Over the next 23 days, the Star will reveal our picks for Tucson’s best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Paul Petty, who helped put Sunnyside on the map.
No. 23 Paul Petty
Years in coaching: 1972-1981
Local record: 70-36-1
Achievements: After just one season at Sunnyside, Petty led the Blue Devils to their first winning record since 1966 going 5-4-1 in 1973. That started a trend as Sunnyside finished at .500 or better each season and made the state playoffs four times before Petty left the school after the 1981 season. Petty was named the Star’s Coach of the Year in 1974 after going 7-4 to give Sunnyside its first league title and second straight winning season, something that was a rare feat at that time. Petty, a Texas native, was a big proponent of the wing-T formation, for its flexibility and balanced attack. He was also well remembered for coaching running back Fred Sims, a Parade All-American who played at Oklahoma, and future Arizona Wildcats stars such as David Adams, Jerry Beasley, Harry Holt and Jon Horton.
Memorable moment: Petty’s best season came in 1980 when the Blue Devils went 12-1 and reached the state semifinals. Sims surpassed 2,000 yards rushing to break the city rushing record and scored 33 touchdowns as Petty’s prolific offense tied the single-season scoring mark with 596 points. Sunnyside scored at least 34 points in all but one regular-season game, shut out four teams and held every team under three touchdowns in the regular season that fall as it won by scores including 82-6, 65-0 and 61-0. The Blue Devils beat Phoenix Camelback 42-28 in the second round of the playoffs but were upset by Tempe McClintock 38-14 in the semifinals.
From the archives: “I would say that Sunnyside is 30 or 40 points better than most teams in town. But I couldn’t tell you if they ran the score up or not. You’d have to ask Paul Petty. I think Paul is a gentleman.” — Former Santa Rita coach Larry Williams in the Nov. 13, 1980, Arizona Daily Star.
Big number: 24. Before his time at Sunnyside, Petty spent 10 seasons at Miami High School and won 24 straight games from 1954 to 1956. The Vandals went 10-0 in 1955 to win the Class A state title and were 9-1 four years later to finish as the runner-up. After leaving Sunnyside, Petty finished his 44-year coaching career in Globe.
Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 22 in Sunday’s Star.