Archive for the ‘Athletics’ Category

Eight grader Kaylee Smith dribbles during a basketball camp in September. The girls basketball team hopes to defend its league title  when the new season begins in January.

Eight grader Kaylee Smith dribbles during a basketball camp in September. The girls basketball team hopes to defend its league title when the new season begins in January.

By Kylee Demauro
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyons girls basketball team is the defending league champion and, as a new season begins, another title is the ultimate goal and expectation.
     Communication is a big part of the team. It helps athletes know their teammates have their backs and they don’t have to worry. It informs others on what to do and how to do certain things.
     “The communication helps by getting the team on the same page and informing others about the play and how things are supposed to go,” said seventh grader Kashmir Baillie. “If we didn’t have communication it would be a mess because no one would know what they are doing.”
     A portion of the girls are feeling pressure on how they do in tryouts, which will be Dec. 19-21. The seventh grade students are more frightened since it is their first time trying out.
     “There is always pressure in tryouts because you can get cut even if you made it the year before,” said eighth grader, Kaylee Smith. “I always worry that I won’t be what they want us to be but we/I try our best.”
     Coach Kimberly Grant has been preparing for the season by having open gym at least once a month. Open gym is when students go to the gym and play different basketball games and have competitions. Coach Grant has also been going to a coach’s clinic.
     “As far as preparing as a coach, I attended the Nike Coach’s Clinic this year and plan to implement some of the ideas I learned at the clinic,” explained Coach Grant.
     The team will have to work on multiple things, such as defense and making sure the opposing team works for every point. On offense, Grant will have players focus on taking care of the ball, and communication. Working together as a team is also very critical.
     “I think that our strengths are communicating with each other and letting our players know we have their backs,” said eighth grader Madonna Parker. “That way it’s more of a team effort and not just a one person effort.”
     The strengths of the team will be working together and getting to know each other, which will help others be more confident. Being stronger as a team will help the girls play better and build friendships.
     “The strengths of our team this year are hopefully going to be encouraging each other no matter what, to push our team forward, and to talk about the plays we run,“ said Smith. “When part of the team is on the bench, we should be cheering people on. Not saying ‘go here,’ ‘do this,’ ‘do that.’”

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Members of the soccer team stretch before a practice on Oct. 24. Coach Art Helfgot is looking for players who will step up and be leaders this season. (Photo by Megan Ash)

Members of the soccer team stretch before a practice on Oct. 24. Coach Art Helfgot is looking for players who will step up and be leaders this season. (Photo by Megan Ash)

By Kylee Demauro
Cougar News Blog

     Boys Soccer is officially back at Cactus Canyon, and the team has high hopes for the season.
     The pressure hasn’t been bad on the players, except for the goalies Zane Baxter and Jose Nieto. That position is new to both athletes but it is critical for the team.
     “Since I’m goalie, there is pressure on blocking it and making sure the other team doesn’t win,” said Baxter.
     Coach Art Helfgot has been preparing for the season by the practicing skill drills, flow of the game, positioning, and conditioning. The team has been working very hard on finding out more about the game and each other.
     “I feel really good (about the season). I feel like we’re going to become better as a team,” said Efren Carlos Giron.
     The team has many goals, such as getting better every game, playing their best, and becoming better people in general. Coach Helfgot has never coached in Desert Middle School Athletic League before. Therefore, he has no idea what the competition will be like. In the past, boys soccer has won three championships.
     “My only goal is to see that we play better each game, learn the skills necessary, and understand that a team will beat a bunch of players every time,” said Coach Helfgot.
     The team and coach expect many student athletes to step up. They mostly expect eighth graders in general to step up. Such as, Leo Castenanda, who has considerable skills.
     “Who steps up individually to demonstrate leadership skills, I’m looking forward to seeing that,” said Coach Helfgot. “I’m not sure that’s easily expected at this age. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.”
     The team has a lot of core players who show significant experience and skills. There are also players who want to work hard to get better. The athletes will continue working on communications and playing better as a team.
     “(The communication helps the team because) it shows them what to do and how to do it,” said Baxter.

