First senior class takes field for Casteel, jumps to 5A

Photo by Arianna Grainey

While there wasn’t much change concerning the team’s roster, the Casteel High School football team still went through a summer of change.

Casteel is a 7-12 grade school that opened in 2015 and until this year, had not had a senior class. As a result, the school didn’t play varsity until 2016 where a group of sophomores led the charge. They followed that year (9-2 overall record) with an undefeated 2017 season and a 3A state championship.

With virtually the same roster, the Colts look to repeat last year’s magic but they will have to do it in 5A with a new head coach.

Photo by Arianna Grainey

Former head coach Spencer Stowers left the program earlier this summer and Bobby Newcombe took over shortly thereafter. Senior quarterback Gunner Cruz said the change came unexpectedly.

“Switching over to Coach Newcombe, it was an adjustment at first, but he was an assistant coach here last year so he’s a familiar face and we’re used to hearing him in the locker room, seeing him around school,” Cruz said.

Coach Newcombe comes in with a hefty football resume of four years at the University of Nebraska. The Arizona Cardinals drafted him in 2001, but he ended up playing for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League for a year.

Along with the change in coaches, Casteel will compete this season at 5A, leapfrogging 4A to get there. With the change, Coach Newcombe said the mentality remains to compete.

“We prepare ourselves to compete at the highest level we possibly can,” he said. “That’s what we did last year, that’s what we’re going to do this year, that’s what we’ve done every day this summer.”

Last year at 3A, the Colts’ offense averaged a little more than 57 points per game while the defense allowed about four points a game and posted six shutouts in the regular season.

All of the team’s 2017 success came from a class that returns for the upcoming season. This senior class has played together since the program started and largely has had success through that journey.

Senior offensive lineman Brandon Babcock said the longevity of playing together helps with the team’s confidence.

“We just know what we’re going to do,” he said. “We just play for the guy next to us, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Cruz returns after throwing almost 3,200 yards last year and junior receiver Brandt Goodwin, who hauled in over 1,000 yards, will again line up as receiver. Senior running back Mack Johnson will aim to build on his more than 1,700-yard rushing performance from last year.

Defensively, Casteel had five players tally more than 100 tackles and four make more than 20 tackles for loss. The defense also features a fair amount of juniors.

Given all that this team can and has accomplished on the field, Coach Newcombe said it is his players’ mindset of commitment that has impressed him the most over the summer.

“They just want to compete,” he said. “They don’t care who’s on the other side of the ball, what level they are, where they’re from or anything like that. They just want to go compete.”

Casteel’s new schedule features a more local region of Campo Verde, Gilbert, Higley, Maricopa and Williams Field high schools.

Three of those five schools made the playoffs last year with Higley pushing Saguaro High School, who recently won its fifth consecutive state championship, to overtime in the 2017 4A semifinals.

As Casteel begins its journey into their packed 5A region, Cruz said the team’s motto is “Be a Champion,” which refers to more than on-field success. It is this motto that Cruz said he hopes will be a defining trait of the Colts for the upcoming season.

“Just making that uncommon decision that will set you apart one percent will continually add up,” he said. “Hopefully that carries over to the field and we can experience the same level of success as we did last year.”

2018 Schedule

Home games in caps
Aug. 24 at Apollo
Aug. 31 at Verrado
Sept. 14 KELLIS
Sept. 21 at Williams Field
Sept. 28 at Higley
Oct. 12 BYE
Oct. 19 at Maricopa

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