Matt Johnson was viewed as an outsider and an unpopular hire four years ago when Ironwood Ridge principal Mike Bejarano and (former) IRHS athletic director Will Kreamer plucked him away from Catalina Foothills.
But the instincts of Bejarano and Kreamer were predictably good; both have state championship backgrounds and perspectives.
Bejarano coached Sabino to the 1997 state baseball title. Kreamer was an all-state guard on Tucson High's 1971 state championship football team.
"We started off 1-4 my first year,'' says Johnson, whose state champion Nighthawks went 13-1 this season. "A lot of people didn't understand why Will hired me or what my vision was. I don't think I was anyone's first choice for the job.''
Through four seasons, after every step toward the state title, Kreamer would text Johnson with a simple message: "We hired the right guy.''
And they did. In turn, Johnson was meticulous and successful in assembling his coaching staff. It's unlikely anyone will say Ironwood Ridge had the state's best talent or even the top roster in Southern Arizona, but it would be difficult to coach any better than Johnson and his staff. The staff's diverse background is intriguing:
• Doug Braunreiter, offensive coordinator, is a financial investment specialist.
• Ryan Maish, defensive coordinator, is an engineer at Raytheon.
• Kent Middleton, linebackers coach, is a substance abuse counselor, and former assistant on Mountain View's 1993 state championship team.
• Defensive coach Zach Wolf is a math teacher at Ironwood Ridge.
• Offensive coach Anthony Coronado, is a history teacher at Marana High School and former head coach at MHS.
• Defensive coach Randy Maish, Ryan's father, is a retired Tucson police sergeant.
• Offensive coach Todd Berson is a sergeant in a SWAT unit.
"I truly believe we win six or seven games before we even take the field because (the coaches) work so hard," said Middleton, one of the leading assistant football coaches in Tucson prep history, with 20 seasons at Mountain View, Catalina Foothills and Ironwood Ridge. "The team is a direct reflection of Matt, his work ethic and attitude. He is fearless and driven."
Ka'Deem's Long Journey
Heisman must wait, but Carey joins elite local list
UA sophomore tailback Ka'Deem Carey won't turn 21 until next October, but in terms of football mileage, he's no longer a kid.
At 12, Carey played on the Marana Broncos, who won the 2004 American Youth Football Pee Wee national championship in Florida. At CDO, he carried 539 times for 5,601 yards. At Arizona he has now carried 366 times for 2,182 yards.
Nevertheless, he has just begun to establish himself on the college football map. He won't win the Heisman Trophy this week, not even close, nor should he. His coach, Rich Rodriguez, puts it in context.
"Does he deserve a vote or two? Sure," RichRod said Friday. "But to win the Heisman you have to have a great individual year, and your team has to have a great year. Ka'Deem had a great year, but we haven't had a great year as a team. We did OK, but it wasn't a great year."
Carey became the 13th high school player from Tucson to make the All-Pac-12 first team, and the second in his family. His uncle, former Cholla High and UA tailback/receiver Vance Johnson, made the team in 1982.
The others from Tucson to be all-conference first-teamers are Amphi tailback Jon Volpe, Stanford; Sabino guard Jeff Kiewel, Arizona; Sabino tackle Mike Saffer, UCLA; Amphi linebacker Ricky Ellison, USC; Sahuaro QB Rodney Peete, USC; Salpointe Catholic center Kris O'Dowd, USC; Sahuaro kicker Steve McLaughlin, Arizona; Sabino lineman Brooks Reed, Arizona; Amphi tailback Mario Bates , ASU; Sunnyside tailback David Adams, Arizona; and Tucson High linebacker Sean Harris, Arizona. (San Manuel and UA guard Warner Smith also was a first-teamer.)
Who's next? I'll take a flyer on injured UA redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jacob Arzouman of Salpointe, and, in about 2016, Sabino offensive lineman Andrew Mike.
Glendale a possibility if Pac-12 seeks neutral site
The Pac-12 charged $80, minimum, for tickets to Friday's UCLA-Stanford game. Parking was $25 at stadium-area parking facilities. No wonder there were more than 20,000 empty seats. The Pac-12 title game would have difficulty selling out at every league location, Tucson included, especially with a one-week notice. I suspect commissioner Larry Scott will examine a neutral site location, a la the SEC and Big 12. But where? Los Angeles and San Francisco would yawn. Las Vegas doesn't have a suitable facility. Seattle is dreary in late November. Perhaps University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale is the best possibility. … If Arizona is fortunate enough to be selected today for the Dec. 22 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, game tickets are a relative bargain, at $25, $35, $55 and $100, and the game will no longer be a toe-freezing night kickoff. This year's kickoff is 1:30 p.m. … Sabino High grad Lucas Reed, a senior tight end at New Mexico, accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine game next month in St. Petersburg, Fla. Reed was a 2010 All-Mountain West Conference tight end for the Lobos. … Salpointe Catholic grad Sara Brown is even par through four rounds of the LGPA Qualifying School in Florida. That's two strokes out of the top 20 (and ties) entering today's final round. Brown will need to be in that top 20 group to return to the LPGA Tour. She was a regular in 2011. Brown is scheduled to be part of a celebration of Tucson junior golf on Saturday at the Tubac Golf Resort. She'll be joined by pros Don Pooley, Ronnie Black, Christa Johnson, Dan Pohl, Andrew Magee and Rich Barcelo as part of the second Ricky Rarick Junior Golf Benefit. Contact Dennis Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org to enter.
