Florence (Ariz.) High School was rocked Tuesday morning by the news that football coach Stephen McKane died of a heart attack.
McKane, in his second season as head coach, suffered the attack at about 6 a.m. and could not be revived, his father, Bill, said. The former Mesa High two-way star football player, who will be inducted into the Mesa High Hall of Fame in November, was 38. He had three sons, ages 11, 8 and 5.
Bill McKane, very shaken, talked about his son in a phone interview this afternoon as he was on his way to Florence High to address the players and run practice. The former Mesa coach, who was helping his son out this season, said he will take over the team for the rest of this season.
“I’m going to coach their butt off,” Bill McKane said. “I know we’re just sophomores and it’s like a JV team playing varsity. But he loved them. He knew what the future was. I’m going to take that forward.”
The young team (3-3) had won three in a row, before losing last Friday to defending Division IV champion Chandler Seton Catholic 60-20. The Gophers play host to San Tan Valley Combs on Friday night.
Last year, in McKane’s first season, Florence went 5-5, but won four of its final five games.
McKane was an all-state center and linebacker at Mesa High in the early 1990s. He was part of Mesa’s 1990 and ’92 state championship teams.
Former Mesa coach Jim Rattay called McKane the best center he ever coached.
“Mikel Moreno got all of the attention, but Stephen was the glue,” Rattay said. “He was a rock, a phenomenal two-way football player, a great leader.”
Mesa coach Kelley Moore hired Stephen McKane to be his defensive coordinator in his first season at Glendale Independence in 2001.
“He was the most loyal, dedicated, humble guy,” Moore said. “He was a chip off the old block, just like his dad.”
Bill McKane said his son had great passion for the Florence football players.
“He was doing his thing as a teacher and a football coach, living his life,” Bill said, sobbing. “I guess the good Lord decided it’s time, but gosh darn it, it’s hard.”
Richard Obert writes for AZCentral.com, a Gannett property.