The Dirty 30 has a nice ring to it, but the Filthy 50 would be even better.
Heck, why stop there.
Slimy 60 or 70 would really make Skyline football coach Angelo Paffumi a happy man.
“Spring ball went well, but it is hard getting a big turnout like some of the big three or four programs,” Paffumi said. “Football is hard; it is not easy and it was 100 degrees a couple days. It is easier for kids to stay in the gym and shoot baskets or hit balls off a tee.”
Despite a run of success since Paffumi took over five seasons ago, Skyline struggles with getting a larger number of players out for football unlike fellow district programs like Red Mountain, Desert Ridge and Mountain View.
While it hurts depth and forces players to play all three facets of the game, it does create a mentality of toughness that might not translate if there were 70 viable players for the varsity roster.
“We should have more recruits from our school,” senior-to-be Aaron Romero said, “but we only want the kids that really want to be part of it and do the work, go both ways.
“We are the Dirty 30 and we know we have to do more than most of the other teams. No one is going to take it easy on us because we are smaller so we have to work harder and it puts a chip on our shoulder.”
It has led to a mentality that has worked since Paffumi came over from Desert Ridge where he was the defensive coordinator.
After winning just 33 percent (28-58) in the previous eight seasons, the Coyotes have gone 43-15 (.741) in Paffumi’s five years including 32-5 over the last three seasons.
The level of success should continue in 2017 when the Coyotes compete in the 6A Conference for the second year after the Arizona Interscholastic Association juggled things around before last season.
“We have a lot of young kids, and I don’t know how hungry they are,” said Paffumi, who was the defensive coordinator at Gilbert under Jesse Parker before his stint at Desert Ridge. “I do know we weren’t happy with the way (2016) ended. We felt like we were the better team (in a 16-13 first-round loss to Red Mountain) and the kids have taken that into offseason. We felt like we let a great opportunity go and we are really pushing hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
The 2017 team will have to replace some vital players as quarterback TJ Duarte, running back Kaleb Hardin and defensive lineman Kolo Uasike are among the graduates no longer in the program, but Paffumi is confident Skyline can keep achieving more.
The Coyotes, who made the Division II semifinals in 2015, will look to win the East Valley Region title for the second year in a row. Skyline, which will have its game against Red Mountain in Week 9 broadcasted on Cox 7, hasn’t lost a league since 2014 and has won 13 straight against section/region foes.
“Skyline is a unique place,” Paffumi said. “We are way out (east), pretty much have the most free and reduced lunches in the district. We are sandwiched between Red Mountain and Desert Ridge, and our kids play with a chip on their shoulder even though we don’t have a lot of (players). We’ve essentially won the Mesa City title the last two years.
“It should come down to us again if we keep playing our way.”
New quarterback Steven Castle will have a tough line, which just finished second at the linemen’s challenge hosted by the Arizona Cardinals, in front of him and running back Aaron Wood, who is faster and bigger than last year when he ran for 876 yards with nine touchdowns as the backup, to hand off to as the play-action oriented offense finds itself in the early going.
The defense will be led by interior defensive linemen Sam To’oto’o and a healthy Romero, who missed the first four games with a hand injury before cutting his cast off, at defensive end.
“Everyone looks at Chandler, Mountain Pointe and teams like that (as title contenders) and they look at us as stragglers,” Romero said. “We feel like we are up there with the top teams. We depend on working with each other. We lost some good players, but we have guys ready to step up and take advantage of their chance. It’s my senior year and I can’t wait for my last year being part of the Dirty 30.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com.