Members of the baseball team warm up before their home game against Maricopa Wells on Aug. 30. (Photo by Jaden Miner)

Members of the baseball team warm up before their home game against Maricopa Wells on Aug. 30. (Photo by Jaden Miner)

By Kylee Demauro
Cougar News Blog

     The Cactus Canyon softball team took its first loss in four years to Benjamin Franklin Charter High School. Despite the loss in the season opener on Aug. 25, the team has high hopes for the season.
     Entering the season, the Cougars had won 40 consecutive games and four straight league championships. The team has started a new three-game winning streak, but players don’t feel there is pressure to continue the title run, although it is the Cougars’ goal.
     “The pressure isn’t that bad,” said eighth-grader Elizabeth Cardenas. “You just have to have a positive attitude about everything.”
     The baseball team has started its season with a record of 4-0 and believe they have a chance to win the championship this season. Cactus Canyon has won the Desert Middle School Athletic League two times and their goal is to go back and win for a third time.
     “(My goal this season is) to win the championship and have an undefeated season, ” said Jaden Unise.
     Softball coach Bill Wilson and baseball coach Ramon Figueroa have worked to get players prepared for the season. Coach Wilson says his team needs to work on self confidence. He explained that his group of girls have, “a great attitude and will be fine.”
     “I prepare by making sure that we run drills that help the talent level that we have,” said Coach Wilson. “I expect us to win the league and tournament.”
     Many of the eighth graders on the softball and baseball team are excited to be leaders. They now get to teach the seventh graders a few things to help them through the season. The student athletes are excited and the eighth graders are ready to help out who they can. The two teams have their goals, but are still learning how to reach them.
     “I feel good because I can help the seventh graders to be better next year,” said Brian Favia.

By Andrea Darnell
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon Junior High’s basketball camp is back. The school is having another basketball camp. There are going to be two different camps, one for girls only and one for girls and guys.
     The girls only camp is for a week, and the boys and girls camp is for two weeks. The girls camp will be run by Coach Kim Grant and co-ed camp will be ran by Coach Scott Stansberry.
     The camps give students an opportunity to practice dribbling, boxing out, blocking, jump-stops, layups, crossover, and layups into a crossover. Both camps play practice games and the girls camp has competitions on the last day of their camp.
     “If people are willing to work hard and have fun, then they would like playing for me,” said Coach Grant. “If they’re not willing to work hard, than they would not like it. I’m all about having fun but you have to work hard.”
     The girls camp will cost $5 and the co-ed camp will cost $50. Coach Grant’s camp will be Aug. 22-26, while Coach Stansberry’s will be Aug. 29-Sept. 8.
     Both coaches believe the camp is beneficial for students who want to improve at basketball and not just those who were on one of the basketball teams last year.
     “I do the same camp every year, it’s like basic basketball, and then I bring kids from the high school team over to help out with the camp,” said Coach Stansberry.
     “I think that any girl that’s not playing softball and wants to play basketball, I’d highly encourage to because it would give them a good idea on what they need to work on and what I am like as a coach,” said Coach Grant.

Quarterback Gibson Limongello was one of Cactus Canyon's leaders this season. (Photo by Megan Wagner)

Quarterback Gibson Limongello was one of Cactus Canyon’s leaders this season. (Photo by Megan Wagner)

By Damian Lopez
Cougar News Blog

     Although this past football season wasn’t the team’s best, the team still thrived defensively.
     Despite the team’s 2-3 record and third-place finish, coaches were proud of how the players responded to their techniques and fit into their different systems. Offensively, the team started a little slow, but as soon as they were going full force, the offense became powerful.
     “We worked on making the offense a more well oiled machine and making sure everyone knew what their job was on every play,” said eighth grader Talon Izbicki.
     One big problem this year, as with past years, is grades. It took some of the players a few weeks to understand that the coaches were serious about being a student before an athlete. Some player fell off the roster because of this, but there were a good number of students that used football as motivation to keep their grades up.
     Like every year, the coaches wanted to maximize participation. This year, however, participation numbers were down. They had a great group of hard workers that made it to practice every day and worked like no other. Coaches were happy to find many seventh graders ready for their first season. As the season went on multiple leaders rose through the ranks and were dubbed “Captain of the Week.”
     “Gibson Limongello was our starting quarterback and strong safety,” said Head Coach Vance Miller. “He played lights out every week, never took a play off, and even played through illness. He was a true team leader.”
     Before their first game, the team practiced intensely for four-weeks. Players studied numerous plays and worked together on and off the field to talk about each of their roles. Many players said their goal this season was to bring another title home for the CCJH football team.
     “My goal this season was to help this team bring a championship back to this school, but no they were not met because we finished in third place,” said Izbicki. “I was still happy that I got to spend a great season together with my teammates.”
     Football season will come again next January with a new batch of seventh graders ready to help reclaim the Desert Middle School Athletic League title for Cactus Canyon.

