Over the next 22 days, the Star will reveal our picks for Tucson’s best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Jerry Loper, who led Amphitheater to its first state title before handing over the program to Vern Friedli.
No. 22: Jerry Loper
Years in coaching: 1971-75
Career record: 39-12-2
Achievements: Although his time at Amphi was brief, Loper’s impact on the football program was significant. He secured the school’s first state title in 1975 when the Panthers knocked off undefeated Phoenix Maryvale 23-22 in the 3A state final to finish the season 12-1. Loper, who also won a state title as a player with Bisbee in 1956, was named the Star’s Coach of the Year after winning the title and was hired to coach at Mesa Westwood months later.
Trailing Maryvale 22-8 at halftime in the championship game at Arizona Stadium, the Panthers finally got going when quarterback Jim Krohn hit Randy Barkley with a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it 22-16 after the two-point conversion. Defensively, Amphi dug in late — as it had all season — and stopped Maryvale on fourth-and-one deep in Panthers territory, just as it stuffed Phoenix St. Mary’s at the goal line in the final seconds of the semifinals a week earlier. With two minutes to go, Amphi drove 80 yards and capped the drive with a game-tying 2-yard touchdown trudge by Barkley with just seconds remaining. Then, kicker Herman Gutierrez nailed the extra point to secure the historic victory.
From the archives
“I’ve worked with a lot of football coaches, but I don’t think I’ve worked with anyone I’ve had more respect for. I know how hard I worked as a head coach, and I worked hard, and I know how hard other coaches work, but I don’t believe anyone could work any harder than Jerry.” — Former Amphi and UA assistant coach Jake Rowden in the Oct. 16, 1996, Arizona Daily Star
224 Loper didn’t ride off into the sunset after he left Amphi. Instead, he continued to find success at Westwood and finished with 224 career wins to go along with 106 losses and 10 ties. Loper also led the Warriors to the 5A state title and a 13-1 record in 1988 and was coaching at Chandler High before he was killed by a drunk driver in 1996.
Find out who is ranked No. 21 in Monday’s Star.