Hamilton interim coach took tough job, honored by district SanTan Sun News

Hamilton interim coach took tough job, honored by district

January 10th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Hamilton interim coach took tough job, honored by district
Sport
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By Greg Macafee, Sports Editor

When the Hamilton High School football program was turned over this past year due to a sexual assault scandal that has since resulted in the reassignment of former football coach Steve Belles, athletic director Shawn Rustad and principal Ken James, they were left without a leader for their program.

As the season drew near, Hamilton High School Assistant Principal Richard Baniszewski stepped onto the gridiron to lead the Huskies on an interim basis.

As someone who had been around the program, but who also had experience leading a team, he was a perfect choice. He had coached at schools around the Valley and had helped with the junior varsity offensive line. Before accepting the position, he said, he didn’t really have any interest, but he took it for one simple reason.

“That was for the kids at Hamilton, for the kids in that situation,” Baniszewski said.

They were set with a challenge of overcoming an enormous amount of media attention. After finishing with a 7-5 record in 2016, people thought the 2017 Huskies wouldn’t amount to much. But, they ignored all of that and buckled up for an interesting ride with Baniszewski at the helm.

His first goal was to create a new team culture and a process inside the football program. Then, he wanted to create a process that people could believe in. Something that was consistent, transparent and disciplined in nature.

“He wanted us focusing not as much on football but our bond and how we had to come together as a team,” Hamilton starting quarterback Tyler Shough said.

They came up with the message: Humble and Hungry.

“That was one thing we constantly reminded ourselves,” Baniszewski said. “To stay humble and stay hungry and continue to move forward.”

The newly established football regime at Hamilton took that approach into their first game of the season. A road game against Boulder Creek. Senior running back Jawhar Jordan Jr. turned in a stat line of 215 yards and four touchdown runs, while Shough threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a good start, but when the Queen Creek Bulldogs came to town in the second week of play, they sent a message to the Huskies. The 5A team, which went through most of the season undefeated, upset the Huskies in their first home game of the season.

“At the time, it was maybe the worst thing that could have happened, but when you look back at it, it was probably the best thing that could’ve happened,” Baniszewski said. “That was the point where we went. ‘OK, guys, which way are we going here?’”

The Huskies responded to the challenge by winning six straight games, scoring 284 points and averaging 47.3 per game. The winning streak was led by the seniors at the front of the pack. Baniszewski said Jordan, Shough and Hunter Mayginnes, who are all committed to play at the Division I level, were all key components of Hamilton’s success this season.

“More than anything, it was their leadership and their willingness to buy in to the things that we were doing,” Baniszewski said. “Staying focused and staying true to their school and continue to be Huskies. That’s what they had to do and be good role models and buy into what we were doing.”

After falling to Perry and Chandler in their final two games of the season, the Huskies earned a trip to the 6A state playoffs. They skated by Skyline in their first-round matchup, then fell to Perry in the quarterfinals. For a storied program, going through a season that was clouded by scandal, the Huskies overcame a lot throughout the season.

“I was very proud of the kids and the coaching staff, the way we all came together and probably did some things no one thought we would be able to do and really changed a culture and a way of doing things,” Baniszewski said.

The guy who had navigated the ship through murky waters received the highest praise from all around the Valley. Baniszewski was honored with the All-Chandler Unified School District Coach of the Year and he also earned Coach of the Year honors from Friday Night Fever.

But just like he had taught his players all season long, he stayed true to form and made it about the unit rather than the individual.

“It’s very humbling and really it was the players and the coaching staff that hung in there through all of this,” Baniszewski said. “They are the ones that did this I kind of just came in and steered the boat a little bit.”

Baniszewski won’t return as the head coach next year, and the Hamilton football program is searching for a new leader. While the program may still be under scrutiny, Hamilton will never be short on talent.

“Hamilton is Hamilton. There are 4,200 kids here. There are a lot of hungry athlete here,” Baniszewski said.

where we went. ‘OK, guys, which way are we going here?’”

The Huskies responded to the challenge by winning six straight games, scoring 284 points and averaging 47.3 per game. The winning streak was led by the seniors at the front of the pack. Baniszewski said Jordan, Shough and Hunter Mayginnes, who are all committed to play at the Division I level, were all key components of Hamilton’s success this season.

“More than anything, it was their leadership and their willingness to buy in to the things that we were doing,” Baniszewski said. “Staying focused and staying true to their school and continue to be Huskies. That’s what they had to do and be good role models and buy into what we were doing.”

After falling to Perry and Chandler in their final two games of the season, the Huskies earned a trip to the 6A state playoffs. They skated by Skyline in their first-round matchup, then fell to Perry in the quarterfinals. For a storied program, going through a season that was clouded by scandal, the Huskies overcame a lot throughout the season.

“I was very proud of the kids and the coaching staff, the way we all came together and probably did some things no one thought we would be able to do and really changed a culture and a way of doing things,” Baniszewski said.

The guy who had navigated the ship through murky waters received the highest praise from all around the Valley. Baniszewski was honored with the All-Chandler Unified School District Coach of the Year and he also earned Coach of the Year honors from Friday Night Fever.

But just like he had taught his players all season long, he stayed true to form and made it about the unit rather than the individual.

“It’s very humbling and really it was the players and the coaching staff that hung in there through all of this,” Baniszewski said. “They are the ones that did this I kind of just came in and steered the boat a little bit.”

Baniszewski won’t return as the head coach next year, and the Hamilton football program is searching for a new leader. While the program may still be under scrutiny, Hamilton will never be short on talent.

“Hamilton is Hamilton. There are 4,200 kids here. There are a lot of hungry athlete here,” Baniszewski said.

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