pads. That’s almost double the number of his players who actively participated in the off-season spring and summer programs. In comparison, that is just shy of the total number of players the Wranglers listed for both the varsity and junior varsity teams last year.
“I talked to every class (after school opened),” he added, describing his effort to encourage more players to participate.
On Thursday of last week, he and his coaching staff set aside time prior to practice on the field to assign equipment to each player. Then they conducted a brief practice in shoulder pads and shorts, noting that full pads and full contact would begin the following week.
That gives the coaching staff three more weeks to prepare the team for the regular season that begins with the Battle for the Axe trophy against hosting archrival Parker on Friday, Aug. 30. The Wranglers regained possession of that trophy last year with a 35-0 victory at home that was cut short at halftime due to a lightning storm in the area. They hold a 27-26 won-lost edge in that 53-year rivalry.
Included in that three-week preparation will be a pre-season scrimmage against Tonopah Valley on Friday, Aug. 23. That’s when both teams will run a series of offensive plays against the other team’s defense. The purpose of the scrimmage is to give players a chance to play in game situations before the season begins.
The Wranglers’ schedule is the same as last year, with the venues reversed. Home games this year will be against Salford on Sept. 6, Paradise Honors of Surprise on Sept. 13, Coronado on Sept. 27, defending 3A West Region and 3A state champion Northwest Christian on Oct. 4, and Kingman High on Oct. 25.
The five road trips will be to Parker, Fountain Hills on Sept. 20, Chino Valley on Oct. 18, Kingman Academy on Oct. 11, and River Valley (in the new indoor Anderson Field House) on Nov. 1.