By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Ybarra calls it "management by being there."
That includes standing under a large pine tree on campus during most lunch hours, asking and answering questions of his students.
He says district personnel wrongly predicted that Carl Hayden would be closed within three years after he became principal. But Ybarra resolved, whatever happened, to turn the school into something special.
"When I started, I just wanted to make sure everyone here had the same chance to get through high school as anyplace else," he says.
"Now, it's about getting them through college. The kids here are like everyone else: lots of hopes and dreams. But we don't live in a melting pot. Our kids have to learn to read and write English and Spanish and to be proficient in computers. Once they do that, they can get a job, a decent job. But a college education still is the great equalizer, period."
As for sports, the onetime football and basketball coach says he knows "firsthand how important athletics are to the life of a school and its students. It's huge."
But Steve Ybarra has a more global perspective than, say, Coach Dansby, who would love more institutional emphasis on his beleaguered football program.
"I want us to excel in every way," Ybarra says, "and I would love for us to win all of our games. But I don't expect too many of our athletes are going to become pro athletes. However, I do expect many of them to become professionals in their chosen fields. That is what matters most to me."
Cleveland Dansby toook the head-coaching job at Carl Hayden before the 2005 season. He would become the school's fourth head coach in five seasons.
Dansby's first practice in the sweltering August heat was less than auspicious.
"No one came out," he recalls.
"Well, one kid kind of wandered on out there. That was it."
The veteran coach knew he was taking on an epic task in trying to resurrect a program that, at the time, had lost its previous 24 games.
Dansby says he wanted to cancel that first season and start fresh the following year. Carl Hayden administrators soon announced that the school was done with football for the year, which would have been a first for a 5A school in Arizona (classifications generally are based on the size of a student body).
But within a few days, 28 boys — most with zero football experience — volunteered their services to salvage the season.
Predictably, the Falcons didn't come close to winning, and a mere 18 players suited up for the final game.
But Coach Dansby persevered.
He did it aware that few in his pool of players ever had participated in youth Pop Warner football and would have to learn the fundamentals of the game on the fly.
Junior high school "feeder" programs that are the norm around Arizona don't exist for Carl Hayden (Isaac Junior High, just up the street from Hayden, plays flag football only).
Dansby also knew that fútbol — not football — is the sport of choice for most Latino boys.
Still, the coach began approaching athletic-looking boys on campus and broaching the F-word: football, American-style.
"Got a lot of funny looks," Dansby says, but eventually he got enough takers to field freshman and junior varsity teams.
But his varsity team couldn't manage to win a game in the next three seasons. "The Streak," as it became known on campus and in the community, took on an ugly life of its own.
The handful of four-year players who stayed the course until this, their senior year, endured an awful lot. One of those four-year guys was Gaby Manquero, who came out as a freshman during Coach Dansby's second season.
"I told coach that I was committed to the Falcons if he wanted me," he says. "All of us have heard other kids laughing at us because of our losing. But I like to stick to my commitments."
To be honest, Cleveland Dansby wanted anybody he could get.
A youngster of Gaby Manquero's strong character and scrappiness was a plus, the kind of kid who attracts others to the fold. Gaby weighs just 130 pounds (he's dropped about 20 pounds since the start of this season) and seems to come up hobbling during most games.
But the young man rarely has missed even a practice since joining the team.
"You gotta practice or you play like crap — guaranteed," is how he puts it.
Gaby and the team's other veterans, including Tre Fields and Andres Renteria, the two other captains on this year's team, hungered to start the 2009 season.
This year's team, they reckoned, had to break the flippin' Streak.
It would be their last chance.
Football in the Valley's Metro Region is a fragile affair.
Most of the nine schools have limited rosters and have to use many players on both offense and defense during the game's 48 minutes.
The ecosystem that governs these high school programs can implode in a flash — be it by a wrenched knee, a failing grade, a family in need, whatever.
With that in mind, Carl Hayden entered this season with what the players and staff still seemed to believe was a bona fide chance at winning some ballgames.
It had it all. Congratulation to Paul Rubin. Your articles alone make me read Phoenix New Times. You are a Hit for that Paper.
Look forward to read from you - again...
