Head coach Jake Teyechea is entering his second year at the helm of the Nogales High School football program he once participated in as a player.
A member of the Class of 2009 at NHS, he graduated from Arizona State University in 2013 and returned to Nogales a year later as a history teacher and football coach. After four years of leading the Apaches’ freshman and junior varsity teams, and serving in various assistant coaching roles on the varsity, Teyechea was hired as the NHS head coach starting with the 2018 season, taking over a team that had gone 3-7 in its final season of 4A Conference play.
In an interview after his appointment to the head coach position, he said he wanted bring back the “border town grit” that characterized successful Apaches teams of the past.
He spoke to NI prior to a scrimmage game with Flowing Wells High School on Aug. 14 about his experience so far.
What was something that you implemented during your first year that worked well, and that you’re continuing to do?
Definitely character-building. Trying to get these kids to really understand that they can be role models, and that everything they do on and off the field is a reflection of us as a program and us as a school. And I think once they realize that it’s more about the character than it is about “me,” they develop better skills both in the classroom and on the field.
Last year, the team was involved in SaydeStrong (an organized effort to support a local child born with a congenital heart defect). Are you getting involved in any new projects this year?
We picked that cause up, we’re trying to jump in on a few more. We’re in the talks right now, me and my staff, about making something for Sayde that has her name a part of it, and that gives to people who need help, so if another student is sick and their family needs help, we want to reach out.
We want to reach back to Officer Cordova and definitely do something for the police department, first responders. We really want to get more into the community and reach out, let the kids show facial and get pride in their town and this group.
On the flip side, was there anything that you tried doing last year that didn’t go so well, but that you learned from?
I think the one thing that we tried last year that kind of backfired was what we called “whitewashing,” and trying to get the kids involved at a sooner date. Being in a small town, there’s been a lot of years when it’s been hard to get the kids out in the summer. And I think we kind of limited ourselves when we raised our expectations, and some things were misinterpreted when we said, “Got to go to summer ball, got to come to spring ball,” and some kids were deterred because they want to go on family vacation…
Our upperclassmen jumped in on it right away. It was the younger guys that wanted to go on summer break.
So I think this season, definitely, give them a welcoming vibe and a more understanding vibe, but trying to get these kids more involved in coming into the offseason understanding what the weightlifting and the conditioning all that stuff does.
So basically, just to back off a little bit on the perception that they were required to do all that stuff?
It’s more about changing the perception of… We thought that if we were firm and believed in, “this is what we’ve got to build,” that kids would start coming out. But we started changing an old culture too fast, and I think we need to take baby steps into it and grow the program from within first, and then start throwing out lines to start reeling in outside players and younger players.