Over the next four days, the Star will reveal our picks for Tucson’s best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Catalina Foothills coach Jeff Scurran, who has found a way to win no matter where he’s coaching.
No. 4 Jeff Scurran
Schools: Canyon del Oro, Sabino, Santa Rita and Catalina Foothills
Years in coaching: 1984-1986, 1988-1999, 2007-2009 and 2013-present
Career record: 191-46-1
Achievements: At each stop, Scurran has proven what he’s capable of with a little hard work. After three years and a state quarterfinal appearance at Canyon del Oro, Scurran took over at Sabino before the 1988 season. The coaching legend’s career flourished as the leader of the Sabercats. In just his second season at Sabino, a year after his only losing season in 19 years of coaching high school football in Southern Arizona, the Sabercats submitted their first of six undefeated regular seasons under Scurran. By his third year, the Cleveland native brought the school a step further, capturing Sabino’s first championship and first perfect (14-0) season. Two years later, Scurran duplicated the success, winning another state title as the team finished 14-0 once again. Eight of Scurran’s 12 seasons at Sabino ended with double-digit win totals, and just two seasons were without a playoff appearance.
Excluding Scurran’s first season at Sabino, he lost just one region game in 11 seasons. His teams were historically strong as well; as both the 1989 and 1992 defenses set, and still hold, state records with 40 interceptions in a single season. Scurran left the Sabercats to create the Pima College football program in 2001, where he led it to a 26-17 record over four seasons but was ready for a new challenge. That led him to a dormant Santa Rita program in 2007 and he made the Eagles relevant instantly.
The Eagles were 34-7 in three seasons under Scurran, two of which ended with losses in the state final. In his most recent stop, Scurran led Catalina Foothills to an 8-3 record and a playoff appearance in his first season with the Falcons following a winless season a year earlier. Despite a life full of football success, the University of Florida journalism graduate also found time to write a book about his stop at Pima.
Memorable moment: Although Scurran’s 1990 Sabercats team was undefeated heading into the state final, Peoria was favored. Leading up to the game, the Arizona Republic wrote “The Arizona Interscholastic Association might as well start engraving ‘Peoria’ on the championship trophy.” Trailing by a field goal in the fourth quarter, Sabino drove 79 yards in six plays for the winning score with 3:57 left in the fourth quarter. After a pass interference call on Peoria, Sabino quarterback Tom Brown hit Roberto Moreno for a 39-yard gain. Two plays later, Brown tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass on a corner route to wide receiver Kip Canatsey, completing the comeback and securing the city’s first football state title since 1979 with a 31-28 win.
From the archives: “Looking back on it, I feel inside of myself that we squeezed out just about everything that was squeezable.
“This was not contingent of Division I college players that won for us. We have a lot of intelligent athletes that learned to play together, and when these kids crossed the line, they played hard. In football, I believe that’s everything.” — Scurran, about his second undefeated state championship team, in the Dec. 8, 1992, Arizona Daily Star.
Big number: 1,201. In Scurran’s three championship seasons (1990, 1992, 1998) each of his Sabino teams managed to outscore their opponents by a substantial amount. While both the 1990 and 1992 teams held their opponents under 100 points — 98 and 97, respectively — his ’90 squad scored 517, and the ’92 team put 413 points on the scoreboard. His ’98 squad represented his most prolific offense, as it compiled 608 points while allowing 142 throughout the year. Add those together and Scurran’s championship teams outscored their 42 opponents by 1,201 points, or roughly 28.6 per game.
Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 3 in Friday’s Star.