For the seventh year in a row, the man they call “Bam” is spending the summer months guiding a mass of young football players through a litany of conditioning drills on the fields of Mountain View High School.
A former University of Arizona strength and conditioning coach, Clarence McRae has done his part to turn the Lions into one of the most consistent programs in Southern Arizona.
Those scrappy Lions have gone 7-4 in consecutive seasons, making the playoffs in each, thanks in part to McRae’s mixture of adrenaline-pumping offensive prowess and defensive mettle.
The result of the ballyhooed combo has been four appearances in the Division 5A playoffs in McRae’s six seasons at the helm.
This fall, which begins with a showdown against regional rival Ironwood Ridge High School on Aug. 31, should feature more of the same for McRae’s squad.
The Lion’s coach gushes with confidence about his players. He said they possess a deep core of experience at offensive and defensive skill positions.
McRae will have the luxury of relying on the speed, elusiveness and talent of senior wide receiver Joshua Hart—who hauled in a team-best 619 yards on 25 catches a year ago.
McRae will also have juniors Varney Larson and Edward Gastelum, who rushed for 971 combined yards in the backfield a year ago.
The Lions have a murderer’s row of defenders, in linebackers Calib McRae (Clarence’s son) and Aaron Logsdon, who racked up 144 tackles combined, back for another season.
It’s that combination of offensive and defensive experience and maturity that gives McRae such confidence.
“I think we’re a very athletic and physical team,” McRae said. “We’re very long on the outsides and the edges and were very quick and athletic.”
McRae has been impressed by the effort he’s seen from his players through their early season practices this summer, both on the field and in the weight room.
Such effort gives the Lions a solid foundation of fundamental knowledge, allowing them to excel once the season kicks off this fall.
“Spring is a time where you get the opportunity to hopefully develop some young guys and try to put together some depth,” he said. “So, next year as you’re going in, you kind of have an idea of what type of team you’ll have.”
McRae expects to name a starting quarterback in August, with three young men competing for the starting position in summer camp.
The key in choosing a quarterback rests on each candidate’s ability to execute passing plays, while also displaying enough athleticism to open up running opportunities for the team.
“We always want our quarterbacks to use the physical attributes to run and use their legs to create plays but also use their mind create place,” McRae said. “And I think we got three guys who were capable of doing the job.”
Josh Hart hopes to use the summer months to hone his route-running and catching skills, so he can be at his best for his senior season.
The lanky receiver believes his offseason work on the field with his quarterbacks, and working on his strength and conditioning, will pay off come August.
“I want to get faster out here,” Hart said. “I’m working with my hands a little bit. Just trying to perfect my explosiveness when I get the ball, trying to have that second gear so I can outrun defenders.”
For the younger McRae, this summer offers an opportunity to shepherd some of the team’s younger players forward, taking on a leadership role he’s long coveted.
“We got a very young group this year,” he said. “So, we’ve just been trying to lead them in the right ways. Just teach them how to work, how to work hard and how to finish everything.”
Calib believes this year’s Lions squad has a better sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness than others he’s played on, which can help the squad go further come playoff time.
“These guys are very fun to be around, but they work hard when we need them to or since time serious on the field,” he said. “But we joke around a lot. Things like that. We have good chemistry, and we have fun together as well.”
One of the things that Clarence McRae enjoys most about coaching Mountain View is the yearly battles with regional rivals like Marana, IRHS and Cienega.
McRae knows how tough it can be to build a healthy rivalry that can toe the line between bad blood and bad sportsmanship. He also knows how much it means to his players to square off against lifelong friends, with the elevated stakes of pride on the line.
“I definitely think rivalries are always great for sport—but you have to teach your kid what it means to be alive on the field, but at the same time be a great sportsmen off the field,” he said. “Competition is something that we definitely want to embrace, and we want the challenges on a day to day basis. So, we love playing the bigger schools, the better opponents because we have to challenge ourselves in order to grow.”
For Calib, the opportunity to play his crosstown friends each year gives an extra shot of motivation, both on and off the field. He’s thankful to have the opportunity to face his friends at rival schools, and to have such a healthy slate of competition in the region.
“Our coach put a great schedule, so we get out there,” Calib said. “There is a great battle. This battle, you know who you’re playing. So, it’s can kind of get a little bit chippy, but you know, it’s all for love. Football is great. I’m grateful for the great for the city too as well.”