Ian Monje
ASU Student Journalist

Buckeye Union's leadership and chemistry is paying dividends in 4-1 start

October 7, 2022 by Ian Monje, Arizona State University

Buckeye Union warming up for their game against Estrella Foothills.

Ian Monje is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Buckeye Union High School for AZPreps365.

BUCKEYE — This football season for Buckeye Union High School sparked a new era with head coach David “Puni” Ellis.

In his first season as head coach, the Hawks have started off hot at 4-1 heading into their next game against their district rival, Estrella Foothills.

For all athletes, rivalry games are some of the most intense of the season. It is important for these athletes to stay grounded and not let the tension get in the way of their play.

This is where leadership is needed the most. It's a point of emphasis for Buckeye’s coaching staff starting with Puni. 

“Leadership qualities is one of the biggest things we emphasize, with our seniors especially,” Puni said. “It’s more (about) keeping your composure.”

Chemistry is key to any sports team. That's been built with countless events and hours of spending time together.

In fact, the Hawks value chemistry so much that the team plans a trip to Hawaii every couple of years courtesy of their fundraising efforts.

Senior running back Viliami “Vili” Tongotea is a vocal leader who leads the pregame chant. The loud and passionate group rallies one another to get pumped up for the game.

The togetherness they display game by game is truly unique and something every team doesn't have. Senior defensive end Aidan Nobbs is a player who is very happy with the team chemistry.

Nobbs is also a vocal leader for the Hawks. His energy and competitiveness is felt once the pads are on and it does not matter if it is practice or game time, he is going to bring it on every snap. 

For Nobbs, leadership is about accountability.

“To me, leadership means like, standing up if everybody is goofing off and horsing around, and coaches are trying to get your attention, you are the person to yell out like, ‘stop talking, pay attention,’” Nobbs said.

Nobbs is a leader who is also very diplomatic. He is a player who is always locked and makes sure the team stays focused on the task at hand. 

“You just can’t take these guys lightly,” Nobbs said. “If we know that they are not that much of a good team, you know, you still can’t underestimate them.”

It is especially important for younger players to lean on not only their coaches, but to also on the experienced seniors.

Senior linebacker Brock Holt is one of the main leaders of the locker room. He holds a “forgive and forget” mentality after every game.

His "forgive and forget" mentality was brought up after a tough loss against Cesar Chavez High School, a school that plays two divisions above Buckeye.

The Hawks are unmoved by the loss with the attitude that they have. The talent and love the team has is a culture Puni has set from day one, and they will continue use that edge in pursuit of victories.