Webcast fails, but fans miss little in Basha rout of Corona

High school football in Arizona is getting college-like exposure, as Fox Sports Arizona will cover 15 games this season, between live telecasts and webcasts. And that doesn’t include the Division 1 and 2 state championship games that will also be telecast.

The TV coverage began last week as Fox televised both games in the Sollenberger Kickoff Classic at University of Phoenix Stadium.  Unfortunately, the Nevada teams stole the show, as Chaparral High School lost to Bishop Gorman and Show Low High was edged out by Moapa Valley High.

Last night was supposed to be the first game on a schedule of eight webcasts, featuring Corona del Sol High School from Tempe, a 1-10 team last year, taking on Basha High, which was coming off a 9-2 season and had earned a pre-season No. 4 ranking (AZ Republic) ranking in Division I.

But, evidently, Fox hasn’t ironed out the bugs yet in their webcast plans.  The announcement on the site said the webcast had been “canceled due to technical difficulties.”

As it turns out, fans didn’t miss much.  Basha took it to Corona early and often, walking off with a 52-7 win to open the season.  Basha’s offense was propelled by its quarterback, Kyle Duran, who threw for 362 yards, completing 28 of 38 attempts to pile up four touchdowns in just three quarters before retiring to the bench.

Two of Duran’s four TDs came via connections with one of his favorite receivers, Devin Reed, who scored on plays of 19 and 26 yards.

Dominic Mercurio gave the Corona fans their only real excitement of the evening when he scampered for 75 yards and a touchdown as the first quarter wound down.  But the Bears, who had scored on four of their first five possessions, rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead – and cruised home from there.

There were other opening games worth considering, such as Hamilton’s attempt to set a state record of 41 straight wins against Mountain Pointe (which it did), but Fox Sports likely picked this game, in part, because it was a chance to feature Corona’s outstanding tackle, Andrus Peat, a five-star recruit generally regarded to be the best offensive lineman in the state this season.

However, the game offered an underlying story that was also interesting because it was the first outing for Corona’s new head coach, Tom Joseph.  It could have been one of those ‘feel-good’ stories in sports.

But Basha was just too much for a team that is in a major rebuilding mode after winning just one game last year, when Zane Zamenski took over the reins from Gary Venturo for just one season.

Venturo spent 23 years building a program at Corona that was one of the most respected in the state, playing their way into the state playoffs on a regular basis.

When Zamenski was fired after last season’s disastrous outcome, Joseph was able to step into the position and given the difficult task of picking the program up off the ground and returning it to prominence once again.

It has also offered the 53-year-old head coach a chance to bounce back after being kicked to the curb at Mountain View High School in Mesa, where he won six region titles in nine years, took his teams to three state championship games, and won a state title.

Last year, when the talent pool got a little thin, the Toros managed just a 5-6 record.  But it was the first losing season in the history of the program – and enough to get the head coach fired.

Corona is giving Joseph, one of the most respected football coaches in the state, a chance to bring his success formula to yet another school – and return to his roots in Tempe.  Earlier in his career, he coached at Tempe Union High School and Marcos de Niza High School.

Joseph has made it clear that he has a big job ahead of him, even though he has some talent to work with.  He’s an old-school coach in many ways and demands excellence from his players, putting in a lot of time on the fundamentals of the game.

That approach will pay off for his new Aztec team.  But it’s going to take time.

However, you’ll have to buy a ticket at the gate to see the results as the year goes along.  Not surprisingly, Corona doesn’t appear on the remainder of the Fox Sports schedules this year.