Basha Re-Establishing Winning Culture Under New Coach Mcdonald - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Basha Re-Establishing Winning Culture Under New Coach Mcdonald

October 8th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Basha Re-Establishing Winning Culture Under New Coach Mcdonald
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira

Sports Editor

It’s been three years since the Basha High football program was last in the playoffs, and four since it last posted a winning record.

The Bears went 3-7 each of the last two seasons, with a different head coach each year.

Now under the tutelage of Chris McDonald, their third coach in three years, the Bears quietly are re-establishing the program’s winning culture.

“I think our kids have done a good job of buying into the process,” McDonald said. “That started way back in March when they bought into the weight room. This has been a thing that has been ongoing for a long time.”

McDonald took over in February shortly after former coach Rich Wellbrock was announced as the successor to Norris Vaughan at Mountain Pointe.

Before Basha, McDonald spent four seasons at Maricopa High, where the Rams had three winning records, losing only in his first year, 2014.

Coming to Basha, McDonald returns to his roots in Chandler. Before Maricopa, he was an assistant under former Hamilton coach Steve Belles.

McDonald has learned a lot along the way, including the atmosphere that he likes to create for his players. He knew that Basha needed a change.

“You have to establish a new culture here. That’s why they brought me in,” McDonald said. “You want kids to play for each other and understand being a better citizen and a better student. That’s what we are trying to establish here, and we are not quite there yet, but we are getting there.”

Along with every varsity and junior varsity player being academically eligible, Basha won its first four games for the first time since 2011 – when the Bears went to the state semifinals.

The Bears have found a balanced offense with a two-quarterback system led by senior Connor Phelan and junior Gabe Friend.

The duo completed 59 of their 92 attempts through the opening month for 916 yards and eight touchdowns. On the ground, Basha has 644 yards, 454 of them from senior running back Cole Lundberg.

Wideout Ty Siffermann again leads the team in receptions and yards. But this season, he isn’t concerned with his individual statistics. To him, the team’s success in his senior year is most fulfilling.

“It’s fun this year. It’s been a blast,” Siffermann said. “The coaching, the games, we are all together this year. The team is more involved in each other and happy for each other. We aren’t playing as individuals. We are playing together.”

The success brought a new atmosphere campus-wide, including more interest in the team from faculty and staff. That spark hasn’t been entirely because the Bears are finally winning again. It’s more personal than that.

“We hand out jerseys to the teachers and show them love from the football team,” Siffermann said. “They feel more interested and involved. We don’t seem standoffish now and make them a part of the team and environment.”

Every other week, players are required to hand one of their jerseys to a staff member who has made an impact on them. It’s a way to show their appreciation for those who help off the field.

The growing bond between the program and the staff, in turn, increased interest from the student body. Known as “The Bear Den,” the student section’s attendance at home games has grown.

Basha senior linebacker Storm Mendoza said the change is noticeable.

“The school gives us a positive environment,” Mendoza said. “It’s different, but it’s definitely fun. It’s like you are the big dog on campus now.”

Leading the team in tackles, Mendoza also is a vocal leader on a physical Bears’ defense that is shutting down foes.

Mendoza credits the coaching staff but knows that the Bears still have a long road as they endure a tough schedule.

For the most part, they remain off the radar despite their strong start. If they continue to win, Mendoza expects that recognition will come.

“We are just doing what we are supposed to do,” Mendoza said. “We are trying to make a statement. We just want to keep the 1-0 record going each week.”