More Short Stuff
Wade, Slania on Top 100 list
Baseball America's annual Top 100 draft prospects list, for 2013, includes Arizona's College World Series star Konner Wade, a junior right-hander who is ranked No. 35 of draft-eligible college players. But former Salpointe Catholic right-hander Dan Slania, a junior at Notre Dame, is ranked No. 26. Slania had a superb 2012 season, going 3-0 with 13 saves and a 2.03 ERA for the Fighting Irish. He was then the Cape Cod League's relief pitcher of the year, at Cotuit, going 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 26 innings and 10 saves in the summer league. … UA baseball coach Andy Lopez is considering making junior outfielder Johnny Field his leadoff hitter in 2013. Field, the Pac-12 batting champ at .370 last year, was a middle-of-the-order hitter. "I watched Florida State coach Mike Martin use J. D. Drew as his leadoff guy, and it worked," said Lopez. "You guarantee Johnny four, five at-bats a game. That's what you want, isn't it?" … Arizona's 2012 NCAA championship enabled the Wildcats to sign Loreauville, La., left-hander Evan Hebert, an elite recruit who touches the low 90s with his fastball. UA assistant coach Sean Cole went from the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., to scout Hebert in Louisiana. "Sean called me and said all the LSU coaches are here, wearing their (2009) national championship rings, recruiting Evan," Lopez said. "I told Sean, 'Well, we have some new pop. We have rings, too.' We wouldn't have gotten Evan without those rings." … Sunnyside grad Stefen Romero last week was named to the 2012 Topps Class AA All-Star baseball team. Romero, a second baseman in the Seattle Mariners system, hit .347 with 20 homers in the second half of the season at Class AA Jackson, Miss. … On Friday, the Detroit Tigers released ex-Arizona relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth, the No. 1 draft pick of the Diamondbacks in 2008. Schlereth, who has been injured periodically in his five pro seasons, is now a free agent. He has pitched in 73 major-league games.
More short stuff
Ex-Santa Rita, Maryland star Stoglin lands in EuroLeague with Greece's Ilysiakos Athens
Terrell Stoglin and his Philadelphia-based agent Andre Buck were patient, not rushing the former Santa Rita state championship guard into the NBA D-League or onto a low-level European team. They waited until six weeks of EuroLeague action were in the books before placing Stoglin with Ilysiakos Athens, a team desperate for backcourt help. Stoglin, who was dismissed from Maryland after leading the ACC in scoring last year, joins a team that has three Americans, from Penn State, Valdosta State and Austin Peay. … Former CDO and Arizona State point guard Mike Redhair and Gene Edgerson , who played on Arizona's 1997 NCAA championship team, are working together. Both are basketball referees in the ACCAC and recently found themselves on the same crew at a Cochise College game in Douglas. "We're careful not to talk about UA and ASU stuff," said Redhair, a Tucson attorney, who has called state championship basketball games and now works in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference as well. Outside of basketball, Edgerson works with the White River school district near Pinetop. … Ron Gardin was an All-WAC receiver/running back on Arizona's 1968 Sun Bowl team. He played in Super Bowl V for the Baltimore Colts. Gardin got some TV time last week during the Arizona Cardinals-St. Louis Rams game, standing on the Rams sideline. He is employed by the NFL as a "uniform compliance" official, making sure the players, coaches and even ball boys are dressed in matching game-day gear. Good work if you can get it, huh? Gardin lives in Tucson.
My Two Cents
Mark Stoops may be in over his head as Kentucky coach
Kentucky drew 18,885 for a home football game this year, so you can assume the school wants Mark Stoops to do more than call defensive signals.
UK wants him to fill those seats. It's a considerable risk, as it is with hiring any career assistant, to take on the broad role of being the face of the school's football organization.
Mark Stoops' personality is more engaging than that of his brother, Mike. He's more comfortable in the public eye and long ago learned to control his emotions when the TV cameras are rolling.
But beyond that, Mark Stoops is like a lot of assistant coaches at big-time programs like Florida State. He looked good because he had so many good players.
At Arizona, Stoops was not a lights-out defensive coordinator or game-planner. He wasn't in the category with the leading UA defensive coordinators of the last 50 years and was nothing to match Rich Ellerson, Moe Ankney, Sharkey Price, Larry Smith, Larry Mac Duff or Duane Akina.
Now Mark Stoops will match his best against the best from Alabama, LSU, Georgia and the rest of the SEC. His last name won't win a single game.