By DAVID GREEN
It’s the right time to step down, said Morenci’s veteran football coach Mike McDowell.
McDowell spent most of his coaching career—a total of at least 35 years, he says—at the junior varsity level. He took the helm of the varsity team for one season in 1997, then returned to lead the program for the past four years.
McDowell took over when there were few upperclassmen playing ball and he forced to bring up half a dozen sophomores to fill the ranks.
The experience that developed resulted in a playoff run that ended just a game short of the semifinals. This past season the Bulldogs advanced to the district final.
McDowell noted the time needed out of season to create a successful program, and he said that he’s losing the fire required to make it work.
“It’s a different phase of my life,” he said. “The passion isn’t there to do what you have to do.”
When he asked to come back and serve as head coach, McDowell said his idea was to create stability in the program and help work a younger coach into the position to take over. He thinks he’s done that with Jake Bovee, but it will be up to the board of education to choose his replacement.
Rather than bring in someone from outside of the district, he favors hiring a qualified Morenci graduate.
“The young coaching staff we have now is enthusiastic and has a sense of pride,” McDowell said. “They all graduated from Morenci and they have a vested interest in the community.”
Although McDowell had good success with the varsity squad, it was the years of JV ball that he really enjoyed. He took what was left over from the varsity and built some solid teams.
“I enjoyed watching players develop,” he said. “Kids would come in who didn’t think they could play football and many of them developed into good players.”
McDowell said his decision to retire wasn’t a sudden one. He had spoken with athletic director Kay Johnson in the past.
Now the time is right and come next September, he’ll have to find somewhere new to stand to watch the Bulldogs play.