Gila Ridge football looks to finish record-setting regular season with perfect record
Gila Ridge High School football clinched a berth in the postseason, and captured the school’s first regional title with a 28-26 victory over Estrella Foothills on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.
They close the regular season Friday, Nov. 1, at home against rival Cibola High School (5-4) with a chance to become the first team in Yuma Union High School District history to enter the playoffs with a 10-0 record.
It has been a season of firsts for the undefeated Hawks (9-0). They are the only YUHSD football team to ever win the first nine games of the regular season. They defeated perennial contender Brawley Union for the first time in school history, won their first league title, and will most certainly end the season ranked higher in the Arizona Interscholastic Association 4A Conference power rankings than any other time in program history.
Led by a roster that includes 28 seniors, many of whom have started since their sophomore season, the Hawks raced off to the first 8-0 start since YUHSD added a second school in 1959. Over that 60-year stretch, YUHSD has seen three teams compile 9-1 records, with Gila Ridge’s chief rival Cibola, in 2010, the last to do so. Cibola in 2001 and Yuma High School in 1958 also went 9-1.
“Most of the starters have been together for three years. Now, we are all seniors, and we are just extremely excited to be together, with how much talent we have, and how well we play together,” said Gila Ridge quarterback Kaleb Cota, who has 1,300 passing yards and 16 touchdowns this season. “We don’t like to lose. In past years, we had the section championship on the line and lost that one and then we had the city championship on the line and lost that one. It makes it easier to play for each other because we hate to lose.”
The Hawks have had five previous winning seasons and two postseason appearances since their first season of varsity football in 2008. But their recent success has been unlike years prior. They have won 15 of their past 17 games overall, and have an opportunity to avenge their last loss on Friday against Cibola when they host the Raiders with a chance to win the second so-called “City Championship” in school history.
They have a 1,000-yard rusher in running back Renan Duarte, three receivers with 20-plus catches in Jaden Delorme, David Randle, and sophomore Jonathan Noriega. And Cota, in his second year as the starting quarterback, is averaging nearly two touchdown passes per game.
The defensive line has produced at a school-record pace. They recorded 10 sacks in a 41-0 road win over Lake Havasu on Oct. 4. They’ve averaged nearly four sacks per game overall with Wyatt Robinson leading the team with 12.0 ahead of Devin Graham (9.0) and Taylor Diebert (6.5). It also helps that defensive back Anthony Mejia has 10 interceptions and athletic linebacker D’Angelo Jackson is a disruptive force against the run and the pass. He can cover the field laterally, rush the passer, and support the front four in the run game. Through nine games Jackson leads the team in tackles, has an interception, a sack, and 10 tackles for loss.
“They’re monsters,” first-year head coach Jae Ellegood said of the Hawks’ defense. “We tweaked some things after the first two games. My defensive coaches have bought into what they’re doing and working together. As a head coach my big thing is the culture, trying to build a good culture that people want to be a part of. I want people to be a part of Gila Ridge, I want them feeling like they want to be a part of Gila Ridge football.”
YUHSD football teams to finish the regular season with at least 9 victories:
School Year Record Coach
Gila Ridge 2019 9-0* Jae Ellegood
Cibola 2010 9-1 Lucky Arvizo
Cibola 2001 9-1 Shawn Wehrer
Yuma 1958 9-1 Marv Rosengarten
*Regular season concludes Nov. 1