The Next Chapter of Basha Football

After going 6-3 in the 2020-shortened COVID season, the Basha Bears have seen nothing but success on the football field. The Bears made their first Open Division appearance in 2021, losing to Liberty in the first round, but they would turn things around the next season by winning the Open Division title, beating Saguaro 28-21. Although things didn’t end the way they would’ve hoped last season, the Bears still made the Open Division for a third straight year in what was an amazing run for a second straight state title.

As the Bears enter the 2024–25 high school football season, Head Coach Chris McDonald feels as though this is a new era for his team. “It’s this new chapter for these kids, and they understand that,” said Coach McDonald. “They’re following some kids that have really put Basha on the map, and they want to continue that and not let their teammates from prior years down.”

Basha’s Head Coach Chris McDonald observing practice from afar.

Basha enters the spring with plenty of Division I athletes all over the field. The Bears reload with plenty of size and athleticism on their offensive line and lots of speed in the backfield. However, there’s one crucial piece of the Bears’ offense from the past few seasons that they will be missing. That, of course, is Demond Williams. 

Williams, who was a four-year starter on varsity at Basha High School, left an everlasting legacy in the Arizona high school football world. Originally signing to play at the University of Arizona, Williams chose to follow head coach Jedd Fisch to Washington when he got hired just about a week after Williams got on campus at Arizona.

“People always doubted him a little bit,” said McDonald. “He’s used to competing and fighting for what is his. I got to go up there and watch him practice and compete in the [All-American Game], and the things that he was doing in that game against All-Americans was the same thing I’ve seen on Friday nights here in Arizona, doing it locally for four years.”

Williams is in very good contention to be the starting quarterback for the Huskies next fall. But with him gone, it leaves Coach McDonald with a question he hasn’t had to ask himself in the last four years. Who is going to be our starting quarterback?

Coach McDonald talked about the journey to find their next quarterback: “We’re right at the beginning. It’s all about giving all these kids an opportunity to compete for the job.” The Bears have a handful of quarterbacks that will be competing for the starting job this spring, including Karsten Lee in the Class of 2025 and Brodie Vehrs from the Class of 2026, who were both backups to Demond Williams last season. “They’ve got to earn it, and they’ve got to show what they can do on the field and then what they can do off the field as well in their leadership.”.

Basha’s 2024 quarterback room having a talk during their spring practice.

Whoever the starting quarterback may be, there’s no doubt that they’ll not only have weapons but also be protected. Basha has two highly touted offensive linemen that will be out on the gridiron for them this season. That’s Class of 2025 Sam Garcia and Class of 2027 Jake Hilldebrand. Both have a couple Division I offers and great size that will be a big part of the Bears goal of making another Open Division Championship run next season. Basha’s size is one of the contributing factors to what will set them apart from most teams in the state next season.

Basha isn’t too deep into spring ball yet, but one takeaway for Coach McDonald has been how big and fast his team looks. “I feel that we’re big and fast, and so it’s exciting,” said Coach McDonald. One of the key things McDonald pointed out is that he sees that the makeup of his team is also different from the ones in previous years. “We’ve had multiple kids that either graduated in December or are graduating here in May that have been starters for four years or three years. For a lot of these kids, it’s new faces, and so with that, they also understand that there’s some jobs open, so it’s just fun watching a lot of these kids compete.”

Basha’s offense running through the motions of their plays during spring practice.

This upcoming Basha team is one of the younger teams that Chris McDonald has seen during his tenure as Basha Head Coach. McDonald, who has been the head coach of the Bears since 2018, said that even though his team is young, there’s plenty of experience on both sides of the ball. “I like the way I like the way our kids compete. I like the way they compete with the effort that they do.”

Basha had six underclassmen starters last season on defense who will all be returning to the field this year. Some of the returners led the Bears in certain statistical categories. One of which is senior defensive lineman Bleu Dantzler, who had 7.5 sacks last season, leading the team. Basha also returns two of their best tacklers, Class of 2026 linebackers Eli Cramer-Cronin and Dante Bruley, who both averaged 9.5 tackles last season. All three players are expected to be big leaders for the Bears on defense next season.

Offensively, there’s one player that sticks out more than others when it comes to what they’ll do from a production standpoint next season. Class of 2025 wide receiver Gio Richardson is one who’s expected to have a big senior campaign. As a junior, Richardson was the leading receiver on Basha’s roster. Averaging 74.4 receiving yards per game, Richardson totaled 893 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns off of 55 receptions. Gio has also racked up a couple Division I offers this off-season and is being heavily targeted by Arizona State.

While Basha may not have their big-name guy next season, Coach McDonald is more than confident that he has plenty of players on his roster that are more than capable of filling the role. Basha has produced lots of great talent over the last couple of years, and it only seems that’s a train that will keep on rolling. Keep your eyes on the Bears as they look to make another run for an Open Division Championship.


Adam Beadle

Adam Beadle is the Student Sports Director at 88.7 The Pulse. Included in his director duties, Adam writes for, does play-by-play for the local Pulse Sports High School Game of The Week broadcasts, and hosts his weekly show, every Friday from 1-2pm, The Adam Beadle Sports Show. Adam currently covers High School sports, Arizona State athletics, the Phoenix Suns, and Phoenix Rising FC for 88.7 The Pulse.

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