As we look back and bid a fond farewell to the 2013-14 school year, congratulating the 2014 senior class; school administrators are looking to the future. In the regular meeting in February, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved the hiring of longtime Hamilton High School assistant football coach Chris McDonald to lead the Rams’ varsity squad.
The vacancy left behind by departing head football coach and athletic director Cory Nenaber, also opened up the opportunity to bring in a new athletic director. Mark Cisterna comes to Maricopa after a dozen years as an athletic director with the Gilbert and Apache Junction school districts. Cisterna will head up the athletic programs at all three schools in Maricopa including Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind Middle Schools.
Head football coach McDonald also brings a desire to teach and lead. McDonald received his certification to teach secondary mathematics and taught Algebra and Geometry while at Hamilton receiving the “highly qualified” designation. McDonald also recently received his Master’s degree in Education Leadership.
McDonald, a longtime Tempe resident, a three-sport athlete that excelled in football, basketball and track graduated from Corona Del Sol in 1998, went on to run track and play football at Mesa Community College before graduating from Arizona State University in 2002.
McDonald told InMaricopa that he would not be moving to Maricopa as of now.
“My family and I currently in the Ocotillo/Chandler area so it really only takes 20-25 minutes to get here which really isn’t a big deal at all,” he said. “In fact, I kind of like the drive as it gives me time to reflect on what I need to get done that day.”
McDonald brings a deft football pedigree, during his eight year tenure at Hamilton High School as an assistant coach, the Huskies have advanced to the State Championship at the most competitive level, six times—and walked away with the Championship on five of those trips.
Five Division I State Championship titles in eight years is an amazing feat and Highland head coach Steve Belles is highly revered with a 70-3 record in his eight years at the helm. McDonald was fortunate enough to join the coaching squad with Belles and only knows how to win.
“I am quite honored and excited to be a part of the Maricopa community,” McDonald said. “I look forward to building upon a solid foundation and create another asset to the school and community with our football program here at Maricopa High School.”
McDonald says that the biggest difference between Hamilton and Maricopa is the commitment and culture. “The culture over there has trickled down into the youth level and expectations are kind of built in at an early age,” McDonald told me. “I think over time my goal is to implement that type of attitude and culture here in the Maricopa community.”
McDonald is selling a new level of commitment and a swift change in the culture while still building on the momentum that Coach Nenaber and his staff had over the past decade. The change in culture will not only come on the football field, but in the classroom and throughout the community as well.
“If we can get ALL players to buy into what we are preaching in terms of giving maximum effort not only on the football field, but in the classroom and community then I think we’re going to be a pretty good football team.”
McDonald knows what it takes to get there and will strive to make this team the best that it can be.
“I think my experiences at Hamilton have allowed me to see first-hand the level of commitment and organization needed to be at the top of the mountain when the season ends,” McDonald said. “Everything takes time and we have a long ways to go but I think the potential to reach the pinnacle is attainable here.”
After a 2013 season that saw the Rams go undefeated at home but winless on the road, I would say that Coach McDonald has his work cut out for him. Thankfully, he has the right attitude, level of commitment and desire to make this Rams’ football program better than anybody ever realized.
“These kids need to understand what it truly takes to hold up a gold ball at the end of a season.”