JULY 30, 2014

Cactus Shadows welcomes Mike Hudnutt as school’s fifth head football coach

Experienced mentor comes to CSHS after ten seasons at Willow Canyon (Surprise)
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”Mem-o-ries are made of this”   ~ Dean Martin (late 1950s)

mike hudnuttAnd … in reporting Cactus Shadows sports for Sonoran News (2001-2011), I’ve been lucky enough to enjoyably bank more than a few. To introduce new Head Football Coach Mike Hudnutt (r), I rewind to Friday night, Sept. 1, 2006: Falcons at Willow Canyon in the second regular season game of what would become their 15-0 State Championship year. “The Wild Horse” (Kyle Watkins) raced 80 yards with the opening kickoff to ignite the Falcons’ 35-14 cruise. During the Falcon coaches’ usual postgame critique, I remember, like yesterday, Defensive Coordinator Matt Bradshaw almost pleading, “Chad (DeGrenier), we gotta play Taylor (Lewan)!” In case you missed it, “Stalk,” now sprouted to a full-grown 6’7” / 310 lbs, was selected by the Tennessee Titans at #11 in the first round of last May’s NFL Draft. Yeah, I remember: a family/coaching conflict pressured Taylor to transfer to Chaparral for his senior year; but don't forget, Falcon fans, the only State Championship ring he won is embossed “Cactus Shadows - 2006”!

From the above-recalled Friday night, I also remember that I had introduced myself, pre-game, to Willow Canyon’s head coach, Mike Hudnutt. Impossible, then, to have foreseen that I was meeting the man who, eight years later, would become the 5th head coach in Cactus Shadows' football history (Gerry Labelle, Dale Nicol, Chad DeGrenier and Greg Davis). But Coach Hudnutt is, indeed, on board as of June 1. He's working hard to prepare his new team for a winning start, when the Falcons travel to Raymond Kellis (Glendale) to open the 2014 season, Friday night, Aug. 29.

Hudnutt, 43, is a native of Grinnell, Iowa. While at Grinnell High School, he was an offensive/defensive lineman, "pretty much filling in at any position the team needed," Hudnutt recalls. He continued as an offensive lineman at University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls), from which he graduated in 1993 with a degree in General Studies/Education. At Northern Iowa, Mike Hudnutt's recruiting class included a quarterback who would eventually become an NFL future Hall of Famer after leading the Arizona Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance: Kurt Warner!

Coach Hudnutt is the proud father of three children: Bric, 14, Emma, 10 and Nash, 6. During his eight seasons as head coach at Willow Canyon, his Wildcat football children reached the State Playoffs three times.  He will be seeking to guide the Falcons to their first State Playoffs berth since 2010. If, indeed, “experience is the best teacher,” the Falcons begin their new season with a solid coaching foundation.

Several weeks ago, a longtime observer of Cactus Shadows football volunteered to me, “Mike Hudnutt is the straightest shooter you’d ever want to meet.”  Recently, this same friend expressed his “excitement” at how these 2014 Falcons, in their summertime pre-season, were “jelling” as a team. Sounds encouraging, but the August 20 controlled scrimmage at Maryvale will begin to tell the story that really counts.

What is Coach Hudnutt’s up-to-the-minute evaluation of his team’s preparations for the upcoming season? “We’ve had a great pre-season.  I’m excited about the young men we have in our program. The kids have adjusted well to the unexpected coaching change. They’ve studied and worked hard to become confortable with the new schemes my staff and I have installed. We're all ready for the season to finally get underway.”

So … the countdown is on to the August 29 opener at Kellis. The next Friday night (September 5), Coach Hudnutt and the Falcons will make their home debut against … who else? None other than the Willow Canyon Wildcats!

Let’s have a packed Falcon Stadium home crowd to give Coach Mike Hudnutt a big Desert Foothills welcome!

~ Pete Mohr