Maricopa, AZ - After four weeks of varsity football, 0-4 Sequoia Pathway has decided to call it quits for the remainder of the 2023 season.
This rapid fall from grace for a 2A program that has not finished with a losing season since 2017 has left many in the Pumas community in outrage and disbelief.
Following a 5-5 campaign last season, the school did not renew Donnie Margerum’s contract and instead went in a new direction with Kerry Taylor.
According to Leto Dominguez, a current Pathway player, the cancellation was sparked by Taylor losing the locker room and capped off by degrading comments he made towards the few players they had left.
“Real reason why the season was canceled was because after Chandler Prep with having only 15 players, four of them quit within a two day period then following the next week, three more quit after not liking how they were told ‘Have fun flipping burger patties at the Circle K,’” Dominguez said on Twitter before deleting the post.
Former offensive and defensive lineman Jeremiah Irvin added that Taylor told players that they "will all be working 9-5 jobs while his life is set and he did what he had to do."
Irvin added that Taylor threatened a 15-year-old that he would beat him up. When he confronted Taylor about the threat, he said that it was "made up."
Michael Luna, a player on last year's Pathway team, also had strong words for Taylor on Twitter.
“@KerryTaylor15 came into a situation where he had a young talented team at his fingertips,” Luna said. “Instead of building off of the years of success @CoachMargerum had with this program he decided to completely degrade and completely destroy a program.”
Former Pathway athletic director Andrew King was a little more defensive of Taylor when sharing his thoughts on the state of the program.
“The issues are deeper than a football program,” King said. “Coach Taylor was put in a no-win situation from the beginning. However, he did nothing to help himself. I believe if he came in humble and took note of what Coach Margerum had done, things might have gone differently.”
Taylor, who is also Pathway’s athletic director, blames the program's problems this season on a lack of commitment from the players.
Following the Pumas most recent loss to Chandler Prep, Taylor told Pinal Central “We have guys that don’t really love football but are just out here at the moment. So, they have to figure out if they actually want to play football.”
Taylor had been let go in his previous role with San Tan Charter after his players stomped on and defaced a mid-field logo of a breast cancer awareness ribbon. He was also fired by Arcadia in 2019 for alleged recruiting and mandatory offseason practices during dead periods.
“First you blame the kids in an article, now the previous staff,” Zach Bachelder said on twitter. “Reality is you don’t care about the kids, and they know that. That’s exactly why they all decided to leave and the ones that stayed quit.”
Taylor did not immediately respond to a request from BJ Media for comment.
Timothy Kaley, a former coach and teacher at Pathway, said he could already start to see the walls closing in during the spring. First by using his position as athletic director as intimidation.
“He would tell players ‘You can’t play in your spring baseball game or volleyball game if you don’t come to this offseason workout,’” Kaley said.
According to Kaley, the boy’s volleyball coach told their players that Taylor had no right to force them to practice football in the off-season. Taylor proceeded to threaten her with her job.
“Taylor proceeded to cuss out the boy’s volleyball coach, telling her ‘the boys will be at practice or she will be fired and they will find a new volleyball coach for next year.’ Then things escalated and he proceeded to cuss her out in front of parents and students,” Kaley said.
There was also a former player, Kayden Adame, who sadly took his own life last season that the team rallied around. As a way of remembering him, the team would break on 12, the player's number. That carried throughout all sports across the Pathway community as well as the two other schools in the town of Maricopa (Maricopa HS & Desert Sunrise HS). Kaley says Taylor put that tradition to rest on day one.
“At the end of the first spring practice, the boys broke the huddle on 12. Taylor told them that was last year and they will need to stop saying it because the team is moving on,” Kaley said.
It was then that Kaley had enough. He forwarded his concerns to the AIA, who forwarded his complaint to the district. In a move of retaliation, Kaley was also threatened with his job.
“I was called into the principal's office with the assistant superintendent and was told that ‘reporting that violation to the AIA was grounds for termination and if I said anything about the football program or the AD, I would be terminated,” Kaley said.
Overall, this situation is a heartbreaker for the student-athletes, program, and community involved. These kids only get four years of high school sports. To have one of them ripped away in any circumstance is a tragedy.
“He inherited a team of 56 players,” Kaley said. “Some of the players that I know or who I’ve coached for years tell me feedback about the outrageous stuff [Taylor] says to them.”