It’s different when city pride is on the line.
Ask around, and people will say Phoenix high school football is superior to Tucson’s. The programs up north have more players soaked with Division I offers, outside a certain Catholic school, and tout a few of the most explosive offensives in the Southwest.
Fighting that perception isn’t easy, and for a variety of reasons, it can be an even more difficult fight on the gridiron.
Yet, that’s what makes it special when a school from Southern Arizona stands toe-to-toe against a team from up north.
“We always say the Tucson teams are looked upon as lesser versions of the Phoenix teams,” Cienega coach Pat Nugent said. “To get any recognition, you have to go play those guys.”
For Nugent, things haven’t gone as planned the last two weeks, losing 38-10 at Phoenix Sunnyslope and 38-14 at home against Class 5A defending state champion Peoria Centennial.
Neither was as lopsided as the final score indicates, as Cienega was outscored by a combined total of 28-7 in the second halves of those games. That won’t sit well with Nugent, who doesn’t believe in “moral victories.” But while the Bobcats (1-2) stew over their first two-game losing streak since 2015, the reality is they better understand the changes that must be made.
“We were competing with them and proved we can do that,” Nugent said. “So when you watch film, and show the kids what they’re doing wrong, they kind of realize it’s things we can work on.”
Ironwood Ridge (1-2) hosts Centennial this week. Not too long ago, in 2012, the Nighthawks stunned the Coyotes, not once but twice en route to winning a state title. They renewed the series last year and the Coyotes dominated, 55-7, indicative of how fast the high school landscape can shift.
Sahuaro sits at 4-0 after a 20-13 victory over Tempe Marcos De Niza, which as recently as 2015 played for a state title. While the Padres aren’t the powerhouse they once were, the victory still tasted sweet for the Cougars, who hope to improve on last year’s state semifinal trip.
“Last year’s seniors led the way and showed these young guys what to do,” Sahuaro coach Scott McKee said. “But we know what’s coming up on the rest of the schedule, there’s a lot of work left.”
Sahuaro has three of the next four on the road — starting with at Cholla this week — sandwiched around a visit from Salpointe Catholic.
Marana community pulls together
Following a typical Thursday night, Marana sophomore Scott Bianco headed home from his sophomore/freshman game and went to sleep.
In the middle of the night, about 2 a.m., he woke up to the smell of smoke. After he got to safety, and the authorities were notified, he contacted his coach Louie Ramirez.
“I get a call from him about four o’clock telling me what’s going on,” Ramirez said. “He just sent me some pictures, and said, ‘Coach my house burned down.’ And as a coach you just think about what you can do.”
Ramirez’s wife put together a GoFundMe, a link to which can be found on the MaranaFB Twitter page. They also sent out an email to parents and people in the community, seeking donations.
“It’s tough for any young man to go through that, but it’s a testament to our community and how much support we have,” Ramirez said.
Marana (0-4) travels to Williams Field this week.
Amphi will try to stop the Dorados’ march
One of this week’s premier matchups pits two district rivals against each other and begs a simple question, can anyone stop Canyon del Oro’s rushing attack?
The Dorados (4-0) have bowled over each opponent they have faced, tallying up a whopping 1,056 yards on the ground for a 7.2 yards per carry average.
Running back Gavin Davis has racked up the largest share, rushing 69 times for 462 yards and six touchdowns, including his third 100-yard game in last week’s 21-0 win over Pusch Ridge Christian.
Quarterback Montana Neustadter added 101 rushing yards on 11 carries. However, he completed just one of six passes for zero yards. So far, no team has made CDO rely on its air attack, but Amphitheater coach Jorge Mendivil hopes to change that this week.
“CDO is playing incredible right now,” Mendivil said. “But if we can force them to pass, I think we’ve got a shot.”
Amphi’s defense has allowed just seven points during its three-game win streak and have recorded 43 tackles for a loss so far this season.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup for us, but we tell our kids, ‘Hey, let’s go out and shock Tucson this week,” Mendivil said.