Richard Sanchez, the man responsible for turning around Sunnyside High School’s football program decades ago, is now taking over another struggling program.
Sanchez will coach Santa Rita’s football team this fall, athletic director Luis Blanco confirmed to the Star on Tuesday. Sanchez has been working at the school since November as dean of students.
Blanco said the decision to hire Sanchez, who hasn’t coached football since 2010, was made last month. The coach was interviewed by a panel before the decision was made.
“So we just made our cuts and our principal and I talked about it and asked if he’d be interested in doing it,” Blanco said. “He didn’t want to coach, he just wanted to be a part of it, but it worked in our favor.”
Sanchez’s challenge is a massive one.
Santa Rita went 0-9 last season under Riki Valdez, and 1-9 in the two seasons before that. Santa Rita is just 7-51 since the start of the 2012 season. A reclassification to Class 2A may help the Eagles’ chances this season; their home schedule includes games against San Carlos, Miami, Tonopah Valley, Tombstone and Bisbee.
Sanchez is 157-59 as a high school football coach. He began his career as Sunnyside’s wrestling coach, and led the Blue Devils to five straight state championships between 1990-1994.
Sanchez transferred that same bulldog mentality to the gridiron. Sunnyside went 8-4 and reached the state playoffs in 1994, Sanchez’s first season.
The following year, the Blue Devils went 10-2 and made an appearance in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
Sunnyside went on to play in the state championship game four times, and won titles in both 2001 and 2003. The Blue Devils reached the postseason 14 times in Sanchez’s 18 seasons. During the five seasons before Sanchez took over the Blue Devils’ football program, Sunnyside went 27-26 and only had won one postseason game since 1982.
In 2014, the Star named Sanchez the second-greatest football coach in Southern Arizona history. Last summer, Greg Hansen named Sanchez the ninth-best high school coach in any sport.
Blanco said Sanchez’s resume is unmatched.
“I think he’s going to be a great fit and our kids deserve somebody who’s willing to put the time in and willing to teach them the right way and do the right things and share his experiences with them,” he said.
Contact reporter Norma Gonzalez at 520-262-3265 or email@example.com.