When the Coronado flag football team opened its season with a 4-7 record, the team was in dire need of a change.
“The wheels were kind of coming off,” Coronado coach Rusty Andersen said. “We kind of had to recruit our girls to come back here and play for us.”
The Cougars found their leaders and found their stride in the second half of the season, as they lost just one of their last nine games. They capped it off Tuesday with a 25-7 victory over Foothill to win the Sunrise Region championship at Green Valley.
“We were like psychologists trying to figure out how to make this team go,” Andersen said. “They just weren’t that close and we kept talking to them about leadership and character.”
The psychology worked. After the game it was clear how close the Coronado (13-8) players had become in their postgame celebration, with each player getting a chance to hold their new championship trophy.
The Cougars defense was the MVP of their win, holding a high-scoring Foothill (18-6) offense to just one touchdown, scored late in the first half. The Cougars picked off Foothill quarterback Madisyn McArthur three times, including one pass returned 52 yards for a touchdown from senior Trinity Rhoades.
“Our secondary has been pretty shaky this year but they’ve come up when it counts,” Andersen said. “There were a couple more that we could have had tonight but that’s kind of been the story of our season.”
Sophomore quarterback Caitlin Shannon led the Coronado offense with two rushing touchdowns and threw another to junior Shawna Slater. The Cougar offense scored early on their first drive to jump out to a lead, but the wind made it difficult for either team to make plays in the second half.
“It was tough. We went against the wind twice,” Andersen said. “I was a little surprised that Foothill took the wind instead of the ball when they were down two possessions but we just had to make them pay for it.”
Wednesday the Cougars travel to Cimarron-Memorial to face the Sunset Region champion Spartans (20-1), who defeated Palo Verde 20-13 on Tuesday.
“If you look at our team, it’s like we’re the most unassuming team in the valley. And you look at Cimarron’s girls, and they’re all huge volleyball players,” Andersen said. “They can all get up and get the ball so we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
While the Cougars cherish their Sunrise Region trophy, by no means do they feel they are done. They expect to go home with another trophy.
“Our girls will be ready,” Andersen said. “We’re going to put together a great game plan tonight. We’re excited to have this great opportunity.”