Lauren Powell drives to the basket during the DMSAL championship game. Cactus Canyon won the game on a last-second shot by Maya Richardson. (Photo by Mr. Davis)

Lauren Powell drives to the basket during the DMSAL championship game. Cactus Canyon won the game, 26,24, on a last-second shot by Maya Richardson. (Photo by Mr. Davis)

By Caitlyn McNear
Cougar News Blog

     It didn’t look good with just a few seconds left in the game, but CCJH’s girls basketball scored a win in the DSMAL championship game against Combs Middle School on March 12.
     Toward the end of the game, the Cougars were ahead by one point, but Combs made two free throws with 17 second left making the outcome for the Cougars look not so great. That was until Maya Richardson made a three-point shot from the side, causing the Cougars to win the game, 26-24.
     “When I made the winning shot, it felt like the biggest rush ever, it felt so great,” said Richardson.
     Not only was Richardson excited about winning the game, but also many of the other girls on the team. They all worked hard and deserved the credit for winning the big game.
     Being apart of the team has affected all the girls apart of the team in many ways. Playing basketball can teach them important lessons.
     “Being apart of the team taught me to be a good leader,” said eighth grader Lola Knotts. “It taught me to not go into games and be cocky or over confident because you never know what the outcome of a game will be no matter how bad the team.”
     In the future, some of the girls plan to stay in basketball for Apache Junction High School. They did a great job, as said by Coach Kim Grant, and deserve to keep playing basketball for the future years.
     “I plan on trying out for basketball next year because Coach Kim said that we were the best team she has ever coached and even though we are losing some players to different schools, I still plan on being an awesome team,” said Knotts.
     Coach Grant said she was proud of how the team didn’t give up and played hard until the end.
     “We definitely didn’t play our best in that championship game, but we gutted out the win,” Grant said. “Rose Gray played incredible defense and showed so much heart. This was a great group of girls to coach and be around.”
     This was the second consecutive Desert Middle School Athletic League title for Cactus Canyon.

Jaden kicks a ball during practice. (Photo by Robin Marshall)

Jaden kicks a ball during practice. (Photo by Robin Marshall)

By Jessica Martinez
Cougar News Blog

     Girls Soccer season is coming to CCJH this quarter. The team will be working on their individual skill, as well as teamwork. Mostly, they will work on continuous personal improvement and then their overall team efforts. Everyone’s main goal will be working together and putting all their effort into winning another Desert Middle Schools Athletic League title.
     Coach Norman Hoefer wants the girls to take away many life skills away from their experience. The girls will become stronger as people and learn endurance from playing and working hard.
     “I expect the girls to learn some life skills like cooperation, responsibility, and teamwork,” said Coach Hoefer.
     It is expected that the eighth grade returning girls like Memarie Gallegos, Kaira Landa, and Lauren Powell will take the lead this season. The coach takes great pride in the students and their ability to learn about the sport and work well together. He is expecting them to work on their strengths and help the newcomers.
     “One area that will be a strength is our depth. We have many girls returning from last season and a group of incoming seventh graders that will fit into our system quickly. Our overall team speed will be quicker this year so I think we will be able to pressure the ball more,” said Coach Hoefer.
     The sport affects these girls as people and has impacted their lives. They have all learned a lot from their experiences, and improved themselves as players and people.
     “Soccer, to me, means teamwork and family,” said eighth grader Memarie Gallegos. “Every time you talk, run, block, pass, overlap anything you do contributes to the teamwork and family work of soccer,” explained Memarie Gallegos.
     The team will work hard to achieve their goals, improve themselves, and become a hardworking, good team. Once the team learns how to work well together, they will improve their personal ball skills. Coach Hoefer expects for them to win championships again and become four-time reigning champions.
     “No matter what the outcome of our season, I am proud of the way the girls always try their best and work well together,” said Coach Hoefer.
     The Cougars are 2-1 and play Thursday at Hohokam.

