Desert Edge in Goodyear building deep pool of two-way athletes

For a while, it seemed as if football coaches and track and field coaches were locked in a perpetual battle against one another. Football coaches didn’t want their players to hurt themselves running. Track coaches wanted their athletes to focus on only their sport.

But that view has changed, it's very evident at Desert Edge High School in Goodyear.

Mark and Marcus Carter, the co-head coaches of the football team, also serve as the track and field coaches at the school. The brothers emphasize a crossover between the two sports. It’s not required for each football player to also compete on the track team, but it’s highly encouraged. About 90 percent of the football team does.

The results have paid off. Desert Edge has 10 athletes who have run faster than 11.50 seconds in the 100 meters, representing depth that nearly every school in the state would love to have. Each one of those athletes also plays on the football team.

“Track translates to every sport,” Mark Carter said. “For us, there’s got to be a direct correlation between us playing in the state championship (for football) last year and then us having the opportunity to win the D-II state championship in track. Plus, you get conditioning. You don’t have to set out a chunk of the day just for conditioning. I think that our guys, working on different muscles, there’s also a preventive measure for injuries. We’re not overusing certain muscles.”

Alongside the Carter brothers, Sharod Selph, Henri MacArthur and Toni Kee have played key roles in the development of the program. Selph, who ran collegiately at Oklahoma State and was part of the 2014 Big 12 Indoor Track and Field championship team, is in charge of the sprinters.

As Marcus Carter said, “If you don’t know everything, then you find someone who does. We lean on these people a lot.”

Junior Jamar Beal-Goines, a cornerback on the football team, has exploded on the recruiting scene this past winter. He’s the current state leader in the 100 meters at 10.43 seconds and has run 21.41 in the 200 meters. Beal-Goines has 17 college offers, and could see even more after this spring.

David Cabrera, also a junior, plays wide receiver and is currently ranked fourth in the state for the 100 with his 10.53. He has one offer on the table for the moment, from San Diego State.

“Speed is probably the most important thing in football,” Cabrera said. “Getting faster in track, having a transition year where you’re already a step ahead. And it keeps you conditioned. It helps a lot because that’s probably what coaches ask the most. That’s one of the first things. If a coach has to choose between two players, if one does track and one doesn’t, they’re probably going to choose the track player.”

Two other athletes run under 11 seconds in the 100: senior Saviour Torue, a running back, and sophomore Antonio Para, a safety. Senior linebacker Jonathan Kamara, a Kansas commit, is close to joining that group – while standing 6-4 and weighing 220 pounds.

Making a difference in recruiting

It’s not just the sprints. Sophomore Jalayne Miller and junior Jerry Washington, who play offensive and defensive line, have the chance to compete at the state championships in the throw events. Desert Edge might have the most athletic kicker in Arizona in junior Kole Rogers, who runs 11.58 in the 100 and is ranked fifth in Division II for the 300-meter hurdles at 41.22.

This opens up opportunities in the recruiting landscape. Cody Cameron, the head football analyst for Arizona Varsity at who has covered college football recruiting for the past six years, speaks to college football coaches daily.

Cameron says track and field is one of the most talked about topics with college coaches.

“College football recruiting and how they recruit high school athletes, it’s multi-sport athletes,” Cameron said. “That’s a question that immediately comes up. Multi-sport athletes make a well-rounded athlete. When you look at track and field and you look at the skill players' position, you’re getting faster, you’re competing one versus seven other guys in a lane. And it’s straight competition, real track times that are laser. It’s all focused.

“Even on the flip side, the field events, javelin, shot put, discus, for an offensive lineman to partake in those things, you’re working on footwork, power,” Cameron added. “Track can put you over the edge. When college coaches are coming to these high schools and recruiting athletes, they’re always comparing. These athletes are under a microscope. There’s a big board all these college coaches have and you’re ranked in there.”

Marcus Carter said he has watched the tone shift once a recruit’s times on the track are mentioned.

“Everything we do is documented. The times are verified,” he said. “With the recruiting, it gives you the measurements. I don’t think colleges are recruiting necessarily stars anymore, they’re recruiting traits and how they can develop guys.”

For Desert Edge, getting their athletes to the next level is the end goal.

“Anything we can to make our kids more marketable, anything we can do to make our kids stand out more, that’s what we’re going to do. If track is one of those things that’s going to help, then we’re going to do it,” said Mark Carter.

Desert Edge isn’t the only school where crossover is heavily emphasized. Over the years, Chandler has built a powerhouse in football and track and field using the same method. Eric Richardson has been coaching the two sports at Chandler for the past 28 years and has built a reputation doing so.

Now his son, Derrick, is following in his footsteps. Derrick is the defensive backs coach and the head coach of the boys track and field team. Seniors Sammie Hunter (Utah football commit) and Ca’Lil Valentine (Illinois football commit) are ranked in the top 25 in the state for the 100.

Hunter was getting some college looks, but the moment he ran a 10.74 in the 100 last April, Richardson said, he got seven offers within a week. One of those offers, from Bowling Green, came 30 minutes after Hunter ran the race.

“That’s how fast word travels,” Richardson said.

It’s part of an overall shift in the way football is being played.

“We realize where the game is going,” Richardson said. “The nature of the game these days, it’s not about power football or lining up and being the strongest and most physical team. A lot of the teams that are the most successful are the ones that have a lot of speed on the field. The game is spread wide open. The key to the game is now speed. And we really cornered the market on that in the last 10 years from the aspect of adding speed to our game, along with some toughness.”

That last part — toughness — is something Richardson expanded on.

“Track is one of the most mentally taxing sports there is,” Richardson said. “I tell some of my football guys, if you can get through track workouts, football workouts are a breeze. I’ve seen many of the great football talents who refused to get on the track because of the work it takes. Track translates perfectly because it teaches mental toughness. Track is one of the sports where you can’t hide. Your track results are solely based on your effort and how much you’re willing to put into it. The culture goes hand-in-hand, you have to be tough to get through track and it transfers over to the football field.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Desert Edge in Goodyear building pool of two-way athletes