This week’s games All games at 7 p.m
. Team records are from 2015. Thursday Sahuaro (5-6) at Sabino (8-2)
Where: 5000 N. Bowes Road Friday Marana (6-4) at Ironwood Ridge (9-3)
Where: 2475 W. Naranja Drive Sunnyside (6-5) at Nogales (8-3)
Where: 905 N. Apache Blvd., Nogales Tanque Verde (3-7) at Palo Verde (2-8)
Where: 1302 S. Avenida Vega Rincon/University (1-9) at Pueblo (7-4)
Where: 3500 S. 12th Ave. Florence (5-5) at Santa Rita (1-9)
Where: 3951 S. Pantano Road Salpointe Catholic (5-5) at Phoenix St. Mary’s (3-7)
Where: 2525 N. Third
St., Phoenix Sierra Vista Buena (0-10) at Tucson High (7-4)
Where: 400 N. Second
If this is indeed the beginning of the end for Jay Campos, he knows what he’s going to savor most over these next few months.
The longtime Sabino High School football coach might be saying goodbye — or at least see you later — to the sport he loves, the sport he has played or coached for nearly three decades. In July, he accepted an assistant principal position at Sabino, and rules dictate that an assistant principal can’t be head football coach. The change happened late in the summer, and he wasn’t about to bail on his kids, so he made a deal: one more year.
That means that there is a distinct possibility, perhaps even a probability, that Campos, 40, won’t be on the Sabino sideline next season for the first time in 18 years.
He’ll miss the smell of the freshly cut grass, the sound of the band, even if the third woodwind is a bit off-key. He’ll miss game-planning, ownership of an entire program, the stakes sky-high even if the pay isn’t. Above all, he’ll miss the kill shot.
“It popped right into my head, and what I’ll miss most is when the point hits when you got them,” Campos said as his team prepared for Thursday night’s season opener against rival Sahuaro. “Checkmate. The play, the big turnover that just broke their back. All the stress, all the excitement, and we just won the game. All of the stuff builds up to such a surreal moment. You got them.”
That will all be over soon, replaced by the small victories such as scheduling a perfect tournament, hiring the right coach, pulling off a staff meeting where no one throws a dry-erase marker. In the cutthroat world of budget management, he’s about to start fighting bigger battles than third-and-long.
And it’s what he wants.
The chance to impact 1,000 kids instead of 100, through the right hires, the right message, the right plan to move forward in a time of dropping attendance figures.
It’s something Sabino offensive line coach Will Kreamer knows a bit about. He stepped away from coaching in 2002 to become assistant principal at Sabino, the exact job Campos has now.
Kreamer did it for the same reason — to affect greater change than just on the football field — after he’d had experience working with good administrators. He stayed in the role for a decade, then returned to coaching.
“If he’s a great AP, he may end up being a great principal,” Kreamer said. “And if he’s a great principal, he can channel a lot of his talents into helping a lot of students.”
For now, the discussion is on the back burner.
“He hasn’t said a lot about it, but it’s there. He hasn’t kept it from the kids,” Kreamer said. “We’re trying to get as much out of him every practice that we can. We don’t dwell on it because the kind of guy Jay is, we have so much work ahead of us, that right now it is not talked about a lot. We’re talking about Sahuaro right now.”
The Sabercats open the season with one of Southern Arizona’s great rivalry games, and Campos is full steam ahead. They got back on the winning side of the ledger last season, 26-7, after dropping their first game in 12 seasons to the Cougars in 2014.
It will be a stiff contest for a program used to playing the state’s elite, though the Sabercats dropped to Class 3A this season. It was a department-wide change, made to give all the school’s sports programs a better chance to compete at the end of the year. It’s a long time coming. Enrollment has been dropping since 2003, Campos said, and in 2005 it dropped below the Class 4A threshold. For the last 12 years, Sabino has petitioned to play up a division.
These are the kinds of decisions that Campos is going to have to make now. Less blitzing, more kibitzing.
Can he handle it?
Can he stay away for long? Who knows. This could be a brief foray into administration, or it could be a sea change. Campos has a 5-year-old and a little baby at home, and they will get more attention, as will his wife.
But that’ll play itself out.
For now, he’s got Cougars to worry about.
“I look at it as a new challenge — I remember my first year as a head coach, the principal bringing me in, she said the panel who picked me didn’t have a consensus,” Campos said. “But she said I was the guy, and ‘I’m gonna give you a couple years to get this right.’ I knew what I was getting into. That first year, my goal was to do a good enough job to keep my job, and we went 9-2.
“As an admin, it’s all brand new to me. There’s a learning curve. I enjoy the challenge. Some people doubt me. Some people have openly said I can’t do both. I’m going to prove them wrong.”