Over the next 16 days, the Star will reveal its picks for Tucson’s best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Bob Smith, who led Canyon del Oro to one of its best seasons in 1976 and consecutive state titles.
No. 16: Bob Smith
School: Canyon del Oro
Years in coaching: 1976-1983
Career record: 55-28-2
Achievements: When Smith transitioned from defensive coordinator to head coach in 1976 — the first head coaching job for the former NAU linebacker and Lumberjack captain — he brought with him a new offensive philosophy and three goals for his first season in charge. He implemented the wishbone offense to parallel the power mentality he had already installed in the defense; he told the Tucson Citizen before the season he wanted to take down Amphitheater for the first time and beat another local power, Flowing Wells; and win the school’s first state title. His plan was prophetic: In his rookie campaign, Smith led the Dorados past Amphi 27-20, shut out the defending state champion Caballeros 21-0 in the regular season finale and completed a perfect season with a state title victory. A year later, CDO finished 9-1-1 and repeated as champion. Smith, a defensive guru, told reporters that some of his early success came from his dedication to the team, as he was not married and could “spend a lot of time on football.” However, his commitment was never on a career in football; Smith resigned in 1983 to pursue an advanced degree at the UA and a career in education before eventually becoming superintendent of Amphitheater Public Schools in 1996.
Memorable moment: CDO jumped out to an early 17-0 lead against Douglas in the 1976 AA state championship game, only to allow the Bulldogs to claw back into it. The Dorados offense racked up 221 yards on the ground, with the majority coming from halfback Greg Connor. It was Smith’s defense, though, that helped the Dorados win their first state title. CDO stopped Douglas on fourth down at the 32-yard line in the final minutes to secure a 24-15 victory at Sunnyside High School.
From the archives: “CDO’s strongest point is its defense. I think they have the finest defense in the state in Class AA play.” — Flagstaff Coconino coach Bill Epperson, in the Nov. 17, 1978, Tucson Citizen
Big number: 20. The Dorados won 20 of 22 games during Smith’s first two years in charge, allowing less than a touchdown a game on average.
In addition to a tie, CDO’s only loss came in Week 2 in the 1977 season at Amphitheater, 27-0, before it went on to win its final nine games including a 9-7 win over Gilbert in the state final. The Dorados never reached the same level of success after the back-to-back championships, but did make the playoffs three more times under Smith.
Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 15 in Sunday’s Star.