After leading Eloy Santa Cruz to the 2A championship last week, the town’s first state championship in 30 years, Rishard Davis was asked about what it felt like to make history.
He doesn’t know if for sure he is the first Black head high school football coach in Arizona Interscholastic Association history to win a championship since the state’s governing body for high school sports began holding bracketed playoffs in 1959.
Jose Garcia, who has become the AIA’s sports historian since Barry Sollenberger’s death in 2005, said the AIA researched it all week and couldn’t find any other Black head coach to win an AIA state high school football title. He was still researching it.
As of now, he said, it appears, Davis is the first.
“Everybody is coming to me,” Davis said. “To be honest, I had no idea. I mean I get it. I’m honored.
“I most definitely didn’t get into it to say I’m the first Black head coach or anything. I get it from all angles. I don’t want to downplay it. I think it’s something that should be pointed out. But you shouldn’t dwell on it forever.”
Demond Williams, who is Black, led Sequoia Pathway in 2016 to Canyon Athletic Association state football championship with a 20-13 win over American Leadership Ironwood. Both schools are in the AIA now.
Mark and Marcus Carter, twins, who are the co-head coaches at Goodyear Desert Edge, became the first Black coaches to lead a high school team to the top-level Open Division playoffs in the two years of its existence in the AIA.
“It’s truly inspiring,” Mark Carter said. “The goal for Marcus and I is to help players be better young men. But we also want to win. In order for us to have that happen, it’s going to be tough. For them as a 2A school to break through the ceiling, it’s truly inspiring. I want to be there to help and support him.
“We have to do a better job pushing the culture forward. Coach Davis has pushed the limits.”
Goodyear Millennium football coach Lamar Early, who is Black, calls what David did “huge for the state of Arizona.”
“I hope this will open more doors for more quality minority coaches to get a chance to possibly get the same chance,” Early said. “Hats off to my brother, Coach Davis. Much love and respect.”
Davis said when the team got home last week after beating Benson 42-7 for the 2A crown, Main Street in Eloy was lined with people wanting to celebrate the team’s accomplishment.
Davis had come close before to winning the championship. His 2017 team lost to Thatcher 28-27 in overtime in the 2A championship game. That was Santa Cruz’s only loss that season.
“I’m happy he did it before we did, because he earned it,” Mark Carter said. “He had come that close and then to break through, I’m glad it was him. We’re going to take what he did and work even harder.”
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