Coolidge vs. Gilbert Christian 11/13/20

Coolidge linebacker Malachi Rodriguez, 5, chases down a Gilbert Christian ballcarrier Nov. 13.

COOLIDGE — After a season unlike any other cut some of the seniors’ careers short, many on the Coolidge football team are still being recognized for their performance on the gridiron.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association on Monday announced its region awards for the 2020 season, and Coolidge’s big winner was Malachi Rodriguez. Among the five schools in the 3A Central region, the coaches who select the awards determined Rodriguez was the defensive player of the year.

“It’s really cool that that happened for him,” Coolidge coach Rodger Schenks said. “He worked really hard this year to make his teammates better.”

It was a tough season for the whole team dealing with COVID restrictions, but especially for the seniors whose careers ended sooner than expected after sevens starters had to sit out the final two games. Schenks said Rodriguez took it hard because he didn’t have his buddies out there with him like they had been for years, but he stepped into a leadership role nonetheless.

“For Malachi, it was hard for him because he’s not really outspoken,” Schenks said. “He’s more of a quiet type. By the end of the year, though, you could see the change, and he definitely helped us.”

Rodriguez had plenty of company among the region honors, as many Bears were also named to the all-region first and second teams.

There were 11 players named to the first team, including Augustin Chiang who made it twice as a defensive back and kickoff returner. He is joined by Amir Pinder (defensive line) Charles Daniels-Jeffries (defensive line), Tad Lynch (punter), Robert Feierstein (linebacker), Froylan Gonzalez (offensive line), Joseph Cardenas (offensive line), Greg Rodriguez (running back), Connor Ferguson (wide receiver) and Angelo Palacios (long snapper).

Then there’s Jacob Gunter, who got his first opportunity to start at quarterback after years of being a backup. Because American Leadership Academy-Gilbert North quarterback Jack Ricedorff was named the region’s offensive player of the year, Gunter slotted into be first-team quarterback following a season where he threw for 1,035 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 66% completion rate in only five games. He only had one interception.

There were four Bears named to the all-region second team, including Jaden Hunt (defensive line), Palacios (linebacker), Lynch (wide receiver) and Denzel Glass (offensive line). There were also four honorable mentions with Ferguson (defensive back), Beclem Namegabe (defensive back), Adrian Remirez (offensive line) and Jose “Bruce” Ruiz (wide receiver).

Along with Ricedorff’s award, ALA-Gilbert North also had the region’s player of the year in Spencer Nielson and coach of the year in Randy Ricedorff.