Karl Kiefer, who led McClintock High School to three state titles and is credited with starting the Mountain Pointe football program, died Sunday afternoon.
He was 82 years old.
His passing came on the 30th anniversary of McClintock’s state-championship win over Westwood in 1989, Kiefer’s third leading the McClintock program.
“Waking up today, one of my buddies reminded me of that 5A title game at ASU,” said David Klecka, the dean of students at Desert Vista High School who played for Kiefer in 1989 and coached under him. “We played Westwood and beat them 42-14. That was a huge moment in my life.
“I think that’s what drew me closer to him.”
Kiefer was placed in hospice care in November after he suffered a heart attack while in a rehab facility for a broken rib. It was his latest battle with health issues, which included a heart attack in 1997 and a major stroke in 2005.
“That’s kind of what really started all of his health issues, the major stroke,” Klecka said. “After that first heart attack he had bypass in the fall while at Mountain Pointe. Even then, he only missed one game. He was just so strong.”
Kiefer informed Klecka in November that doctors had sent him back to his assisted-living facility in Chandler to receive hospice care. He made it his goal to make it to Nov. 29, the day of his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Sharon.
“My wife is a fantastic woman,” Kiefer said in November. “It’s been a good trip. We have three children, they’re wonderful.”
Kiefer is credited for coaching McClintock to three state championships in 1977, 1980 and 1989 during his tenure. He said his first championship was one of his fondest memories.
“It would have to be the first state championship at McClintock High School in 1977,” Kiefer said. “We won it against Washington High School. I started coaching there in 1963 so it took a long time to get there.
“It was a great night in the old Sun Devil Stadium.”
After McClintock, Kiefer went on to start the Mountain Pointe football program, where he remained until he retired in 2005.
Klecka coached under Kiefer at Mountain Pointe before moving on to Perry and then Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe’s rival. Even then, he and Kiefer would talk on a regular basis. If they weren’t talking about the upcoming game Klecka would be coaching his team in, they reminisced about the 1989 championship.
“We always talked about that state championship season,” Klecka said. “He would always expect a phone call from me after every Friday night game.”
The football stadium at Mountain Pointe was named in Kiefer’s honor. It wasn’t uncommon to see him at every Pride home game, sitting to the left of the scoreboard bearing his name in the north end zone.
Several family members, former coaches and players visited Kiefer when his condition was made public in November. For those that weren’t able to see him in person, they called.
Kiefer is survived by Sharon and his three children, Sheri, Shauna and Kent. A celebration of Kiefer's life is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Jan. 11 at Mountain Pointe at 2 p.m.
“He meant the world to me,” Klecka said. “He was the first person I called after my dad passed away. I’ve had friends that passed away and I would call him about that, too.
“It wasn’t just football with him. It was life.”