Allistaire Heartfield, a member of the city’s top backfield in history as part of the unbeaten 1970 state championship team at Tucson High, passed away Sunday from COVID-19 in Pheonix.
Heartfield, who went on to sign with Arizona but didn’t play with the Wildcats because of injuries, was 68.
Heartfield and fellow Badger running backs Derral Davis and Mark Simon made history as the only three running backs from the same team to be selected first-team all-state with each gaining more than 1,000 yards in the same season.
All seniors, they played on the 12-0 team under legendary coach Ollie Mayfield. The team is set to be inducted in the Pima County Hall of Fame in the spring. Others on that team were all-state linemen Mike Dawson and Will Kreamer.
The other starting offensive linemen with the Badgers that season earned Tucson Citizen first-team all-city honors — Lonnie Williams, Jesus Bracamonte and Mike Bailey.
“Myself and all of Al’s teammates are saddened by his passing. Al was such an athlete. He was the strongest player on the team and such a hard runner,” said Kreamer, who went on to be an accomplished coach and administrator with stops at Tucson High, Santa Rita and Sahuaro.
Running out of Mayfield’s Wing-T formation, Heartfield was the leading rusher with 1,396 yards. Simon produced 1,148 yards while Davis finished with 1,063.
“In our opener against Catalina (in 1970) he scored on an 80-yard breakaway on the first play of the game,” Kreamer recalled. “They were geared up for Derral Davis but didn’t know anything about Al.
“Al scored the winning touchdown against (Mesa) Westwood in the last seconds of the game in the semifinals.”
Tucson went on to rout Phoenix Sunnyslope 54-16 in the championship game.
“It’s sad to think that now both he and Derral have passed, leaving Mark Simon, our fullback, as the surviving member of the backfield,” Kreamer said. “It was like having three Bijan Robinsons in the same backfield.
“Al was a wonderful human being.”
Kreamer, who was inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, often has flashbacks to that storied season.
“In the full-house T, Al was our right halfback and was lined up behind Mike and I,” he said. “With all the misdirection of the T formation, sometimes just the quick dive, in the 6-hole between me and Mike — in those days, the holes were numbered from outside-in — our ’16’ (play) would really pop.
“That was the first play against Catalina that Al took to the house. That memory just popped into my head.”
The Year 2020 has been difficult for Tucson High football. In addition to unfortunate news of Heartfield, legendary Osia Lewis (Class of 1982) and Richard Dodson (1969) have also passed away.
Lewis was a three-sport star at Tucson High who played three positions in football with the Badgers — quarterback, defensive back and punter. He went on to play at Oregon State and coached for 30 years.
Dodson was an all-state football player with the Badgers who also set the city record with a shot put of 56 feet, 1 inch, as a senior in 1969. Exhibiting his athleticism, Dodson, a tackle at Tucson before switching to linebacker for Arizona, also kicked the ball off for Bob Weber’s Wildcats in 1971 and 1972.
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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.