In just its third year in existence, the Shadow Ridge football team is already making history in Surprise.
This year, the team recorded its most successful season yet, ending 9-3 and making it as far as the Division III quarterfinals before falling last week to Goodyear Desert Edge, 40-14.
With its victory over Tucson Catalina Foothills on Nov. 8., Shadow Ridge became the first football program in the district to win a playoff game.
“We’re happy and disappointed at the same time,” coach Rico Tipton said.
The team fell short of its goal of winning it all, but continues to make strides. Shadow Ridge has been to the playoffs two out of its three seasons, losing in the first round last year. The early success is not a fluke, the coach said.
“The plan was to be on the fast track. We weren’t coming in here looking at eventually being good,” Tipton said. “Basically, we’ve been improving every year, and we definitely expect that to continue.”
Shadow Ridge had its first sizable senior class this year. It loses a huge piece of its offense with the graduation of running back Chris Salsberry. He carried the ball 312 times for 2,216 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. He is currently the No. 2 running back in the state, according to Maxpreps.
Salsberry ends his career at Shadow Ridge with 5,473 rushing yards and averaging 7.18 yards a carry.
Tipton said Salsberry does not know where he’ll play next year, but he’s got his sights on Division I and the NFL after that.
“He’s the type of kid that can make it that far,” he said. “He is that good.”
Tipton is already looking at next year.
“We’re already making plans and getting underclassmen ready for the next season,” he said. “We’re expecting real big things.”
Talent and commitment on the field won’t be an issue, Tipton said. The players now have an expectation to succeed.
But for Shadow Ridge to maintain its success long-term, the coach said it’s vital to establish support outside the school.
“It’s all about supporting programs. Money is always important,” he said. “It takes money and resources to grow things. As a district and community, we have to get behind these high-school athletics.”