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'We're going to change the culture here': QB Luke Haugo wants to put North football on the map – The Arizona Republic


Luke Haugo isn’t lost. He knows where he is, why he’s there and what he believes he is destined to do.
In the heart of central Phoenix, the North High School sophomore quarterback is the most recruited football player in the state’s largest and oldest district. In the spring and summer, after showcasing his skills, he picked up offers from Pac-12 Oregon and Arizona.
“It’s pretty cool,” the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Haugo said. “Putting this team on the map. Me and some guys are going to change the culture here.”
Haugo could have gone anywhere. But living not too far from North off the 51 freeway, which cuts through the heart of Phoenix, Haugo figured, ‘Why not North?’ 
North, located near Thomas Road and 12th Street, is one of 10 Phoenix Union High School District schools trying to find its place at the table in an evolving landscape, where the football powers have spread into the eastern and western suburbs of Phoenix.
A Phoenix district school hasn’t won a state football championship since Trevor Browne in 1981. Aside from Laveen Cesar Chavez, it’s been a difficult task just to qualify for the postseason for a PXU school in the past 20 years because of the power-points system the Arizona Interscholastic Association uses to place teams at state.
But Haugo is too young and too confident to care about any of that. And he’s bright enough to know what he’s getting out of North, a school with an International Baccalaureate program, in which Haugo succeeds. He has a 4.7 grade-point average.
His sister works as an astral engineer for Boeing. His father is a retired businessman who used to work with country artist Toby Keith.
“I take my academics pretty seriously here,” Haugo said.
He said he and his father visited several schools before he entered high school.
“North happened to be one of them,” he said. “I came here. I love the coaching staff.”
Haugo built an instant rapport with assistant coach Alonzo Highsmith Jr., whose father won a national championship playing for the University of Miami in 1984 as a hard-driving fullback.
Haugo split varsity quarterback duties as a freshman last season with a senior, Caleb Miller, as the Mustangs went 6-4, falling short of the playoffs. Haugo completed 28 of 50 passes for 294 yards and three TDs with three interceptions.
But head coach Mark Mejia saw something special and he knew Haugo could lead the Mustangs to the playoffs. Mejia was the quarterback who led Phoenix Carl Hayden in 1996 to its first state playoff berth in 32 years, playing for Stuart Goldstein, who would later lead North to a 20-4 record in two seasons.
From the end of last season to now, it’s not even close, that’s how far Haugo has progressed on the field.
And that’s why schools like Oregon and Arizona are getting an early jump on him.
“It’s like everything else, right time, right place, and with the right opportunity,” Mejia said. “He’s done his part. Worked his tail to get to that. He treats it as if he’s got nothing.”
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Haugo has had some good quarterbacks to look up to, training the past five years under local QB coach Mike Giovando, working next to guys like Spencer Rattler (now at South Carolina), Ty Thompson (Oregon), Jack Plummer (California) and Nicco Marchiol (West Virginia).
“I grew up working with Rattler since he was 15,” Haugo said. “I learned from some of the best in the country.”
Giovando said he wouldn’t be surprised if Haugo, also a standout basketball player, turns out to be one of the top five quarterbacks in the country before his high school career is over.
“He probably could have just focused on basketball and become a college basketball player,” Giovando said. “But he has all the tools to become a big-time college quarterback.
“I have no doubt that he’s going to blow up here real soon. Oregon saw him throw at the (spring football) showcase at Pinnacle (in May) and (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kenny Dillingham) called me and said, ‘Is he your guy?’  I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘I love him. He’s going to be outstanding.’ Kenny pulled the trigger and offered him the next day.”
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Giovando wasn’t hesitant to endorse North to Haugo when he was choosing a high school. Mejia played for Giovando at Scottsdale Community College in the late 1990s when Giovando was the quarterbacks coach for his father Ken. Giovando knows that Haugo is in the right hands with Mejia, who knows how to develop quarterbacks.
“I think Luke has the opportunity to do something at a school that nobody expects anything from,” Giovando said. “If you really think about it, Ty Thompson played at Mesquite High. People questioned why didn’t he go to Chandler or Hamilton or somewhere like that. He ended up just fine.”
Thompson was the consensus Arizona Player of the Year his senior season in 2020, after leading Mesquite to back-to-back 4A state titles. He ended up a five-star recruit.
“I think Luke has that same opportunity,” Giovando said. “He’s going to have all the measurables to be a college quarterback. It doesn’t matter where he goes. I think it matters how he develops.”
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North co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Deter Regaldo has noticed the buzz surrounding the school.
“People are saying there’s a lot of good things happening at North,” Regaldo said. “I think it’s a collective group of everybody that’s here. I believe that Luke has the ability to make people better that’s around him.”
North hasn’t produced an NFL player since defensive back Muhammad Oliver starred for the Mustangs in the late 1980s. He wound up as a standout at Oregon, before bouncing around with five NFL teams from 1992-95.
Before that, it was the 1970s, when punter Jim McCann spent time in the NFL. And before McCann, you’d have to go back to the 1960s when the last North High player was in the NFL — offensive lineman George Flint, who played for the Buffalo Bills.
Haugo isn’t thinking about the NFL right now. He’s got time for that.
Right now, it’s about the moment and how far he can take North football.
“I’m just over here, trying to do something different,” he said. “Why not try to change the program?”
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.
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Anand works as a work from home journalist based in Trivandrum, Kerala, India. Anand had contributed content for various websites and also worked as a chief technical editor for ASPAlliance.com. He also contributed content for several print magazines like DevPro (formerly asp.netPRO) and his headshot appeared on the front page of the July 2006 issue of the magazine.