Over the next 17 days, the Star will reveal our picks for Tucson’s best high school football coaches of all time. Our countdown continues today with Ed Doherty, who finished off an illustrious coaching career by setting the groundwork at Salpointe Catholic.
No. 17: Ed Doherty
School: Salpointe Catholic
Years in coaching: 1977-82
Career record: 46-19-3
Achievements: Doherty’s accomplishments in Southern Arizona only tell a small part of his overall impact on the sport. Doherty played quarterback at Boston College in the Orange Bowl, coached as an assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles and remains the only man to lead both the UA and ASU football teams. He also worked alongside NFL legend Vince Lombardi at a New Jersey high school after World War II. Yet Doherty’s distaste for recruiting led him back to the prep level, where success rarely eluded him. At Phoenix St. Mary’s, he reached three straight state championship games (1967-1969), winning two of them. He also reached a championship game with Salpointe in 1981, but Phoenix Trevor Brown shut out the Lancers 20-0. During his 12 years coaching prep football in Arizona, he reached the playoffs nine times and complied 99 wins with just 33 losses.
Memorable moment: Nine seasons after finally hanging up the whistle, Doherty’s place in high school football lore received its final chapter when Salpointe dedicated its football field in his name. At halftime of a 1991 matchup between the Lancers and visiting Phoenix St. Mary’s, Doherty was honored by the two schools he had done so much for – and that had meant so much to him. The years coaching prep football in Arizona “were the best years I ever had coaching, both in wins and losses and in fun,” Doherty told the Star two weeks before the naming ceremony. St. Mary’s, then coached by one of Doherty’s former players Pat Farrell, ended up beating Salpointe and another former player, Pat Welchert, 24-12.
From the archives: “I think he’s the greatest innovator and strategist I’ve ever played for, and I’ve played for George Halas and a number of guys in the CFL.” — Wilford “Whizzer” White, ASU Hall of Fame running back, in the August 25, 1991, Arizona Daily Star
Big number: 4. Doherty led Salpointe to the playoffs four times during his six seasons in charge. A 66.7 percentage doesn’t seem all that impressive in light of Salpointe’s recent success, but before Doherty arrived in 1977 Salpointe had reached the playoffs just once in the 18 years since they had been introduced. While others certainly helped the football program reach its sustained level of success, Doherty’s time as coach and then athletic director helped move the ball forward — one final innovation for a man defined by them.
Coming up: Find out who is ranked No. 16 in Saturday’s Star.