As the high school coaching carousel continues to spin, as it always does at this time of year, it’s the cross country programs that seem to be taking the biggest hit.
We reported in April that Elmer Yazzie was leaving the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy in Tucson to move to New Mexico. He spent the last 11 years at the school where he took the girls’ XC team to back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013 and his boys’ team was title runner-up in 2012 and 2014.
Now it’s Arcadia High School that is losing its long-time head coach, Rob Reniewicki. For 31 years, Reniewicki taught class and coached cross country and track & field at the east Phoenix school.
Reniewicki, who coached nearly 40 individual state track champions, also spent 22 years coaching the boys’ and girls’ soccer programs. He left Arcadia to take a similar position at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.
But Yazzie and Reniewicki aren’t the only established coaches leaving the programs they built into state champions.
Rhett Stallworth announced last week that he is leaving the football program at Yuma Catholic that he has directed for the last nine years, leading the Shamrocks to three state titles. After compiling a 104-14 record in his nine seasons, he is moving into the principal’s chair at the school.
Stallworth’s defensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the past six years, Aaron Cheatwood, will take the reins of the program.
Basha High School is also losing a long-time coach without having to actually say goodbye. Scott Hoffmeyer, the head softball coach for the last 13 years, is stepping away from the diamond to move into the classroom at the Chandler school.
Hoffmeyer led the Bears’ softball teams to state championships in 2008 and 2009, and runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2012 – which makes him the school’s winningest coach in any sport. The Bears struggled this season, finishing 6-24, but this year marked the 11th straight that the program made it into the playoffs.
Greenway High School wasn’t that lucky with the resignation of its head baseball coach, Matt Denny. He left the west Phoenix school to take over the program at Mountain Pointe High School in east Phoenix.
Denny has been coaching baseball at the school for the past 14 years, the last nine as the head coach. He wrapped up his time at Greenway by winning the 2016 Division II state title.
But the most surprising coaching change belongs to the San Tan Foothills High School football program, where John Sanders lasted just one season before resigning.
The Queen Creek school made one of the biggest splashes of last summer when it hired Sanders, one of the best, but also one of the most controversial coaches in the state. Sanders compiled a 62-7 record and won four state titles in his five years as head coach at Saguaro High School, but in the final game of the 2011 regular season, he held out many of his key starters in a nationally-televised game against in-town rival, Chaparral High.
The result was a 65-0 blow-out loss that riled parents and fans. Sanders said it was to keep his best players rested and healthy for the playoffs. But, despite the fact that his team went on to win the state title, he was fired at season’s end.
Sanders has an impressive coaching resume that includes several professional teams in the NFL and USFL and a handful of colleges, including a short stint on staff at Arizona State University.
But he wasn’t able to work his magic at San Tan Foothills. The team went 4-5 in his only season at the school and Sanders tendered his resignation just days after spring practice began.
Richie Martin, a former pro player and receivers coach at Arizona Western College, was pulled from Sanders’ staff to take over the program for 2016.