CDO coach Dustin Peace will look across the field tonight at Cienega’s Pat Nugent and see a “father figure” who helped him get to where he is today as one of the top coaches in Southern Arizona.
The Dorados and Bobcats open their season, delayed to this point because of COVID-19, at CDO’s field at 7 p.m. It immediately is one of the top games in the state with both teams featuring numerous college-bound players, including Arizona commit Stevie Rocker Jr., a senior running back at CDO.
“He disciplined me when I was in high school and all that stuff,” Peace said of Nugent, who coached Peace at Flowing Wells.
After Peace returned to Tucson following a short career at NAU, cut short because of a neck injury, Nugent welcomed him on his staff after Nugent became coach at CDO. While attending Arizona, Peace coached under Peace starting in 2002 and was soon thereafter elevated to defensive coordinator with the Dorados.
“He handed the job over to me,” Peace said. “I owe so much to him in so many ways. He’s a great, great man and a great coach.”
They coached together when CDO went all the way to the state title game in 2007 before losing to Scottsdale Saguaro. Two years later, in 2009, Nugent left to take over Pima College’s fledgling program and Peace was elevated to head coach.
The Aztecs were winless in Nugent’s first season while Peace led CDO to a 14-0 record and state championship with players such as Ka’Deem Carey, Blake Martinez, Josh Robbins and Jared Tevis.
Six years later in 2015, Nugent and Peace faced each other for the first and only time as opposing head coaches, when Cienega outlasted CDO 31-28. Both teams were 0-3 heading into that game, an uncommon scenario as they were both in rebuilding seasons.
In only their second meeting tonight, the coaches are in a different situation altogether with promising seasons ahead.
Peace and other local coaches believe this game — this season — was made possible for all of them when Nugent made a bold stand and canceled practice after the Pima County Health Department on Oct. 15 recommended full-contact practice and competition be postponed until the spread of COVID-19 has achieved minimal levels of community transmission as defined by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the ADHS (Arizona Department of Health Services).
The ADHS benchmarks for minimal levels of community transmission is 10 or less cases out of 100,000 people. The AIA on Sept. 17 changed its metrics to 75 cases out of 100,000 people to allow full-contact practice and competition.
Recent numbers indicate Pima County at about 44 people per 100,000 testing positive for COVID-19.
“Today is like we lost in the state semifinals and the season for our seniors was over,” Nugent said at the time.
A day later, the Sahuarita School District broke from other local districts and announced an approval for Walden Grove and Sahuarita to have a football season.
Vail followed a day later and Cienega’s season, that is full of hope, was on again. Empire also was approved to play football. Players had to stay in remote learning and strict COVID-19 mitigations had to be followed.
Nugent’s stand created a domino effect with every Southern Arizona public school district ultimately approving a football season.
The 13 Bobcats who have college scholarship offers are now provided the chance to showcase themselves and improve their possibilities for the future.
“We are loaded this year,” Nugent said. “It’s one of the best teams I’ve ever had.”
The Cienega players with scholarship offers includes quarterback Ryan Swoger, who committed recently to FCS school South Dakota State. Here is a complete list of the standout seniors:
- SS Sebastian Felix
- SS C.J. Flores
- LB Josiah Flores
- WR/DB Charles Hamm III
- C Andrew Husfelt
- WR Caleb Kidney
- RB Gabe Levy
- CB Qwestin Litz
- DT Hunter Schlagel
- LB Dillon Silva
- CB Kenny Slade
- QB Ryan Swoger
- LB Isaiah Webb
CDO features two seniors who have made a commitment — Rocker and defensive end Chase Randall (bound for Division II power Sioux Falls). Others who have college scholarship offers include free safety Ethan Seppala and linebacker/tight end Dustin Sheeley.
“This game will be exciting for all parties,” Peace said. “It will fun for (Nugent) to come back here. He lives right down the road.
“It’s a great first game for both of us because of the familiarity with each other and a lot of the relationships we have with the coaching staffs.”
In an ironic twist, tonight’s opener is after when a normal regular season would have been completed. This type of matchup merits a late-season encounter with playoff implications. It will be played at normally that point of the year but it begins the slate of what will hopefully be seven-game seasons for both schools.
“We’re both in the position of playing somebody who is high caliber right off the bat,” Peace said. “We’ve only had a week of real contact. We haven’t tackled anybody that counts. I think there will be a lot of questions to be answered on both sides.”
Nugent has the highest active winning percentage among local coaches who have coached at least 10 years with a 136-57 record (.705) beginning his 18th year in coaching. Peace is at 85-41 (.674) starting his 12th season as the Dorados’ head coach.
Southern Arizona High School Football Coaching RecordsComplete list of Tucson-area high school football coaches and their overall career head coaching records. Compiled and researched by AllSportsTucson.com.
|Richard Sanchez||Santa Rita||2A||161||75||0||.682||20|
|Matt Johnson||Mountain View||5A||119||66||0||.643||16|
|Rishard Davis||Santa Cruz||2A||53||21||0||.716||6|
|Robert Bonillas||Desert View||5A||34||67||0||.337||10|
|Kevin Kuhm||Rio Rico||4A||32||41||0||.438||7|
|Corey Noble||Walden Grove||4A||25||9||0||.735||3|
|Alonzo Highsmith Jr.||Willcox||2A||20||15||0||.571||3|
|Scott Cortese||Flowing Wells||5A||18||34||0||.346||5|
|Braden Davis||St. David||1A||16||15||0||.516||3|
|Ernie Ivy||San Manuel||2A||7||7||0||.500||1|
|James Hardy Jr.||Ironwood Ridge||5A||5||6||0||.455||1|
|Kent Middleton||Pusch Ridge||3A||4||1||0||.800||0|
|Darius Kelly||Catalina Foothills||4A||3||7||0||.300||1|
|Mike Wells||Palo Verde||4A||3||7||0||.300||1|
|Jay Dobyns||Tanque Verde||2A||0||0||0||.000||0|
|Brandon Gilbreth||Valley Union||1A||0||3||0||.000||0|
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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.