Greg Hansen: Salpointe's Bene going for win 100

2011-10-28T00:01:00Z 2012-12-04T14:00:59Z Greg Hansen: Salpointe's Bene going for win 100Greg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 28, 2011 12:01 am  • 

This is the brief and exclusive roll call of the Tucson 100 Club: Vern Friedli, 288

Jeff Scurran, 183

Todd Mayfield, 171

Richard Sanchez, 156

Wayne Jones, 144

Howard Breinig, 118

Nemer Hassey, 113

Pat Nugent, 106

Ollie Mayfield, 103

In a century of high school football, nine coaches have had the endurance, prowess and good fortune to become part of The Tucson 100 Club. It is a class that is as famous for those not included.

Rollin Gridley, for example, was 5-0 while coaching Tucson High in state championship games. He completed his career with 90 victories.

Larry Hart, who put Flowing Wells into five state championship games, retired with 91 wins locally.

It ain't easy.

I bring this to your attention because Salpointe Catholic's Dennis Bene has coached the Lancers to 99 victories. He goes for No. 100 tonight in the hornet's nest that is Ironwood Ridge. Whether he gets No. 100 tonight, or next month in the state playoffs, Bene has done something extraordinary, especially when you consider the ex-Lancer quarterback spent his first 10 post-college years as a veterinarian.

"What strikes me is how few coaches have reached 100," he says. "There are many great coaches who are not on that list. It shows you how demanding this job really is."

You can coach your football fanny off for 15 years, as Curley Santa Cruz did at Pueblo High School, ring up 66 victories and rest assured no man on earth, except maybe Vince Lombardi, could have won more.

Or you can put in 16 years at Cholla, as Ed Brown did, and retire with a 91-98-2 record confident you had gotten the most out of what the football gods gave you.

Bene is blessed with a more fortunate sense of time and place.

In this town, on his watch, Bene has turned Salpointe Catholic football into what is probably the best coaching job in Tucson prep sports. It doesn't have the history of CDO baseball or Catalina Foothills swimming and tennis, but Bene has made it the Tucson equivalent of coaching football for the Oregon Ducks.

The Lancers have a $1 million artificial turf field. They have a weight room (and coach, ex-UA strength coach Carla Garrett) that some college teams can't match. For 11 years, the Bene years, they have produced a list of Division I players that no other Tucson team can match. This year's Lancers squad, from sophomore through senior, probably has six or seven more college recruits.

This is not Bene talking. This is me talking. This is what Bene says:

"When I took over in 2001, there were 90 kids in the program. Now I would say there are 160. That's one in every four boys at Salpointe. It's not easy to play here. Making the commitment to play for Salpointe is demanding, not only in football and academics, but also for the hours in the offseason. I think we've found a way to make it beneficial and enjoyable for everyone."

In his 11th season, Bene is 99-26 at Salpointe. Who does that?

Friedli won No. 100 in his 11th season at Amphi. Scurran won 99 games in 11 years at CDO/Sabino. No other Tucson coach, ever, has gotten to 100 so quickly.

Since Salpointe's football debut in 1952, three of the Lancers 13 football coaches, Raul Mariscal, Lou Ferry and Mike Slovick lasted but one season.

Another, Ed Doherty, had been the head coach at both Arizona and Arizona State. He won 46 games at Salpointe, and the school named the field after him.

Jerry Davitch won 28 games at Salpointe and a few years later was the head coach of the Idaho Vandals. He was succeeded by Bill Tripp, who won 21 games and was subsequently hired by Boise State, Idaho, Army and Cal-Poly.

But none of the men who coached Salpointe, not even former Lancers all-city linebacker Pat Welchert, who coached the team to the 1991 state championship game and won 89 games over 15 seasons, has been on the brink of the Tucson 100 Club.

Now comes the kicker: Bene's Lancers have never advanced beyond the state quarterfinals. They were for a decade stuck in the ridiculously brutal 5A-I, matched against the Phoenix superpowers. But now, in the new alignment, a more size-appropriate Division II, the Lancers and their coach - as with Ironwood Ridge and Cienega - can realistically think of winning a state title.

"Winning the title drives me," says Bene. "I set about 10 goals when I took this job, and the one that has yet to be fulfilled, personally, is winning the state championship. That's the cherry on the top."

On average, the Tucson 100 Club grows in membership about every 12 years. Seven of the nine coaches in the club won state titles. The other two reached state championship games.

Now comes Dennis Bene, pounding on the door.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Video

More videos

Burger King Considering Move to Canada

Burger King is in talks to buy doughnut chain Tim Hortons and create a new holding company headquartered in…



Follow the Arizona Daily Star