The most daunting football schedule in 2017 doesn’t belong to Clemson or USC or to the New England Patriots. It will be played by the Pima College Aztecs.
“Whoever made that schedule is probably an idiot,” said PCC coach Jim Monaco, who is precisely the man who agreed to play No. 1 Arizona Western twice and also open the season Saturday at No. 4 Trinity Valley of Texas.
Along the way the Aztecs will play No. 10 Mesa, No. 19 Eastern Arizona and No. 20 Snow College.
The No. 1 Arizona Western club had difficulty scheduling opponents in Yuma and asked Monaco if the Aztecs would consider a home-and-home series on Sept. 9 and Oct. 21.
The Aztecs will receive $7,000, about enough to cover travel expenses (via bus) to play at No. 4 Trinity in this week’s opener. That, too, is an elective.
“You can play all the softer teams you want, but it doesn’t get you anywhere,” said Monaco. “I look at it as an opportunity to do something amazing.”
The Aztecs rose to No. 12 in the NJCAA rankings last year and played in the Region championship game a year earlier. From 2015-17, they have had the most high-profile talent in the school’s football history, with players signed by Utah, TCU, Kansas, Idaho and Oregon State.
Star linebacker Bryant Pirtle of Louisville, Kentucky, has more than 20 FBS scholarship offers, including one from Arizona. Defensive back Aaron Maddox of South Carolina, son of former UA Desert Swarm linebacker Richard Maddox, is a FBS prospect, as is Salpointe Catholic’s 2014 state championship receiving standout Kaelin DeBoskie, who left Arizona and transferred to Pima.
The Wildcats last week offered a scholarship to PCC cornerback Haki Woods of Chicago. The starting QB is expected to be Pueblo High grad Justin Martin, who passed for 1,918 yards and rushed for 331 in eight starts as a freshman.
Getting to Saturday’s opener near Dallas, won’t be easy. The Aztecs will drive overnight, beginning at 9 p.m., Wednesday. They will work out in Midland, Texas, on Thursday, practice at TCU on Friday, play Trinity Valley on Saturday evening, and drive home immediately after the game.
“This isn’t a pleasure trip,” said Monaco. “We are going to keep a study hall going while we’re traveling. We have a chance to be well-rested and ready to go by kickoff. To me, this is a much better option than playing the Sisters of the Poor.”