Jeff Scurran doesn’t get nervous for games anymore. Well, one — the first one.
“I always say the first game is like a box of chocolates,” said Scurran, the Catalina Foothills coach, “you know the rest.”
The whole offseason builds up to the first game, particularly when the opponent is Tempe — as Catalina Foothills’ was last weekend.
The Falcons won that game 35-7 at home, largely because of their quarterback.
With Rhett Rodriguez, Scurran always knows what he’s going to get. His teammates, too.
“When it’s third down and they say ‘defense alert,’ I’m usually not that worried,” said senior linebacker Brandon Smith. “He’s gonna move the ball, and get it to where we need it to go.”
That is, the end zone. Against the Buffaloes, the senior quarterback — an Arizona commit for 2017 — Rodriguez passed for three touchdowns.
Expectations for Catalina Foothills are as high as they’ve been since Scurran first arrived in 2013, inheriting a program that was 0-10 the season before, and it’s largely because of the quarterback, now in his fourth season as the starter.
Catalina Foothills is 24-10 with Rodriguez at quarterback.
“I’m expecting a great season out of us,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of the seniors have been starters for three years, so we always knew our senior year would be our year, that would be our year to get to the playoffs and hopefully win a few games and hopefully win the state championship. So I have high expectations, and hopefully we meet them.”
Last season, the Falcons went 9-3 as Rodriguez passed for 2,503 yards and 20 touchdowns with only two interceptions, adding 624 yards and 14 touchdowns running the ball.
Friday, Rodriguez might have his toughest challenge yet — the Falcons are traveling up to Scottsdale to take on Arizona powerhouse Saguaro, led by safety K.J. Jarrell, who has an offer to play at Arizona next season.
“Everyone saw them on ESPN (last week),” Rodriguez said. “It’s not often that your film from them is on ESPN, but they’re pretty big, pretty strong, pretty fast, but I don’t think it’s anything we can’t adjust for and do our best against.”
For the rest of Catalina Foothills roster, it helps to have UA coach Rich Rodriguez’s son around to calm their nerves.
“It’s like having another coach,” Smith said. “Even though he doesn’t have defense, when I have a defensive question and coaches are busy, I can ask him. He knows everything. Any question you have, I always ask him. He doesn’t beat around the bush.”
The Star spoke with Rodriguez on Tuesday before practice.
On the first game: “It went pretty well. We came out with the W, which is really all that matters. I could’ve played better and the team could’ve played better in some aspects, but it’s the first game; you’re gonna make some mistakes. Clean them up this week and hopefully we’ll play even better.”
On opening the season against Tempe: “I mean, it’s rare you have such an important first game. Normally you can build after or recover from it but that was a game we had to win, so to know we came away with it was kind of a little relief, but we also know we have a big opponent this week.”
On his offseason improvements: “I think I just got better arm strength. You always hope to get more accurate but arm strength is the biggest thing I improved on from last year to this year.”
On being Arizona’s first commitment for 2017: “It’s been crazy because as soon as I committed I was like ‘OK, I’m gonna help get the whole team together’ and then within a couple of months, it was already together. So, I mean, I like to think I helped some but really it just came down to the new staff and Chris Singletary, the new recruiting coordinator, has really done a great job getting the name out there. And heck, we’re pretty much full.”
On Sabino’s Drew Dixon, also a UA commit: “Drew was our opponent last year. I hadn’t really talked to him before that but after the season, I started talking to him when we offered him and said ‘we’d love to have you on the team.’ It’s just kind of interesting to see how he was a rival and became now my (future UA) teammate and friend. That’s cool to see.”