Scott Cortese is in his first year as Flowing Wells’ head coach, but he is one of the most seasoned veterans of coaching at the high school level in Tucson. He’s faced too many challenges to now duck any.
Once the defensive coordinator at Ironwood Ridge when Jake Fischer starred there as a linebacker more than a decade ago, Cortese served as the head coach at Catalina Foothills from 2009-12 when the Falcons had an unsuccessful four-year run against CDO and the likes of Ka’Deem Carey and Blake Martinez.
Now a head coach again, after serving as a defensive coordinator at Marana and Flowing Wells, Cortese had his sights on coaching against another talented CDO back in the season opener Thursday night (7 p.m.) as the featured game in the Coaches for Charity Kickoff Classic.PROCEEDS FROM THE GAMES GO TO A SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR LOCAL ATHLETES
The unfortunate news is that CDO’s junior standout running back Stevie Rocker, who rushed for 1,163 yards last year, will miss this game and potentially more with an ankle injury suffered in scrimmage with Walden Grove last week.
Cortese does not look at the injury as an opportunity or as the Caballeros dodging a bullet.
“We’re disappointed their best player, their running back, is hurt. We’ve been getting ready for him since June,” Cortese said last Saturday at the Coaches for Charity luncheon. “But we know it’s going to be a struggle. It always is at their home field.”
Cortese, who replaces veteran coach Mark Brunenkant, who is now the Caballeros’ athletic director, can’t escape the Dorados. Cortese’s sons also graduated from CDO, and he has coached against Dustin Peace, the Dorados’ 11-year coach, dating to his time at Ironwood Ridge.
“I’m very familiar with CDO — past coaching thing — and they always have fantastically coached athletes,” Cortese said.
Peace indicated to me Wednesday night some good news with Rocker’s injury. An MRI over the weekend did not reveal anything serious.
“MRI is clear,” he mentioned. “(Rocker has) gotta get through the severe sprain.”
CDO will look to avenge last year’s 38-37 thrilling season-opening loss at Flowing Wells.
A strong core other than Rocker — especially on defense — returns for Peace’s team including receiver Jayden Bracy (242 yards receiving last season), linebackers Mason Catterson (71 tackles) and Dustin Sheeley (49 tackles), cornerbacks Cory Bonstrom (47 tackles and three interceptions) and Dylan Zamorano (42 tackles) and safety Austin Brooks (41 tackles).
When asked what excites him the most about his team, Peace said, “the accountability of our seniors and our team. We have talent like we haven’t had in a few years.”
CDO took two team-bonding trips this summer — camping at San Diego and staying inside a gym at Snowflake — mostly because Peace trusted the maturity of his upperclassmen.
“You have to count on kids to make right decisions as young men,” Peace said. “That group earned the right, that responsibility.”
Flowing Wells does not have as many returners from an 8-3 season last year, but the Caballeros have one of the best tackles in the Southern Arizona — senior Derek Gonzalez (6-foot-1 and 265 pounds). The Caballeros also have a senior at quarterback — Austin Spivey — who will be counted on for his leadership from Cortese and his staff (most of which stayed intact from last season, making the transition of Cortese to head coach smoother).
A benefit of Flowing Wells is it is a neighborhood school as the only high school in the Flowing Wells School District. That means most of the teammates have known each other since elementary school.
“They’re very proud of their neighborhood which is a nice thing to have,” said Cortese, who is teaching at Flowing Wells for the first time this school year. “They’re a tough brand of kid. They really are. They take great pride where they are from and they stick together. “
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.