Mountain Ridge High School football took the first step in changing its culture in late April when the Mountain Lions hired Doug Madoski to fill their vacated coaching spot.
Madoski coached the Scottsdale Community College football team for over a decade, bringing both a wealth of coaching experience and knowledge of the area’s talent to the school.
Driving past the school on his work commute nearly every day — Madoski lives just minutes from campus — he had been intrigued with the school for a long time. When Scottsdale terminated its football program, the nearby football program with a need for a tenured coach seemed a perfect fit.
“I noticed where the program was and thought that if I’m not going to be in Scottsdale anymore, and there’s an opportunity for me to help this program, why would I not do it?” he said.
However, he is taking on a project many might shy from.
Mountain Ridge went a winless 0-10 last year, and 2-8 the prior year, before the departure of former coach Vince Ciliberti this offseason. Despite a couple of tough seasons, the effort Madoski has seen from players in his short tenure has been impressive.
“A lot of times teams that are down, you don’t see that passion,” he said. “They kind of get kicked in the teeth so many times that they stay down, but these kids keep wanting to get back up, and that’s exciting.”
Among the challenges of starting anew are the surrounding high schools, with so many options for great athletes to choose from.
There are several state powerhouse teams in the Glendale and Peoria area — Centennial, Liberty, Greenway, Cactus, Sunrise Mountain and Liberty all won at least one playoff game in the 2018 season — and one of the team’s goals is to persuade the top players who should feed into Mountain Ridge from transferring or enrolling in other programs.
“There really is some talent here, so we’re going to try to keep them around,” Madoski said.
Part of that will come with the development. Though he had a chance to coach great players at the college level, Madoski had the Scottsdale players for a maximum of two years, often less. In high school, from the freshman to varsity level, there is a chance to mold young men into the players he needs later on at an early age.
“By the time you saw real progress from the guys in Scottsdale, you were sending them off. Now I know we can slow this thing down and get our freshman and JV teams up and coming so that they’re solid when they reach the varsity level,” Madoski said.
The new coach hopes win totals will increase in years to come, but understands it will be a long process. However, more importantly, he hopes to create a new culture for the surrounding area, to make for a team the already-proud community is excited to support.
“It’s not going to be an overnight project,” he said. “It’s a total transformation of an entire program, and we’re going to change the culture and everything we do to set this thing back up on a solid foundation, and work from there.”