A new force is taking shape in Div. II prep football

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                </div>  Five weeks from now, the first game of the 2015 season arrives for the Poston Butte High School football team. And Arizona prep football fans will find out whether […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Five weeks from now, the first game of the 2015 season arrives for the Poston Butte High School football team.

And Arizona prep football fans will find out whether Paul Moro is getting closer to building another football dynasty, this time at the Division II school in Florence.

The coach who turned Blue Ridge High School into one of the best programs in the state, and perhaps the country, started over again last season when he left the White Mountains to take over a struggling program at Poston Butte.

(*Ed. Note: Moro’s challenge on the football field has taken a backseat to what he is facing off the field.  We just learned his 30-year-old son, Alex, was found dead at the family’s Pinetop home on July 8.  According to Moro, Alex, who played quarterback for his dad at Blue Ridge and won state championships in 2000 and 2001, committed suicide following 10 years of suffering severe pain from a rare nerve disorder.  No word as to Moro’s plans for next season.) 

Moro’s unexpected decision to leave the Lakeside school was a stunner.  He had been the only football coach that several generations of players ever knew, leading that program for 30 years and taking the school of fewer than 800 students into 16 championship games – and winning an incredible 13 of those.  His record of 319 wins against just 52 losses is the stuff of legends.

In his first season in charge of the Poston Butte program he took a team that won just three games the year before and posted a 7-4 record.  That turnaround can be directly attributed to a change in head coaches, which only serves to reinforce the importance of good coaching at the high school level.

A look at what happened to Blue Ridge after he left confirms that.  The Yellow Jackets posted their first losing record in a long, long time, finishing the season 5-6 overall.

Moro’s teams had finished with 11 or more wins every season but one over the last 10 years of his time there.  The one off-year was in 2006 when they went 8-4.  But Moro quickly recovered, leading the program to an 88-7 record over the next seven years, including two seasons when they were undefeated.

And the dedicated following of fans from the small community in the White Mountains could count on leaving those Friday night games with smiles on their faces.  After that 2006 season, the Jackets never lost another home game.

The pool of talent, which had been built through tradition year after year, didn’t change when he left. Just a change in coaches.

Moro is 64 years old now and doesn’t have another 30 years to devote to the Poston Butte program.  But it won’t take him long to get this new program to the top – and that’s going to be interesting to watch over the next few years.

The Broncos suffered a humiliating debut when they were beaten 43-0 in the season opener by Queen Creek High School, then ranked No. 3 in Division III.  But Moro called on his three decades of experience to right the ship by motivating his players to pick themselves up and run off seven straight wins.

There was nothing flashy about last’s year team.  They played a grind-it-out type of football that averaged just 112 yards of offense and depended heavily on their defense.

Moro is busy breaking in a new quarterback since he lost Russell Corriveau to graduation.  Corriveau’s back-up, Shavez Hawkins Jr., will be a junior this year, but saw no playing time in 2014.

However, the key element to last year’s offense is returning.  Brandon Hatfield is a junior running back who averaged 136 yards per game rushing last year and finished the season with 1,498 yards.

Moro has had a year to settle into his new job and break his players in to a new system of football.  This year should be the next step in the rebuilding process, as the coaching legend continues to build another program into the image of his Blue Ridge dynasty.

But success this year will depend on whether he can find a quarterback that can bring some balance to the offense with a strong passing game to give Hatfield an opportunity to lead the way on the ground.

If that happens, Moro could be on the way to the first of many seasons with double-digit wins.

Yeah, just like the old days.