Chaparral heads into spring football with new coach at the helm

Chaparral Head Football Coach Brent Barnes. (Photo Courtesy of Chaparralfootball.com)

Spring football practices are fast approaching in Arizona and the Chaparral High School football team has several changes it will address over the coming month.

Brent Barnes will make his coaching debut at the school. He will lead the program’s transition from 5A to 6A for the upcoming season and he will look to make that change with a host of returning players.

Coach Barnes replaced Thomas Lewis, who resigned from the school after two seasons.

Since taking the job in February, Coach Barnes has been in Oklahoma, where he coached at Norman North High School in Norman, Okla.

He cited his family in Arizona as a big reason for making the leap from Oklahoma to Arizona, he also said he was excited about taking over a program of Chaparral’s caliber.

“It has a rich tradition of winning championships and competing at a high level,” he said in an April 24 phone interview.

Though he’s had to commute between Scottsdale and Norman, he’s already made an impact on the players.

Rising junior Tommy Christakos said what stood out to him was how enthusiastic Coach Barnes was.

“As soon as I met him, I could connect to him,” he said in an April 26 phone interview. “He relates to players really easily. He’s young so he understand teenagers and us football players as young men.”

Coach Barnes said he has tried to make the most of each of his visits to the school. He said he has a good understanding of the type of talent he has at Chaparral.

Still, he’s not there full-time yet — he said he wants his wife that works as a school counselor and his first-grade son to finish up the school year before he moves — but he said he has good assistant coaches in place who have helped the program begin its progress.

Two in particular Coach Barnes says he has relied on are Tim Kohner and Mark Nolan.

Quarterback Jack Miller throws the football. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Coach Nolan is the former head coach at Notre Dame Preparatory but his employment with the school ended abruptly amid controversy for a pair of Arizona Interscholastic Association rule violations.

Coach Barnes said Coach Nolan is full-time now on campus and because of his background as a head coach, he’s “well-equipped to handle those responsibilities.”

Coach Kohner has been working with the offense and Coach Barnes said he’s been a big part of establishing what he wants from the program.

“They’re able to operate in a practice without me there even though that won’t happen very often,” Coach Barnes said. “When it’s necessary or things need to get done, those guys are well-equipped to take care of it.”

Spring football is slated for a Monday, April 30 start. Christakos said spring football exemplifies his favorite aspects of the game.

“I can barely wait because spring football is just all competitive,” he said. “It’s 7-on-7, one-on-ones. That’s what you live for in football. I can’t wait.”

Coach Barnes said he hopes to use the time allotted to work on installing the team’s base offense and defense. He also plans to work on fundamental skills so it will be second nature to his players when the fall rolls around.

Rising junior Jack Miller said he hopes for the team to also grow its chemistry.

“Just for everyone to learn the offense, get to know the new coaches and for everyone to get familiar with each other is our main goal,” he said in an April 26 phone interview.

Even though Chaparral has a new head coach, Coach Barnes said he plans to keep the offense and defense similar to what the players have ran in the past. Chaparral has run the spread offense.

While the concepts will be similar, Coach Barnes said he does have to teach a new language to the team such as different calls and cadences.

In Oklahoma, Coach Barnes’s teams have shown a proclivity for throwing the football. This is something Christakos said he is excited to work in an offense that favors the pass.

Winning on the field is important to Coach Barnes, he said, but he also wants to establish a program built on character that extends past athletic contests.

In doing so, Coach Barnes said he believes his team will represent the “Chaparral Firebird” brand. That brand, he said, represents a winning tradition.

“It’s up to us to continue that, carry it on and hopefully build on it and try to find a way to compete at a high level,” he said. “Those guys are capable and they’re hungry to do that and I think they’re ready for the challenge.”

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

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