Swartwood Tapped As New Coach

Ellison steps down after three weeks as head of PHS football program

Jake Swartwood assumed head coaching duties on Monday and is expected to be officially named the new football coach at an upcoming school board meeting.

Jake Swartwood assumed head coaching duties on Monday and is expected to be officially named the new football coach at an upcoming school board meeting. Photo by Max Foster. |

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A man with deep Payson roots is expected to soon become the next Payson High School football coach, replacing Graham Ellison who was officially hired on June 9 and resigned June 28 saying he was leaving for “health reasons.”

Jake Swartwood assumed the head coaching duties yesterday, Monday, and is expected to be named the permanent coach at an upcoming board meeting.

Swartwood is the son of former Payson mayor Craig Swartwood and the grandson of Rim Country real estate developer Barney Swartwood — the businessman behind the Swiss Village concept and most of Payson North.

Jake Swartwood is no stranger to Payson football, having played at Rim Country Middle School and for four years at PHS where he was a standout two-way performer.

He also starred in basketball and in track at Payson High.

Former PHS boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser once praised Swartwood saying, “He’s a good basketball player but a much better young man.”

After Swartwood graduated from Arizona State University in 2008, he returned to his hometown to teach and coach.

Last season, he served as defensive coordinator for then head coach Byron Quinlan and previously was an assistant for Josh Anderson.

Swartwood spent a hectic past weekend assembling a coaching staff and polishing plans for an upcoming team camp that will attract seven teams and 550 teenage football players to Payson.

Swartwood’s first staff will be very similar to the one Ellison had assembled.

Most remarkable about the group, however, is that the new coach has convinced Dan Reid to come out of retirement and help coach the offensive and defensive lines.

Reid was defensive coordinator and assistant coach at PHS in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the 1986 team that advanced to the Class A state championship.

He also was a head coach at Mayer High School where his teams won two state championships and almost always qualified for the post season.

Over the years, he’s developed a reputation as a very cerebral football coach who uses cutting edge techniques in training and conditioning.

He also was a longtime track and field coach at Mayer and PHS who was last year inducted into the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Having him on the PHS staff should be a real plus for the football program and the players.

Also on the staff, Brandon Moore will become the offensive coordinator and Shawn McCarthy, a former NFL punter and Division I quarterback, will coach the kickers, punters and quarterbacks.

Miles Huff, a PHS graduate who starred in both football and basketball, is set to coach the defensive backs and kickers.

Heath Wacker and Gary Chitwood are expected to coach the freshmen.

None of the appointments, including Swartwood’s, becomes official until approved by the school board.

Also, because new PHS principal Anna Van Zile is on a trip to Japan and athletic director Don Heizer is on a cruise trip to Alaska, action on appointing the new staff will wait.

Heizer, who was appointed the AD only weeks ago, is expected to return to PHS tomorrow, July 4.

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