‘He’s one of us:’ Red Mountain star Shekaina Rigrish and his ‘big brothers’ ready to play sports

The 2022 Mesa Red Mountain football family is full of big names and an impressive school pedigree.

That includes USC-bound four-star wide receiver Ja’Kobi Lane and Carter Crispin, the school’s leading passer. In addition, former NFL player and Sun Devil legend Todd Heap is on the coaching staff, and his twin sons, juniors Preston and Kyle, have left their own marks on the football program.

The Mountain Lions also have a head coach in Kyle Enders who, while in his first year at the helm, has spent more than a decade pouring his heart and soul into Red Mountain High School as a player, coach and teacher.

So how does kicker Shekaina Rigrish fit into such a tradition-rich, male-dominated environment?

According to tight end/long snapper Cannon Skidmore, just like everyone else on the team.

“She’s just one of us. She always adapts and she’s done a great job.”

That work will continue Friday night when No. 6 seed Red Mountain hosts No. 11 Phoenix Brophy Prep in a first-round 6A playoff game.

Like most players on a soccer roster, Rigrish, a senior, has a solid soccer background. After football season ends, he will return to the sport.

But her path to the football program did not come without questions, including how she would fit into a hyper-masculine environment like football.

“It’s kind of funny how I ended up on the football team because maybe it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my dad,” explained Rigrish.

“Many soccer players are curious about kicking a soccer ball. There are probably a lot of them around the country who can, but as a girl, obviously, it can be awkward,” she said.

“After I got to Red Mountain, I started mentioning soccer to friends and family. Then, before my sophomore year, my dad signed me up for soccer without even telling me. What he didn’t realize was that I wasn’t 100% serious about trying it, so I was a little nervous about it, but I’m so grateful because it’s been a wonderful experience.”

During the regular season, Rigrish has connected on 33 of 34 extra points

Played a key role in last season’s playoff run to the 6A semifinals. Red Mountain won its first two playoff games by a single point, including a 14-13 thriller over Brophy in the quarterfinals.

“Shekaina has been clutch and we are very happy to have her kicking for us,” Enders said.

“Our players have accepted him like any other. It’s really cool because they all seem to have taken on this big brother role and are her biggest cheerleaders.”

Her value as the team’s pitcher is obvious, but Rigrish says much of the joy in her soccer experience comes from the acceptance and positive treatment from teammates and coaches.

“I’ve been lucky to play with this team, because my teammates and coaches have always made me feel so welcome and included, it’s like having a team full of big brothers.” Rigrish says of his football background.

“Obviously it’s a situation that can be intimidating for a girl, but it could also make other players uncomfortable, but with these guys it’s always been an amazing experience.”

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