The Sandra Day O’Connor High School football program is about to experience something new: contending for state titles.
That’s not a hunch. It’s more like a peek into the future.
The northwest Phoenix school just hired Brian Cole to run its football program. You only have to look at Cole’s track record to envision what he will be able to do at O’Connor. He’s been a proven winner wherever he’s coached.
My own brief encounter with the Phoenix firefighter was several years back, when he was the varsity football coach and athletic director at Joy Christian School. I was applying for the head coaching position for the school’s girls varsity basketball program, but we also talked some football during the interview.
I came away from that meeting amazed at what Cole had accomplished at the tiny school in far north Glendale. With barely enough turnout each season to be able to scrimmage, and an administration that could have been more supportive, he managed to win five section championships in the five years he ran the program. His teams made three appearances in the state title game, and won two of those.
Cole compiled an incredible 53-6 record at Joy, winning one of his state titles when the school was still playing 8-man football, and then another when it moved to 11-man.
He was well on his way to building a small-school dynasty at Joy Christian. But he left after winning the 2015 state championship – a season in which his team outscored its opponents 738-177 – citing his disagreement with what he called the school’s changing approach to athletics.
Joy Christian was a small school, but he had already proven his ability to achieve the same kind of success at a higher level. Before taking over at Joy, Cole led a North Canyon High School team to an undefeated season and a 5A state championship in 2005.
And now he just finished four years at Phoenix Christian High School, where he posted a 39-10 overall record and two 12-win seasons. His teams averaged 11 wins a season over his first three years before steering his 2020 team through the pandemic, and a step up to 2A, to post a 5-4 record.
Now he heads north to take over a 6A program where he will install a system and philosophy that has already carried him through successes at three different schools.
Cole is taking over a program at O’Connor that has had just three winning seasons over the last 10 years. Steve Casey took it over in 2017 following a 1-9 finish the year before, made some progress, but has managed to average just four wins a season during his four years at the helm.
But the new guy is up to the challenge. You can make book on that.