Tucson High School Sports

Tanque Verde Ends Two-Year Winning Drought In Jay Dobyns’ Debut as Coach


Tanque Verde High School went more than two years without a victory — “exactly 778 days from tonight,” first-year coach Jay Dobyns said — and the Hawks’ point total in their 49-10 win over visiting Rincon/University Friday night nearly matched what they scored in a 0-10 season last year.

“I don’t think they scored 49 points in the 2000’s,” said new running backs coach David Adams, an exaggeration from the Sunnyside and Arizona legend, but the resounding message of making a statement was clear.

The Hawks were outscored 496-62 last season.

Dobyns, a former Sahuaro and Arizona standout receiver, federal agent, author, motivational speaker and assistant coach at Salpointe, can add head coach to his work history after Friday’s dominating start.

“I’m a very ordinary coach; there’s nothing special about me,” the always modest Dobyns said. “But I have an extraordinary staff and I have amazing kids, amazing seniors who bought into our restoration program and every bit of the credit goes to them.

“I told the kids in the end zone I am not supposed to say this at a public school, but God is good. He put His hand on our shoulder tonight.”

Dobyns and his star-studded coaching staff took it from there, but this was a night for the players, the ones who had seniors who witnessed the program go 0-10, 2-8 and 2-8 the last three years. Fittingly, Senior Night was held before the game, honoring those who have persevered, held before the season opener because nobody knows the certainty of games hereafter because of COVID-19.

“I didn’t play football until my freshman year, and before you know it, we had losing season after losing season. It was hard but above me, I had great guys (teammates) trying to teach me,” said running back Dillon Simmers, a physical 6-foot-1 and 200-pound runner who finished with a career-high 192 yards on only 10 carries with three touchdowns.

A soccer player, Simmers also made a simmering seven extra-points in as many attempts.

“This is the year everything clicked,” he said. “I realized who I am and who I can be. With these coaches and what they’re teaching, it’s been amazing.”

I realized who I am and who I can be.

Sometimes, the coaching does bring that out of a player and the team.

Simmers nearly gained on Friday night what he is listed as rushing for in his last two seasons on the varsity — 196 yards on 41 carries with two touchdowns.

The Hawks presented Dobyns with the game ball as they gathered close to the goal post after the game. Standing behind him were three fellow former Arizona players — all Larry Smith proteges — on his coaching staff — Adams, line coach Jeff Kiewel and defensive backs coach Van Brandon.

Nearby, was Dobyns’ son Jack, the receivers coach and standout at Salpointe who went on to play at Chadron (Neb.) State. There, he played with Matt Vinson, who is now the Hawks’ quarterback coach.

Veteran coach Bob Vielledent serves as an analyst. Longtime Salpointe assistant John Williams is the Hawks’ defensive coordinator and his son Jay, another Lancer standout who went on to play at Brown, helps Brandon with the defensive backs.

“Coach Dobyns brought a ton of good coaches together from all different backgrounds. They combined to make a great coaching staff,” said senior quarterback Corbin Austin, who completed 6 of 11 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown pass and run.

“I’ve never been part of a football team like this with this coaching staff.”

Austin contemplated giving up football after a neck injury sidelined him all of last season. The thought of trying to return to a floundering program was not all that enticing.

“I saw the new coaching staff come in and I wanted to change stuff before I left this school,” Austin said. “I saw my opportunity and I took it.”

Adams’ inspirational return from a stroke last month supplemented his already strong motivational skills.

More than once, Adams gathered with the Hawks near the goal post, players surrounding him as he gave a speech.

“Yes sir!” they were heard before a loud cheer.

“I think it helps because I am believable because I have accomplished a few things,” said Adams, an All-Pac-10 running back his senior season at Arizona who went on to play in the NFL, proving recruiters and draft analysts wrong with his 5-foot-6, 170-pound size.

“The stroke was very scary. When they tell you, ‘Well, if we operate, there is a 50-50 chance you may die,’ not if the operation is going to be successful — ‘you might die if we operate.’ There were some scary points there. When they were telling me that this may be your normal and my face is drooping off down to my kneecap. I was like there was no way that was going to be. I was very fortunate to have a fast recovery and being blessed with some good doctors to help me with my treatments.”

The teaching and preaching of Dobyns and his staff translated to a fired-up group controlling the line of scrimmage, a testament to Kiewel’s ability to lead his players. The former Atlanta Falcons lineman who graduated from Sabino played a key part in Tanque Verde gaining 293 yards on the ground on 29 carries (10.1 average).

Rincon/University was held to only 34 yards on 19 carries.

The Rangers’ senior quarterback Steven Geiger was on the run most of the night, trying to avoid pressure from Tanque Verde’s defensive front. He had the Rangers’ most carries with 11 for 9 net yards. He completed 11 of 27 pass attempts for 170 yards.

“We’ve got to understand how to play football and what football entails,” said Rincon/University’s Khyree Copeland, also a first-year coach who has a Chicago background and moved to Tucson three years ago.

“The physicality was not there tonight, and that’s one thing we can work on. We have the guys to do it. We have the mentality to do it. It’s just about putting that mentality into the physical play of football.”

Dobyns and his staff witnessed that effort from their team Friday.

Dobyns mentioned the way the Hawks played was indicative of the late Smith’s impact on him and the former Wildcats who are coaching the team.

“Coach Smith is reflected into this team because a lot of our personalities are the type of personalities that Coach Smith embraced in his players,” Dobyns said. “We saw what he did and how he treated us. Those things when they work and when you win behind them, you embrace them.

“They’re being repeated out here at Tanque Verde High School.”

Tanque Verde gathers for a team photo with their season-opening score behind them (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


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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.

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