Kerry Taylor sets sights high, ushers in new day for Arcadia football

Arcadia Head Coach Kerry Taylor speaks to his team after a March 20 workout. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Over the past three years the Arcadia football team has had three different head coaches, but many players think the newest installment in the recently-changing position is the right fit.

Kerry Taylor takes over an Arcadia High School program that hasn’t won a game since Sept. 30, 2016, and allowed opponents to outscore it 469–29 in 2017. He also comes in to replace Tony Stillings, who spent one year leading the team before resigning.

Despite all the program has experienced over the past year, Coach Taylor said he has a clear idea of what he wants to establish at Arcadia.

“I want to create a program of dominance and excellence,” he said in a March 20 interview. “(I want) to have the kids who come here from junior high and they leave here as men, ready to take on the real world.”

Since arriving on campus, Coach Taylor has made no secret of his intention to win and lift Arcadia from its losing rut.

During a March weight room workout, Coach Taylor was upbeat. He stood on a weight room bench while his team did a floor workout that required players to do 30-second spurts of certain exercises around him.

As the workout progressed and the players fatigued, Coach Taylor would shout “this is the price of winning.” Many players then picked up speed, finishing the workout.

Senior Jonathan Hunter said this idea of winning, and Coach Taylor’s commitment to it, stuck out to him immediately.

“He came in here and said ‘I think we’re going to make the playoffs’ right away,” he said in a March 20 interview. “Coach Stillings never did that neither did Coach (Lenny) Abt. They didn’t really have that winning mentality and I think that’s a big factor in winning football games.”

A seasoned resume and staff

Coach Taylor said he thinks, in part, his resume is why players started to believe in what he’s trying to establish.

Arcadia Head Coach Kerry Taylor. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

He was a star wide receiver at Hamilton High School before making the jump to Arizona State University. As a Sun Devil, he played from 2007-10 where he combined for 112 catches, 1,433 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, according to sports-reference.com.

In the NFL, he spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals during his four-year career.

As far as coaching, Coach Taylor was a passing game coordinator at Phoenix College, an assistant coach at Chandler High School and a head coach over Salt River High School’s eight-man football team.

Most recently, he was a quality control coach over wide receivers at Oregon State University.

“It definitely helps with the buy-in situation of them knowing ‘hey, coach has been there, he can help us get there,’” Coach Taylor said.

Coach Taylor has wasted no time assembling a staff that has significant resumes as well.

Many on his staff have won state championships as a player or a coach and/or played at the collegiate level.

Some additions include Safeties Coach and former ASU player Ryan McFoy; Receiver Coach and former Washington and Northern Arizona player Kendyl Taylor; and Defensive Coordinator and former Oregon player Javes Lewis.

In regards to his new staff, Coach Taylor said they all are experienced at the position with some being coaches he’s worked alongside in the past.

“I wanted to surround these kids with the best possible coaching staff in the state,” he said. “I think we have one of the best staffs in the country for high school football. I would put our staff up against any other staff in the world.”

Changing of the guard

Since arriving, Coach Taylor has made a lot of noise.

He’s posted coaching hires on Twitter and teased those hirings with hashtags, emojis and a general excitement hours before the announcements. He threw out the first pitch at a recent Arcadia baseball game.

 

 

Senior Leonard Day said Coach Taylor’s impact so far has been far-reaching.

“The effort he’s putting in outside of what we’re supposed to be doing for football is helping out,” he said in a March 20 interview. “None of the other coaches would’ve done that, they’d just worry about trying to win the game.”

Those in the Arcadia community seem to be getting on board quickly with what Coach Taylor is trying to bring to the school.

On Thursday, March 22, Coach Taylor tweeted “want to give a shout out to all my assistant coaches, parents, booster club, administration, and Arcadia community. The support has been unbelievable. We’re coming for something great!!! #TitanUp”

In turn, the Arcadia football official account responded with “Likewise! Thank you @KerryTaylor15 for the energy you bring everyday! We are pumped to have you! #TitanUp.”

 

One challenge Coach Taylor may face is the fact that those seniors on the team have had three head coaches in three years.

Day said there are challenges that come with a shifting head coach such as having to learn a new system each year.

Hunter, however, said while there are some challenges, it’s forced him to have to work hard each year for a spot since playing time is not guaranteed under a new head coach.

Coach Taylor said he hasn’t noticed the numerous coaching changes affecting the players or community.

“I think they were just waiting for the right person with the right type of energy to come in, light a spark and get this thing going,” he said. “That’s my responsibility. I’m taking on that role and that’s something I’m waking up to every morning and look forward to doing.”

In fact, Hunter said he’s embraced the change and Coach Taylor’s message even with the past coach changes.

“I can tell we’re going to win this year,” Hunter said. “It’s way different. There’s a winning mentality.”

A goal to win

In order to get to that winning the team is eying, Arcadia will have to traverse a new classification as it dropped to 4A from 5A for the next few seasons, putting the Titans in the same region as juggernaut Saguaro High School.

To begin that path, Coach Taylor hosted a combine prior to spring break on Friday, March 9.

Coach Taylor said the combine gave his staff a chance to see players workout for the first time and it gave players a chance to prove themselves to the coaches.

The combine, Coach Taylor said, was a success and helped the coaches build a foundation for the coming months.

Still, Arcadia has a long way to go until the season opener and a chance to show whether the Arcadia is a winning team. Even with the long journey ahead, Coach Taylor said he has a simple message for the rest of the state.

“We know what’s in front of us and we know the level we have to get to win a championship,” Coach Taylor said. “Everyday, we’re building to be on top and we will get on top. I don’t know how long it will take to get to the top but we will get there. Arcadia football is something that’s going to be around for a while.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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