The CCJH cheer team had long practices on nights and weekends to prepare for the DMSAL competition. (Photo by Tiffani Morris)

The CCJH cheer team had long practices on nights and weekends to prepare for the DMSAL competition. (Photo by Tiffani Morris)

By Bailey Tower
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s Cougars cheer squad won the Desert Middle Schools Athletic League for the sixth time on March 19 at Combs High School.
     They competed against three other teams: Hohokam, Combs and Maricopa. The Cougars won all five categories, including the all-around.
     There were five categories that included five-man, which is a one-minute stunting routine that only involves five members of each team and lib-off, which is a competition in which one stunt group from each school participates to see who can hold a lib stunt the longest.
     Jump-off is a competition in which two cheerleaders from each school perform different jumps and the cheerleader with the highest and best executed jumps wins. Tumble-off is a competition in which two cheerleaders from each school perform their best tumbling pass and the ladies are eliminated until there is a winner.
     “Jessica Grabowski won the jump-off and I won the tumble-off and one of our stunt groups won the five-man and the lib-off,” said eighth grader Robynn Vandekrol. “We won the all-around show cheer competition and got trophies.”
     These girls have worked hard to earn the term champions for Cactus Canyon Junior High school. The team usually practiced four to five days a week for two to five hours. Practices often went into the evening hours.
     “We also practiced during spring break on Thursday for three hours and Friday for hours,” said Coach Cathy Messenger. “Plus, we had football games to attend to in January and February.”
     The girls practiced and practiced and they followed through by winning every category.
     “This year was an amazing year, full of hard work and good times,” said Vandekrol. “Our team walked into competition confident and walked out champions once again.”

Players prepare for a game by hitting the blocking sled. (Photo by Mariana Rios)

Players prepare for a game by hitting the blocking sled. (Photo by Mariana Rios)

By Meckensy Toro
Cougar News Blog

     Football season has finally arrived at CCJH. The players are training hard to improve from last year.
     Football is a very important part in these kids lives. So much that they take time out of their own schedule to practice and push themselves.
     “What football means to me is, it’s not really really a sport, more of a lifestyle, because we put our bodies through hard work year in and year out,” Talon Izbicki explains.
     The players have been training hard all year long. They practice on different teams outside of school like SEV Pride and Maricopa Heat. They put themselves through tough practice and conditioning.
     “I am preparing this season by pushing myself in conditioning so I can be ready for the games,” Sean Manell says.
     Many of the students have set personal goals that they hope to achieve this season. The coach has even set some goals of his own.
     “My goals are for every player to leave with a sense of accomplishment and wanting to come back next year,” says Coach Vance Miller.
     The boys hope win the league title after finishing third last season. The Cougars were champions two years ago.
     “My goals and expectations for this season are to win games and make it to the championships,” Michael Vannoy says.
     The Cougars have started the season 1-1 and will play again Thursday, Feb. 11, at Desert Wind.

Girls basketball players prepare for the new season. (Photo by Brooke Wine)

Girls basketball players prepare for the new season. (Photo by Brooke Wine)

By Jessica M.
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s girls basketball team is kicking off the 2016 season with the need to win.
     These students are working very hard to improve from last year. This year’s captains are eighth graders Lola Knotts and Maya Richardson, who played on the team last year. The game itself matters a lot to these students and has been a very important part of their lives.
     “Basketball means everything to me, my dad always played and I always wanted to be just like him. He’s the one that got me started in basketball and I thank him because it’s been the greatest experience of my life,” said Richardson.
     These students are working hard to practice and prepare for this season, in all ways possible. After winning the league title last year, they want to achieve another championship this year. They plan on working hard as a team and individually to become the best players they can become. With only four days a week to practice, they are practicing hard to continue their improvement as a player and a team.
     “I think some of the team strengths are working hard together. A lot of us played together last year so we are used to playing with each other and we know each others strengths and weaknesses so we can work together to make the team amazing,” Knotts said.
     All the players are working hard and practicing a lot. They want to win, but more importantly they want to learn to work as a team.
     “Our goals are to improve every day, have a better understanding of the game of basketball, and to win the championship,” said Coach Kim Grant.
     The goal is for them to improve everyday and fully understand the game of basketball. Coach Grant believes the girls are strongest as a team and are amazing defense players.
     “They will learn how to work hard, that to be successful you have to work as a team, and they will understand basic concepts of basketball,” said Coach Grant.
     The Cougars opened their season with a win over Mountain Vista and continue their season at home on Tuesday, Feb. 2.