You might have won San Luis one game, but come on you can not beat them in soccer. San luis is number one in soccer. Football is not known in san luis, it is not a big deal you have won one game to the weakest football team in AZ.
come on San Luis High School all always losing games. thehigh school is located in small poor community on the border of USA and Mexico. 100% of the population are hispanic were most work on the field or are illegals. They struggle every day to get enough money to eat, and football wasn't play there until five years ago when the high school was open. No ones know how to play football it isn't a big deal for them, as it is for this school that for just winning a game againstthis high school were no one knows how or have play football before high school. Come on get over it you are not the only school losing all games and just winning on game every 63 games. San luis high school only wins at maximum one game a year. And they don't make a big deal, because they know that they are more important thing in life than just a stupid football game that take five pages in newspaper.
Great story about a great man and his committment to kids. It is not always about wins and losses. It is about teaching young men about life and Dansby gets it. Men like him are not easily found. Far too many of these coaches are egotistical bastards who will chew kids up and spit them out to get a win. Most of them did not make it in their own quest and now want to live through the kids instead of for the kids. The simple thing is you can not bullshit the kids. If you care for them and show your love they will respond and play their heart out. All one has to do is look at the intensity on the field and you can usually tell if the players love and respect the coach.
Thank you for this artycle. My lil brother attends and Carl Hayden HS, and with regret to say that I'm part of the drop out stats from 2001. But I moved on to make a better person of myself.
It never really struck us to know the situations we lived in, untill reading the boldly stated words in your artycle.
It's great to know that everyone can see, we are not an ignorant race and can achieve what anyone else can, even if we have to work three times harder than everyone else, just to make it happen.
This story spoke to me on many levels. I am proud of what these young men are doing, and how thety are supportive. The circumstances of the entire CHHS community spoke to me through this story, and I have passed it to someone far away, but who is poised to come to the community and make a difference. Thank you, New Times.
it's high school football. who gives a shit. 99% will end up as used car salesmen or a circle k clerk or al bundy
And I'm sure you would turn it all around, right? I think the point of the story was that Carl Hayden even has a team, and that they try their hardest no matter what. I have no idea if the coach is a good one or a bad one, but he sounds like a decent enough guy and I loved what the players had to say. Great great story....
How can you give that head coach any credit, he has been with that school for how many years? and how many wins? what about the other squads, they HAVE WON GAMES. The coaches for the other squads are the ones who should get some credit, not this yahoo! Dansby should RESIGN!! and he should take nots from the other coaches on how to coach a squad!
Good article. I just wonder why race has to come up in every single article the New Times writes. I know that ever since Obama decided to run for office, it's been race, race, race, and race.
The players are "seemingly blind to skin color or ethnic origin." An example? They pitched in so another player would have enough money for a physical.
HUH? So the players don't "seem" racist, but they might be, and I'm just throwing this in there because they pitched in to help a teammate out. I JUST DON'T GET IT.
For a school entrenched in a crime-riddled community with a beleaguered outlook at best for most of these kids, a football program - even a losing one - can make the difference for these kids. It's nice to know they finally got that win. You have to feel for the coaches, though. Had to have been a tough haul. The biggest hero, though, is Principal Ybarra - I've seen a few news bits on him over the years, and he always manages to keep a positive perspective and unwavering support in these kids - knowing how necessary it is for schools to have programs that help kids reach beyond what is offered in their homes and neighborhood.
Great write-up & recognition. Kudos for seeing a sensational story doesn't have to have the sensationalized quality we've come to recognize as "news." Don't underestimate your readers - we do still like stories about real people.
Congratulations to the Carl Hayden players, fans and to Coach Dansby. Living proof that a winning record is not a reflection of character or heart. Coaches from other schools (like Cesar Chavez) should take note!
Greetings New Times: Many thanks to you and especially Paul Rubin for taking the time to recognize that one, single, solitary and possibly most important feat of triumph that some of these kids may ever experience. A single football win in some 67 attempts. Regardless of the turnout of the remaining games of the season, you guys at New Times granted them more than their (Warhol) alloted fifteen minutes of fame. What you've done for every one of these struggling young men goes far beyond the wrought iron and chain link confines that have become an unfortunate necessity for own their security. Your acknowledgment has touched their parents, their guardians and extended families, but beyond that it has reached even the local merchants and the general community, and in so doing has given us a small piece encouragement and hope in seeing some good come of this intentionally neglected area. In the grand and global scheme of worldly issues, Carl Hayden High and their Football Falcons have significance. In spite of their surroundings, Rubin's pen and ink will help carry them to the point of recognizing, they are important. Thanks again for noticing our community.
Sincerely, R.M. Pena,Carl Hayden, Class of '70
i know how hard it is.... i was on one those teams that was part of the losing streak.... keep ya head up falcons.....DAY BY DAY, WONT BE BEAT