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“If you feel good, you play good”

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Bringing boom boxes and spooking teams at away scrimmages. Trash talking and confidence. Not caring about what anyone else thinks of them.

These descriptions fit the culture and swagger of the Desert Edge football team located in Goodyear, or the “WestsiDE” as they would like to call it. They have co-head coaches in twins Mark and Marcus Carter, and have been at the helm of the program since 2020.

Co-head coaches are rare in today’s football landscape, but the twins make it work. They were named the 5A Desert West Region Coaches of the Year last season. Mark Carter focuses on the offense while Marcus Carter focuses on the defense.

“Desert Edge is the place to be right now,” Marcus Carter said. “The two years Mark and I [have] been here, we’re the first team in the district to go to the Open and we’re proud of that. Then last year we [learned] a lesson in the state semifinals. For us, this year is to complete the goal and win the whole thing, whether it be the Open, or whether it be the 5A championship.”

The Scorpions have a new quarterback in sophomore Hezekiah “Buddha” Millender at the helm this season after losing record-breaking quarterback Adryan Lara to Kansas State. The Carters believe that Millender can be special in his own way.

“He’s multi-dimensional,” said Mark Carter. “He’s not a game manager. He’s going to go out there and put a stamp on these games. He’s surrounded by some great receivers, he has a great running back and has a phenomenal offensive line in front of him.”

Through three games this season, Millender has completed 60% of his passes for 655 yards and nine touchdowns to just one interception.

The running game is led by senior running back Chris Cordero, who is looked at as one of the better running backs in the state. He has rushed for 375 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.

Senior offensive tackle Kaleb Carter is considered the leader of the offensive line that lost Gavin Broscious to Michigan State. He believes that he has made an incredible jump compared to last season and is relishing being a team leader.

“I want to improve on being a better leader to my teammates,” Carter said. “I feel like I’m going to do my part and make the offensive line better and get my guys next to me that’s going to do the same.”

At the wide receiver position, they are led by Johnny Arvallo, Vinny Mansfield, and Gavin Parks so far this season as they also await for Cesar Chavez transfer Kezion Dia-Johnson to return to the lineup in Week 6 against defending Open Division champion Saguaro.

“I feel like I'm Deebo Samuel over here,” Dia-Johnson said. “I can run the ball and I can catch the ball. Put me in the backfield I’ll run the ball, put me in the slot I can do the slot. I feel good.”

As for the defensive side of the ball, the Scorpions have allowed 14 points per game through three games, including a shutout in their opener against Cactus Shadows. The leaders of the defense include three-star defensive end Deshawn Warner and four-star cornerback Aundre Gibson.

“Staying consistent the whole game, dominating every single snap is the main thing that we talk about,” defensive backs coach Henri MacAurthur said. “I think the little things are what cost us last year.”

Gibson has been looking forward to stepping up as being a vocal leader on the team and helping his teammates get better.

“Like our coaches say: take one game at a time,” Gibson said. “I feel like last season when we were having a productive season, we looked too far ahead.”

In 2020, the Scorpions lost in the first round of the Open Division playoffs to Chandler. Last season, the Scorpions lost to Salpointe Catholic in the 5A Semifinals.

This season, they will look to put it all together and achieve the ultimate goal of winning a state championship. The players and coaches have bought into the culture and believe in what the Carters are doing.

“If you see it, you know it’s there,” Kaleb Carter said. “You know how we roll. You know how we [are] coming: all day, every day.”

“We’re the most hype team in the state for sure,” Gibson said. “It’s just the culture. That’s how we get down over here. We don’t try to be like everyone else.”

“They really instilled a great culture of the kids being able to be themselves, but still being accountable,” MacAurthur said. “The kids know the standard, the standard is high but they’re still able to be themselves and have fun. I like to think we have the best culture in the state.”

Mark and Marcus Carter have an intent to reach out and impact their players in a positive, unique way while wanting them to work hard and compete.

“Our kids can be themselves,” Mark Carter said. “We’re not going to sacrifice our kids’ comfort for your feelings. The shirts that they wear, the way they carry themselves. When you see me on social media going to bat for a kid or advocating for people, kids want to see that, kids want to play for that. People want to be a part of something.”

“We’re really looking forward [to] the opportunity to compete,” said Marcus Carter. “Our work is cut out for us but our boys are ready for the test. We don’t want the easy way, we like doing things the hard way and we’re going to give this our best effort each and every Friday night.”

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