Brophy Prep’s football loss Friday night to Pinnacle High School doesn’t just mark another defeat, but more significantly, it may have been the team’s last hope to avoid a winless season.
The Broncos are off to an 0-5 start and have no hope of making it into the playoffs. But a win would be nice.
The all-boys Catholic school in central Phoenix is a perennial football power steeped in tradition. An 0-5 start is not only uncharacteristic of the program, but raises some serious concerns about its attempt at a return to being a state title contender.
Brophy lost its long-time head coach, Scooter Molander, three years after Molander, distracted by family issues off the field, posted a 1-9 record in 2017. He resigned after devoting the previous 12 years to guiding the Broncos’ program. Molander left the program to deal with major demands on his time as he cared for his long-divorced parents who were in failing health and living in separate states.
During 14 years on the Brophy sidelines, Molander led the Broncos into the playoffs 11 times. During his tenure, the Broncos were a force to be reckoned with. He won 10 or more games seven times over a span of 11 years, from 2004 to 2014. And he brought home two 6A state championships.
Jon Kitna took over the program and pushed the season record back up to 7-4 in his only year as head coach, and then Jason Jewell stepped into the head-coaching job and continued the comeback with an 8-3 mark last year.
But this season, although expected to be challenging (30 players lost to graduation), is proving to be a shocker — especially after starting last season with seven straight wins.
The most obvious reason is that Jewell has used four quarterbacks to get to this point — but not by choice. He lost starter Elijah (“E.J.”) Warner before the first game was in the books. Before the injury in the opener, the junior had completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 94 yards.
More injuries have removed the next two quarterbacks on the depth chart and Jewell had to turn to his fourth-string signal caller, Taj Hughes, who normally is busy at his jobs as wide receiver and free safety.
Brophy’s struggles since the loss of Warner were to be expected. The Broncos have been outscored 146-24 and shut out three times. Against PInnacle Friday night, they were in a 21-0 hole before they could score their one and only TD, in the third quarter. The Pioneers topped off their scoring with one more in the fourth to wrap up the 28-7 win.
Going into that game, the Brophy offense was barely averaging 150 yards of total offense a game and had just five touchdowns to its credit.
High school ball is no different than the college or pro game. It’s not so much about the head coach, but more about the skill of the players that determine wins and losses.
That truism is playing out for Molander in his new job at Eastmark High School, a new school in the Queen Creek district which opened last fall with just freshmen and sophomores. He, too, was winless until Friday night when they beat 0-5 American Leadership Academy, Ironwood.
Unfortunately, Brophy doesn’t have a breather the rest of the way.
That’s the Broncos’ most demoralizing concern as they look down at the final three games on the schedule. They don’t have a weak opponent that might help them avoid a winless season.
The Broncos have to face Centennial HS, the No. 3-ranked team in the 6A conference. That will be followed by No. 5 Liberty HS, and No. 9 Williams Field HS.
Just three more games to get through. But that has to seem like an eternity for Jewell and his players, who surely want to see this nightmare season come to a merciful end.