Lions, tigers, and bears — oh my! Those are just three names on a long list of overused high school mascots across the country. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a high school with a nickname you’ve never heard.
However, there are many schools who have adopted unique mascots based on their surroundings or inspired by historical events — and Arizona is no exception.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 mascots in Arizona high school sports.
Honorable mentions: Bagdad Sultans, Betty Fairfax Stampede, Cactus Cobras, Chaparral Firebirds, Flowing Wells Caballeros, Greenway Demons, Holbrook Roadrunners, Marcos de Niza Padres, Mesa Jackrabbits, Mohave Thunderbirds, Payson Longhorns.
10. North Canyon Rattlers
It’s kind of a shock that North Canyon is the only Arizona team with the mascot of a rattlesnake or “Rattler,” but I couldn’t find any others. Still, it’s a nice change of pace from the usual desert-inspired nicknames — and the purple and black color scheme is also refreshing.
9. Moon Valley Rockets
This one kind of speaks for itself, right? The mascot name is almost so fitting that you wonder if anyone in their right mind could have picked something else. Nonetheless, it fits perfectly.
8. Grand Canyon Phantoms
It’s a cool mascot even before you realize its origin, which likely comes from nearby Phantom Ranch in Grand Canyon National Park. Originally occupied as ceremonial ground by Native Americans, President Theodore Roosevelt stumbled upon the area during a hunting expedition in 1913. The lodge then became known as Roosevelt Camp before being renamed Phantom Ranch in 1922.
7. Desert Edge Scorpions
Similar to North Canyon, Desert Edge came up with a nickname in 2003 that most would think is used across the state. However, Sedona Red Rock is the only other Arizona school that uses Scorpion mascot. And it works for Desert Edge, whose school name itself is already intimidating. Pair that with a venomous arachnid and you’re in business.
6. Canyon del Oro Dorados
Canyon del Oro was not afraid to think outside the box when deciding on a mascot, and their choice of the Dorados was a pretty bold one. Named after the mythical Latin American warrior from the Legend of El Dorado, this mascot is certainly one of the most unique in Arizona. It also sounds cool when you say “Oro Dorados.”
5. Valley Vista Monsoon
When Valley Vista opened in 2006, it let future students (middle schoolers at the time) decide the school’s mascot — and the result was the Monsoon, a nickname only used by one other school in the country (Mayfair High in Lakewood, Calif). When you think about it, the name really is perfect for a new school in Arizona. It’s got ties to the area, it’s intimidating, and it’s unique.
4. Apache Junction Prospectors
From a modern nickname to one inspired by Arizona’s rich past (no pun intended). The Superstition Mountains have long been fabled with tales of gold-seeking men having come to the area in search of wealth. Inspired by the abundant history of the area, Apache Junction scooped up the perfect mascot.
3. Yuma Criminals
The Criminals nickname is so highly discusses that it was actually recognized in 2014 by USA Today as one of the country’s best high school mascots. There’s an interesting backstory with this one, as a newspaper in 1913 claimed Yuma had stolen a victory from Phoenix Union. At the time, the school had also been operating in a former prison building after a fire displaced them in 1910. Everyone was calling Yuma “the Criminals,” and the school finally adopted the name in 1917.
2. Salome Frogs
Perhaps just as well-known are the Fighting Frogs of Salome. Humorist and newspaper operator Dick Will Hall came to Salome in the early 1900s and published many fictional stories about the desert. One of them was about a 7-year-old frog who could not swim because it had never seen water. The frog one chased a dust storm for miles thinking it was a rain cloud, and all the while had to carry a canteen on its back to keep its green color. After Hall died in 1926, his frog legacy continued throughout the community — and now the local high school has a great mascot.
1. Cesar Chavez Champions
As an identity, the school uses a pegasus — but this mascot is great for so many reasons. First, it’s a direct reference to the school’s namesake who championed civil rights movements, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, and left behind a legacy as a major historical icon for the Latino community and farm workers everywhere. Next, it’s a great use of alliteration by using three ‘C’ words in a row for the full school name. Finally, there’s something awesome about your athletic teams being called the Champions. This name exudes tons of character, confidence and creativeness. Look, three ‘C’ words!
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