Kayla Singleton is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University covering Tolleson Union High School athletics.
In its first football season since 2019, Tolleson Union has had a challenging start, losing its first two games. But as the season progresses the team remains hopeful.
One reason for hope is senior three-star quarterback, Isaac Madrigal. The Wolverines upcoming game on Friday, Sept. 17 at Pinnacle will be the second game he is eligible for this season.
“It feels good to be eligible now, I can go out there and play with my boys,” said Madrigal. “So it feels good to be back out there and going to war with them.”
Losing in their season opener at Agua Fria, 28-6, and to O’Connor, 43-6, the following week has not ruined team morale.
“We’ve all been more locked in this week,” said Madrigal. “I’ve never seen everybody focus the way we have all been.”
During its morning practices at 6:30 a.m. on their new turf field, Tolleson is preparing to face Pinnacle, also with a 0-2 record after losing to Horizon, 17-16, and Highland, 30-22.
Pinnacle went 1-3 in league and 3-4 overall last season but due to COVID-19, Tolleson did not play a single game in 2020. Many seniors lost out on their last season and returning players are coming back fresh.
In his first season as head coach at Tolleson, Rich Wellbrock wasn’t expecting the season to be easy.
“I think it’s been a rollercoaster. They got new coaches, they got a new field, our campus is being revitalized,” said Wellbrock. “I think everybody knew our games two and three were gonna be pretty rough weeks for us.”
After experiencing two losses, the coaching staff is learning about their players and is making adjustments.
“One of the biggest adjustments [we’ve made] was obviously getting our quarterback last week. I think it’s everybody kind of catching up to speed with him,” said Wellbrock. “We’ve made some personnel changes and some tweaks with what we do. Now let’s see if it works.”
So far this season, the leaders in the passing game have been Madrigal, who is 11 of 24 with a touchdown in his first game and Zack Wren for Pinnacle who is 20 of 39 with a touchdown.
Tolleson running back Marcus Hernandez has the most carries with 26 for 92 yards. Leading Pinnacle is Jacobie Rucker who has 27 carries for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Tolleson’s leading receiver, Clinton Moindi has had 9 receptions for 412 yards compared to Pinnacle’s Duce Robinson with 8 receptions for 143 yards and 1 touchdown.
For Tolleson, Jorge Delgado has had 10 solo tackles and 14 total, as well as one sack. Pinnacle’s Carson Tinineko has 23 total tackles.
Going into Friday, increased focus and adjusting to a new QB is helping team spirit for Tolleson.
“[I feel] way more confident,” said Delgado. “We can hang with teams if not even beat them.”
In the non-conference game, both teams will be fighting for their first win hoping to turn their season around.