Football program picking up momentum
by Jillian O'Bannion
Note: O’Banion is a junior at Sedona Red Rock High School.
Last year, she was the Editor in Chief of The Sting, the school’s
student newspaper. She is also an excellent athlete, a vital
player on the women’s soccer, basketball and softball teams.
are for newspapers, mommas, daddies, grandmas and grandpas,
but not the team.” These words from Jim Cromartie, Sedona
Red Rock High School’s head football coach, just about sum
up his feelings about sports competition.
However, a bit more conversation with him reveals his
love of the game - the program, the athletes, the coaching
staff, and the crowd.
Cromartie is starting his second season at the helm
of the Scorpions coaching staff. He has 31 years of coaching
experience under his belt with five of those at the University
of New Mexico.
Coaching is what he loves to do and Sedona is where
he wants to do it. The sports fields at the high school are
filled with action daily as the team prepares for the season.
Cromartie is obviously proud of the enthusiasm and efforts
of the 2001 Scorpion football team. “This group has worked
harder than I’ve ever had in a team,” he said.
Key returning senior players include Fritz Nugent (running
back/receiver), Brian Sanders (inside linebacker/full back),
Tyson Liebe (tight end/linebacker), Preston Tribble (linebacker/tight
end), Shawn Koupal (running/ defensive back), Matt Lawler
(kicker/defensive back), and Grady Polcyn (running/ defensive
Adding experience are returning juniors Johnny Cunningham
(quarterback/defensive back), Chris Tolley (offensive/defensive
lineman), and Stephen Fierro (quarterback/defensive back).
Cromartie is looking for additional support from the
most-improved player, senior Stewart Davis (offensive/ defensive
lineman), and new senior players Keith Terry (offensive/defensive
lineman), Matt Petelle (offensive/defensive lineman), and
Joey Grebenstein (receiver/defensive back).
The team also has an able group of assistant coaches.
Matt Vukelich, Bill Rankin, Hugh Von Plater, and Rob Lezcano
bring experience and dedication to the Scorpion ranks. Equipment
handlers Jerry Eaton and Pete Sanders will round out the coaching
SRRHS has moved from Arizona Interscholastic Association
(AIA) Conference 2A to Conference 3A West Region this year.
Conference membership is based on school enrollment (3A schools
generally have from 450-949 students).
Though the Scorpions have been one of the larger enrollments
in 2A, Sedona will now be on the lower end. Cromartie sees
this change as a necessity and a challenge he’s willing to
With more students available for team selection, bigger
schools may have the edge in all sports, but Cromartie sees
his football team as ready to represent Sedona and Red Rock
High in a way they deserve.
“I envision success not by the scoreboard. I envision
success for players and the team by playing as well as we
can play,” Cromartie said.
One important change (due to the conference move) is
that a player can only play in a total of 10 games between
junior varsity and varsity competition. Therefore, the Scorpions
will have to balance their limited ranks between the two teams.
Cromartie sees the Scorpions’ greatest strength as being
the number of returning players who are familiar with the
system. On the other hand, the main weakness of the team is
the lack of new players, especially incoming freshmen. Cromartie
said that young players are the key to developing a strong
SRRHS has many good athletes, but other sports compete
for their talents. And many are not willing to commit to the
hard work of a successful football experience.
Sizing up the competition in this year’s nine-game schedule,
Cromartie feels that Parker and Wickenburg are going to be
the biggest challenges for his team.
The Scorpions have experience playing Camp Verde, Chino
Valley, Orme, and Williams, Higley is a new school. River
Valley and Fountain Hills, both also new to the 3A conference,
round out the Scorpions’ schedule.
Cromartie sees a strong chance to win six of the nine
games. The other three games will have to be exceptionally
well-played to bring home the Scorpion win. “I would never
tell anyone that we don’t have a chance.”
The team goal is to accomplish as much as they can in
relation to their abilities, Cromartie said.
With this experience and enthusiasm, Cromartie also
wears the hat of SRRHS athletic director. Building good programs
in all sports is one of his objectives in this role.
Improved facilities with restrooms, a concession stand,
and a resurfaced track are part of his dream for the high
school. If his success in building athletes on the football
field is an indication of his ability to bring people together
as a team, Cromartie should be able to fulfill this goal.
However, right now he is concentrating on the task at hand.
With hard work, dedicated team play, and the support
of Sedona, the Scorpions will be looking back on this football
season with pride.
“I look forward to an exciting and enjoyable season
for myself, the players, the school and the community,” said
a smiling Cromartie.