In a little more than three months, Mike Moran will officially begin his pursuit of Coconino’s return to football prominence.
After leading the Panthers basketball team to a 16-3 record in the 2017-18 season -- doubling its win total from the previous year -- and a Grand Canyon Region title, Moran hopes to rebuild the Coconino football program.
With just one winning season and two others at .500 in the past 13 years, Coconino last reached the state playoffs in 2005. It was the final playoff appearance in a run of five in seven years that also included a pair of Grand Canyon Region titles in 2000 and 2004.
“It’s the same formula. The approach in basketball, we are doing the exact same thing and everybody knows it,” said Moran as the Panthers neared the end of their spring practice schedule. “It is about the team, it is about chemistry, it is about being positive. We are not changing anything out here at all.”
Moran’s message will come from more than just him, as the head coach hopes to see somewhere around 15 or 20 players from the basketball team out for football come fall. Last season, senior Emilio Esquivel ended up as a crucial part of the Panthers football team as he picked off four passes and earned the Bill Epperson Award as the outstanding Panther in the rivalry victory against Flagstaff.
“It’s so important and it’s so special. These football guys saw what we did in basketball, they all came to our games and started cheering for us,” Moran said. “It’s one of the reasons I think they have embraced me a little bit. I’m happy and pleased they are focused, and want the same success they saw the other guys had this year.”
Mickey Clements will assist Moran, serving as the offensive coordinator, while Mike Lapsley takes over as the team’s defensive coordinator. Moran will also have Ty Furr at his disposal on both sides of the ball, with the junior back after missing a few games with an injury last season.
“When he walks in the room, kids follow him. He speaks they listen. He hustles, they hustle,” Moran said of Furr, who threw for 785 yards and rushed for another 362 while tallying 12 total touchdowns. “He’s an amazing young man. I’ve coached a lot of kids and this guy stands out, not only athletically, but his demeanor and his respect for everybody.”
The Panthers will kick off their season Aug. 24 at home against Thunderbird, which finished 5-5 and just missed the 4A Conference playoffs. The Chiefs will bring their impressive receiving corps back to Flagstaff, with Kain Ream coming off of a 1,000-yard receiving season.
In Week Two, Coconino will travel to the Valley to face the 5A Carl Hayden Falcons, who finished 1-9 last season.