Centennial head coach Richard Taylor has built a dominant Coyotes football program

Coach has won over 75 percent of his games over 27 year career
By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Glendale Star Staff Writer

Photo by Darrell Jackson

Centennial head coach Richard Taylor, shown stalking the sidelines earlier this season, lead the team into their fifth straight title game Dec. 1 at ASU Sun Devil Stadium.

Buzz on Sports
DARRELL JACKSON

“I think I have won enough high school football games, and, to be perfectly honest, the reason I still do this is there is a lot of kids that need guidance and help and that is why I still enjoy doing this.” -- Centennial head football coach Richard Taylor

There are three certainties in life for everyone in the West Valley: death, taxes and the Centennial High School football game playing in the Arizona Interscholastic Association football title game.
On Dec. 1, the Centennial Coyotes will battle Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep in the 5A state title game for the second consecutive season at Arizona State University Stadium, with both teams entering the game undefeated.
I have covered high school sports for more than 25 years, throughout California and Oregon before moving to Arizona, and I have covered some amazing football teams in that time.
I will say this: The 2018 Centennial Coyotes may be having the best single football season I have covered in three states over the past 25 years.
The defense has allowed 78 points in 13 games, an average of six points per game. Think about that. They allowed one touchdown per game, and had five shutouts in their first 10 games of the season – including four straight to end the season.
The offense has scored 564 points (43.2 average) with their leading rusher, Tawee Walker, with 878 yards and four others (Jaydin Young, Jeiel Stark, Davon Fountain and Marc Jacob) each with more than 300. Throw in quarterback Jonathan Morris with 2,097 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Eight different players have scored a rushing touchdown, led by Walker’s 17, and six have caught touchdown passes, led by A.J. Jackson and Dyelan Millers with six each.
The closest game this team has had, was a six-point win over nationally ranked Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in week three. The team is winning its games by an average of 37.1 points per game.
While not one player stands out on the level of a LeBron James-type player, you may wonder how this team is so dominant.
It all starts at the top with the head coach.
I have covered some amazing coaches in my career, and I have never seen the respect and reverence for a coach from his players like I see in Richard Taylor.
Taylor has been the only head football coach Centennial has had, which is a rarity in high school sports — to have lasted 27 seasons with one team. Over that time, Taylor has compiled a 199-68-3 regular season record through 2018. Add in his 47-12 playoff record and he has compiled a 246-80 record over his career.
“I think I have won enough high school football games,” Taylor said. “To be perfectly honest, the reason I still do this is there is a lot of kids that need guidance and help and that is why I still enjoy doing this.”
And help kids he has done, both on and off the field, but on the field there may not be a better coach in Arizona.
The Coyotes last missed the playoffs in 2001 and since then, they have made the semifinals or later in 14 of the past 15 seasons. This includes six state championships (2006, 07, 08, 14, 15, 17) and four runners up (2005, 10, 12, 15).
I have broken up the Centennial football into three sections, the first 10 seasons, the transition into domination.
When Taylor was hired to start the program, the first 10 seasons (1992-2001), the team only finished over .500 three times, with its best record being 6-4 (three times — 1993, 1995 and 2001) and made the playoffs only once, (1995, losing in the first round). Taylor compiled a 46-51-3 (.474) record in that time, but remained the head coach, which would rarely happen nowadays.
“Our first few years here at Centennial when the record was 46-51-3, I was so proud of those players,” Taylor said. “We played with 190-pound players and they gave everything they had. Those players set the foundation for the success we’ve had in the last few years.”
During what I will call the transition (2002-2005), the Coyotes began their transformation to one of the dominant teams in the West Valley compiling a 35-5 (.875) record and made the playoffs each of those seasons. They would lose in  the first round (2002), advance to the quarterfinals (2003), the semifinals (2004), before their first title game appearance in 2005, losing to Phoenix North Canyon 26-16.
After that loss, the domination would begin starting in 2006.
It started with the first state title for the Coyotes in 2006, which was the first of three in a row. They would not win the state title again until 2014, but during those five off seasons, their regular season record was 47-4 (.921) and they lost in the state title game twice.
Since 2006, the Coyotes have lost 12 regular season games. Think about that: 12 losses over the past 13 seasons and three of those losses came in 2015, when they actually won the Division I state title.
“Players have stayed motivated over the last decade or so by pushing each other,” Taylor said. “We have high expectations and also the expectation of being in the weight room and working hard and everyone buys into those.”
But what may be even better is the future of this program may be even stronger.
While they lose 28 players to graduation, they return a strong core of juniors, including running back Jaydin Young, quarterback Jonathan Morris and wide receiver Dyelan Miller.
Throw in unheralded sophomores Oscar Abundis (6’6’’, 318 pounds), Filipo Teofilo (6’3’’, 315), Zayden Ennis (6’2’’, 301) and Caiden Miles (6’4’’, 290) and just think of the possibilities on the offensive line.
As they prepare for their fifth straight title game appearance, Taylor knows his players are ready and they are ready for a battle and he is ready for the future.
“We expect Notre Dame Prep will be the most prepared and most talented team that we have played all year,” Taylor said. “As for the future, I will coach at Centennial until I retire and I don’t know when that will be.”

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