One by one the freshman and sophomores that make up Crismon High School’s first-ever football roster lined up in front of head coach Corbin Smith.
The Rattlers had just wrapped up a summer practice at Newell Barney Junior High School, which sits about two miles west of the Crismon campus that still remains under construction. Before each player went to take off their cleats and gather their belongings, they shook Smith’s hand.
It’s something that started after one of the Rattlers’ spring practices. It’s carried over to every practice ever since and is one of the many new traditions he plans to establish in Crismon’s first year.
“As it has gone on, everybody shakes hands when they go off,” Smith said. “Being a new school, we can establish those tradition and that is the first one. One of the things my dad always said was after every practice go into the locker room and check attitude and mental well-being.
“This is a way we do it. You can have a bad practice but at the end you shake hands. It does a lot for a player to know the coaches are behind them.”
Smith was tabbed as the school’s first-ever head football coach back in January. Athletic Director Barry Cromer went on to add several more coaches of Smith’s caliber, all of which have come from local schools and varying levels of experience.
Smith previously coached at McClintock and comes from a family that is dedicated to football. His father, Larry, was a head college coach for several years and made stops at Arizona, USC and Missouri, among others. Smith coached under his father at the collegiate level when his playing career ended.
He has now carried over some of the same philosophies he learned from his father to Crismon, where he is able to truly put his own stamp on the program as he builds it from the ground up. He’s also taken what he has learned from Preston Jones, his ex-brother-in-law who built the Perry football program into a state title contender.
“I’ve taken a lot from what Preston did at Perry,” Smith said. “Not everything, but some of it. He did a lot of good things over there.”
Part of building a program starts with the traditions established.
Along with shaking each coach’s hands after every practice, Smith said the players will choose a teacher every week to wear their game jerseys throughout the school day. The program will also include four teachers in their pre-game meal.
Other ideas he has include singing the fight song before every game in the locker room and after with the band. Smith wants his players to be prideful for the program and school they represent on the football field. Especially with this roster, they have a special opportunity.
They can lay the foundation for Crismon to be a successful program. In 15 years, Smith said, he wants this group to be able to look back at what they built and be proud.
“This is the start of the program. It’s up to us to set the tone,” Reidhead said. “Being able to come back here like (Smith) said 15 years later is going to be amazing because we built it up. It’s going to be an awesome program to be a part of.”
Reidhead and fellow incoming freshman Keith Price have emerged as leaders of the program. Smith said they are always at summer workouts and have begun to lead at their respective positions.
As the team’s quarterback, Reidhead takes on a more advanced leadership role for Crismon. It’s a position he has played for several years now with various youth tackle football teams in the Queen Creek area.
Both he and Price saw an opportunity to help build a new football program when they decided to enroll at Crismon over other schools in the area. They also enjoy being a part of a class that isn’t very large to begin with. They want to be the ones to establish tradition at the school and a culture centered around winning.
“We start now and come back later, this will be a completely different school, a completely different program,” Price said. “Just being able to get to know everyone and working hard every day with coach teaching us new stuff so we can be great, it’s been amazing.”
Crismon has had about 30 players show up to summer workouts. Smith said he expects about 20 more to join when school begins.
The Rattlers aim to field one team this season that will play an independent schedule that consists of some freshman and junior varsity games. Red Mountain’s freshman/sophomore team is on Crismon’s schedule as well as Gilbert Christian, Snowflake and Payson, among others.
The summer months have been grueling for the players who are becoming acclimated to a new program. But with the official start of fall practices just a week away, there’s even more excitement brewing. On July 25, Crismon will put on helmets for the first time. Just under a month later on Aug. 18, the school will officially play its first-ever football game.
It’s something Smith has been looking forward to since he was hired to build the program. His players are equally as excited.
“It’s going to be fun,” Smith said. “I’ve never coached the lower level so it’s going to be interesting. But it’s all fun. The schedule, coming up with different logos, it’s all really cool.”