Rim Country Middle School football coaches Jimmy Oestmann, Jon Gunzel and Pat Stone are determined to reverse the fortunes of last season when the trio could only watch in disbelief as an undefeated season was wiped out by a last game forfeit.
As coaches of the seventh-grade Maverick team, the three led RCMS to five consecutive wins before forfeiting the finale to Canyon Day due to a lack of players.
The forfeit was particularly disheartening because the team, then down to 11 players, had defeated archrivals Snowflake and Show Low.
Had the coaches been able to field the minimum number of players, a win over a weak Canyon Day team was almost assured.
"It was disappointing to lose an undefeated season by a forfeit," Oestmann said.
The Mavericks roster troubles began in preseason when fewer than 20 players turned out for the team. As the season wore on, academic casualties and injuries reduced the roster even further.
Next school year, Oestmann, Gunzel and Stone will continue to coach the same group of players but as eighth-graders at RCMS.
Since learning they would be moving up a grade level, the coaches have been persuading middle school students to participate in the football program. Their campaign included a Jan. 2 trip to Sun Devil Stadium. There, last season's team members watched the Arizona Cardinals host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It was a trip we had worked out for the boys as a reward for their great season," Gunzel said. "We had great seats on the goal line 18 rows up."
The coaches also plan to earn enough money to purchase new, quality uniforms. To buy the uniforms, the coaches hope parents and fans designated a portion of their Credit for Kids tax contributions be used for that purpose. Credit for Kids ended Dec. 31, 2004 but exact dollar amount allocations have not yet been compiled.
The coaches also plan a series of fund-raisers and are accepting donations to buy uniforms.
They say they hope that new and better garb will be another step toward attracting more players and building pride in the team.
Also on the agenda is a RCMS football camp this summer before the 2005 campaign kicks off.
"If we can get the kids to come out and try football (at the camp), we think they will enjoy it," Oestmann said.
Dates for the camp will be announced soon.
For more information on the RCMS eighth-grade football program, call Oestmann at (928) 978-0605.