In only its third season of football in the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), Queen Creek’s American Leadership Academy (ALA) is the Arizona 3A AIA state football champion. They defeated the Sabino Sabercats 31-14 over the weekend to cap an improbable run to the title. One big reason for the quick success of the Patriots is the coaching of offensive coordinator Max Hall. Both Hall and the Patriots have seen a quick rise to success while overcoming significant odds.
Let’s start with the Patriots. At the onset of this season many doubted the small charter school in Arizona could compete in AIA 3A, let alone win it. The Patriots have only been in the football business for eight years. Their first five were in the Canyon Athletic Association (CAA), and they made the jump to AIA just three years ago. In their first year in the AIA the Patriots made it to the Division V 2A playoffs, losing soundly 47-6 to Thatcher in the first round. Last year they made it to the Division V 2A state semifinals.
The Patriots were the No. 4 seed going into the playoffs this season. Their No. 4 seeding, despite only one loss during the regular season, is probably thanks to their upward re-classification from 2A to 3A. While they re-classified up, their only loss of the season came to Sabino, who also re-classified, moving down from 4A to 3A. Sabino was a popular pre-season pick to win it all.
The Patriots got more than revenge for the early season loss, as they blew out the Sabercats 31-14. They were led by senior quarterback Dallin Edwards, had to make major adjustments as leading rusher Jermiah Boyd was pulled in the first quarter after taking a big hit to the head. Edwards turned to several underutilized receivers, including big BYU-commit Donovan Hanna. Hanna had a career night with a touchdown reception, six punts, and five tackles including four sacks. The offensive adjustments came under the tutelage of Max Hall, who is getting really good at making adjustments.
Hall’s road to success started fifteen years ago, when as a quarterback he led Mountain View High School (Mesa, AZ) to a state title, earning MVP and offensive player of the year. After redshirting at Arizona State University, Hall served an LDS mission to Iowa and then transferred to BYU. At BYU he quarterbacked several big games, including Las Vegas Bowl victories over UCLA and Oregon State, a 48-24 beat down at the hand of Utah, and a 14-13 victory over No. 3 ranked Oklahoma. He ended his collegiate career as the winningest quarterback of all-time at BYU.
After going undrafted in the 2010 NFL draft, Hall signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals, who were in desperate need of a back-up quarterback. His pro career started well with back-up duty in a few games before being named the starter. His first start resulted in a 30-20 victory over New Orleans, the defending super bowl champions. He played off-and-on for the remainder of the 2010-11 season. and was then waived and placed on injury reserve. He did not play during the 2011-12 season.
In 2012, Hall started his coaching career as he served as a graduate assistant for the BYU football team. After that season he joined the Winnipeg of the Canadian Football League. He started nine games for the Blue Bombers, but with just a 1-8 record was released at the conclusion of the season.
Hall became the offensive coordinator for hometown Gilbert High School (AZ) in 2014, but was relieved from his coordinator duties when he was arrested for shoplifting and possession of cocaine. He sought out help for his drug addiction, and after some time in rehab he did an interview with Fox 10 sportscaster Jude LaCava. Coach Rich Edwards at ALA saw the interview and was impressed with how Hall owned his mistakes and was seeking to improve his life and the lives of others. Edwards sought Hall out and after a few months made him the offensive coordinator for the Patriots last season.
Turns out that taking a chance on Hall was a good move. ALA has benefited from Hall’s professional experience and the offense has really thrived under his tutelage. Hall is once again a champion as both he and the ALA Patriots have overcome the odds.