APACHE JUNCTION — Apache Junction football coach Vance Miller has accepted an offer to take over the football program at Phoenix Arcadia.

Miller took over a 4-6 Apache Junction football team in 2014 and eventually led the Prospectors to two regional titles during his six seasons at the helm.

The Prospectors finished with a winning record the past three seasons, which included state playoff appearances in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, they finished 7-3 but came up short of making the postseason cut.

“When I took over I took a leap of faith in myself because I knew it was going to be an uphill battle,” Miller said. “Football wasn’t admired here at all. It wasn’t looked on as anything anyone wanted to do. Our football players walked with their heads down, and they were kind of kicked around by everybody. The community wasn’t really involved, they community gets involved when you’re winning, unfortunately.”

Last month, Miller announced he was taking the head coaching position at Arcadia.

“It’s bittersweet,” Miller said. “It’s real tough looking into the eyes of these kids everyday, they know I love them and they understand that it was time for me to move on. They all wish me the best, none of the kids are upset, they’re sad but they know that they’re going to be in good hands, and I have faith in the administration that they’re going put together a good coaching staff here.”

Miller mentioned that the reason he took the coaching job at Arcadia is because it’s closer to home. He recently moved to Tempe, but before that he lived in Scottsdale, and the commute to Apache Junction every day would mean less time spent with his newborn son.

“I want to be a little more closer to home so my son can be involved in things that I’m doing,” he said. “I’m excited about it. Everybody at Arcadia has been very welcoming, very warm. Everybody over there is excited, so it’s going to be a good move.”

Miller is still teaching at Apache Junction High School and added it’s been difficult juggling his teaching job there and also working with the football program at Arcadia.

While he is excited about this next chapter in his life, Miller understands what he is leaving behind in Apache Junction. His goal when first taking over the program was to go back to its roots and what the community used to be proud of and just capitalize on that.

“I didn’t come out here and create any culture; we just resurrected it,” Miller said. “When I took over I got the kids to believe in themselves and then started looking a the bigger picture and developing that family feeling. The kids now are out in the community helping, doing things and they’re being respectful and doing great in class. Now that turned into a winning program just because of all the buy-in from the kids and the hard work that they put in, and the families being committed and understanding the bigger picture.”

Miller said there have already been at least 20 applicants interested in the Apache Junction football coach job, both in and out of state, which means the leap of faith he took in 2014 paid off in putting the football program on the map.

“The cupboard is not empty, and it’s a great place to be,” he said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done. I’m proud of the coaching staff I’ve had here, and I’m proud of the kids that have come through the program because they all bought in and worked their tails off to be where we’re at. Whoever comes in here is going to have a good group to work with. I’m optimistic that if they hire the right coach, they’ll continue winning out here in AJ.”

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Maria Vasquez is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.

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