The Wing Lives on 35th Avenue
At Carl Hayden, it's not just an offense, but an identity of the hardworking community
WEEKLY BLOG: 6/11/19
Despite taking over a team that went 3-7 last season, Carl Hayden Community High School first-year head coach Steven Arenas didn't see a need to make wholesale changes to what the Falcons were doing.
In the 12 practices that Carl Hayden held this spring, the team saw the highest numbers its had in the last few years. For the Phoenix Union High School District school, that's big.
"Offensively, we didn't have to change much," Arenas said in an e-mail interview. "We added a few tweaks to our offensive line play and added several more passing concepts."
Arenas, who is just 29 years old, has been on staff at CHCHS for the past three years as a running backs and defensive line coach. The Falcons lost a lot of quality seniors to graduation and have been working to get the younger players to buy into the program while seeking to have the returners step into some leadership roles.
When you talk about Carl Hayden's offense, it starts with the running game. The Falcons rushed the football on 502 of their 557 plays from scrimmage last season (90 percent). Gone is 1,700-yard rusher Daniel Torres, and he will be hard to replace.
The goal this year is to divide up the workload a little more. In his senior year, Torres was a workhorse back that had 271 carries in 10 games. Arenas expects juniors Rudy Mares and Kevin Yarbough to get a lot of attempts this year.
"Rudy sets himself apart with his willingness to block in the backfield," Arenas said. "He's a tough kid who plays with an edge. Kevin has potential to be a special football player. Both kids saw some time in the backfield last year as sophomores."
In 7-on-7 play, the 6-foot-2 Yarbough (who also plays basketball) caught a few team's attentions so far.
Quarterback is another position that had a senior (Emanuel Solorio) at it last season. There were question marks as spring ball began, but that is what those practices are for. A few guys are competing for the job, but Arenas said right now, senior Joe Corrales is expected to the be the one taking snaps in August. He has been in the program since his freshman year, and also plays basketball.
"With the amount of youth on this year's squad, he's the right kid to lead us," Arenas said of Corrales. "He understands our offense really well and has the ability to fix our guys on the field. We are excited to let him lead."
That offense is the traditional Delaware Wing-T. Prior to his time with Carl Hayden, Arenas spent six years at Westview (and also played at the school). The Knights ran a Wing-T throughout his time at WHS.
Typically, the Delaware Wing-T employs a running back (or wingback) lined up a step behind and a step to the side of the tight end. There are typically two tight ends, three backs in the backfield and it is the oldest offensive formation in football.
Last season, Carl Hayden ran some single and I-formation with Torres because it was thin on running backs. Still, ground-and-pound is the method that best suits the Falcons.
"With our offense, we ultimately want to control the clock and keep our defense off the field," Arenas said. "We take pride in our smashmouth running approach, and I believe this year we can be more effective throwing the football when needed."
The staff believes that this offense connects on a personal level with their athletes and gives them an identity.
"Our kids come from a hardworking community," Arenas said. "They come from families who work tirelessly in order to survive. So, we see the Wing-T more as a mindset than an offense."
With the Wing-T approach, there are some extra concepts involved for the offensive linemen in terms of making checks and adjusting the blocking scheme at the line of scrimmage. Carl Hayden has some holes to fill as a trio of three-year starters and one two-year starter have graduated.
"(Junior) Robert Lopez is the only returning offensive lineman," Arenas said. "We expect him to be the leader of our offensive line this year."
Leading the boys up front, and serving as the offensive line coach, is Arenas' younger brother, Matt. Steven is confident that Matt will have those young linemen ready come August.
Here's a look at how that offense looked on Sept. 21 in a 37-0 win over Sierra Linda. Torres rushed for 293 yards on 36 carries.
With the emphasis on passing leagues during the months of May and June, you may wonder how a predominant running team like CHCHS works things.
"We take passing league with a grain of salt," Arenas said. "The biggest benefit is definitely being able to watch our guys compete together. It's another opportunity for the staff to evaluate our athletes. We look for guys who can respond to adversity and who can take coaching on the fly."
Carl Hayden has a new defensive coordinator on staff this year, but will continue to play a 4-4 with a few little tweaks. There are some returners with experience on that side of the ball.
"(Senior) Sebastian Flores returns as our top defensive back along with defensive end Jorge Navarette (also a senior) and sophomore linebacker Andy Delgado."
Flores was the Falcons' top tackler with 67 (46 solo) and also forced three fumbles. He was a Second Team All-5A Metro Region selection. Navarette was named to Second Team at both defensive line and wide receiver. Delgado started a few games on varsity as a freshman. Extremely athletic, he is a three-sport athlete and should help a defense that allowed 33.4 points per game last season.
As most high school football fans know, Carl Hayden isn't a place where there's been a lot of success with the program. The last winning record (and playoff appearance) was back in 1996. Last season's victory total did climb from a total of one in 2017.
But, that's not why Arenas took on the head coaching job after Randy Gross stepped down. He's been very open with his staff and the team about his expectations for the entire program. It's an outlook to have a positive impact on the campus (located at 35th Avenue and Roosevelt just west of downtown Phoenix) and the community.
"We expect to change the perception of not only our football program, but also our entire school," Arenas said. "You can expect our coaching staff to put a well-prepared product on the field every week and you can expect our kids to play our physical brand of football for four quarters. The days of Carl Hayden just rolling over are long gone."
The Falcons' remaining competitions this summer are a big man challenge at McClintock on Saturday, June 15 and a passing tournament at Bourgade on Thursday, June 20.