Success on the field often depends on how deep a team’s roster runs. The more talent at each position, the better the chances of maintaining a winning edge through key injuries.
But now, the Chandler High School football program is going to find out how deep the talent runs on its coaching staff. Chandler, which has ruled the 6A football conference in recent times, is going through a major transition on its coaching staff.
The Wolves have won the last three state titles and four out of the last five under the direction of Shaun Aguano, but will seek out its next championship without Aguano on the sidelines for the first time in eight years.
Earlier this month, Aguano left the program that he built into a dominant force at the high school level to move up to the college game, taking a job as the running backs coach at Arizona State University.
He left Chandler on a high note. His 2018 team capped a third straight state title run with a roster full of D-I recruits, won the 6A championship with a walk-away 65-28 rout of Perry High School, and finished as the No. 21 team in the nation.
His departure was the second hit on the Chandler program. The Wolves had already lost assistant coach George Hawthorne after the 2017 season. The former NFL player, who had been on Aguano’s staff as the defensive line coach while the Wolves were winning three of their last five championships, will be back on the sidelines next season, but as the new head coach at Skyline High School in Mesa.
So the Chandler administration pulled up another of Aquano’s assistants to take over the program for the 2019 season. Rick Garretson was promoted to head coach this week, hoping to be able to keep the remainder of one of the best coaching staffs in the state from following Aquano out the door.
Garretson may be new to the head-coach role, but he has been coaching high school football for more than two decades. A former high school All American and wide receiver at San Diego State, Garretson has been at Chandler High for the past nine seasons and prior to that spent 16 years as an offensive coordinator at Servite High School in California.
He was hired by Aguano’s predecessor, Jim Ewan, to coach the wide receivers and then promoted to quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator the year after Aguano took over the program. He was named co-offensive coordinator in 2016.
The changing of the guard at the top of a championship program always generates lots of attention. But perhaps those most interested in the coaching change are those involved with Chandler’s cross-town rival, Hamilton High School.
Chandler spent a frustrating 15 years trying to put up a single win over the Huskies, which had grown into a state and national power. The Wolves lost 17 straight games to their nemesis before finally breaking through with a win during the 2013 season.
That was Aquano’s third season running the program. Since then, Chandler has owned the Huskies.
Recent years have been a recurring nightmare for Hamilton football. Chandler ran up 63 points on the Huskies in 2016, hung another 50 points on them the following year, and last season rolled over them in a 49-7 rout.
Chandler has become a juggernaut. Over the last five years, Aguano’s teams averaged over 12 wins a season; four out of the five years, they posted 13 wins.
Garretson wasn’t just handed the keys to the coach’s office. He was given the keys to a Ferrari.
And the folks at Hamilton are anxious to see if he can drive it as well as Aguano.