Growing up in the South can make a young person want to play the game of football, but Jake Price had a different goal coming out of Bossier City, La.
“Coaching is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a teenager, when I was about 12 to 13 years old,” Price said. “I enjoyed playing, but just the strategy of the game, the camaraderie of the team … it’s one of the things I was fortunate enough that as soon as I got out of high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
“I wanted to become a teacher and I wanted to become a coach.”
The dream of becoming a head coach almost 26 years after his boyhood days in Louisiana became a reality for Price on Monday.
Sahuarita offered him the head coaching position and he accepted. Approval by the Sahuarita Unified School District on Wednesday is the last formality to make it official. The position became open after Don Watt, the Mustangs’ coach the last three years, stepped down after the season.
“It’s one of those things I’m having a tough time sleeping at night because I’m so excited,” Price said. “I want to get to the boys. I want to meet the parents. I want to get going.”
A student at Northwestern State at Natchitoches, La., Price relocated to Tucson and attended Arizona to live closer to his mom’s family that resided in Douglas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Education at Arizona in 2004 and he has coached as an assistant at the high school level since.
“Gary Minor (head coach at Ironwood Ridge at the time) gave me a shot to be a volunteer freshman offensive line coach when I was attending Arizona,” Price said with a laugh. “I just fell in love with it.”
Price has coached under the likes of Minor, who made Ironwood Ridge a winning program from scratch after it opened in 2001, Andy Litten at Marana and Matt Johnson at Mountain View.
Litten turned a moribund Marana program into a state playoff team before moving to the Phoenix area (he is now the head coach at Scottsdale Horizon) and Johnson coached Ironwood Ridge to its first state title in 2012.
“Jake was an outstanding coach for me,” Litten said. “He was incredibly influential to our success with his ability to build relationships to players.”
Price left Tucson in 2018 because his wife Kiki’s employment took her to Dallas. He experienced the spectacle of high school football in Texas, serving as an assistant at Community High School there.
“The things they’re doing out there are just amazing,” he said of the facilities and emphasis placed on the sport. “All the stereotypes you hear about Texas high school football, they’re true.”
Jake Price coached me when I played at IRHS and then I was lucky enough to coach with him later down the road. Incredible football coach. Top tier friend and human being. Sahuarita is lucky to have this dude!! https://t.co/Uoj2fUGyg2
— Jake Allen (@Coach_J_Allen) February 8, 2021
A year later, he and Kiki and daughter Cyra were forced to move back to Tucson because of health reasons within his family.
Johnson welcomed him to his staff in 2019 as a defensive coordinator and special teams coach.
“My family needed me here,” Price said. “We came home and it’s good to be home. I love Tucson. It has worked out. I came home to Mountain View — my wife is a Mountain Lion. And then this opportunity at Sahuarita presented itself
“It’s kind of funny how life works itself out, you know?”
A U.S. and world history teacher at Mountain View, Price intends to finish the school year teaching his students while also fulfilling his coaching duties at Sahuarita.
“It’s such a crazy year,” Price said of remote learning during this COVID-19 era. “I wouldn’t feel right or even professional leaving the kids in this situation. I signed up to make sure that I took care of the kids for this year, and I’m gonna make sure I see to that.”
Coaching Sahuarita in the 3A South will be a difficult task with established, competitive programs such as Sabino, Pusch Ridge and Safford. Price acknowledges he must coach against his mentor Minor and longtime coaching associate Brent Bartz, both of whom are assistants with head coach Kent Middleton at Pusch Ridge.
“Coach Minor has been my mentor since I was that freshman offensive line coach at Ironwood Ridge,” Price said. “I was talking to him about this Sahuarita job and told him, ‘You know, it looks promising. It looks good.’
“He said he was real proud of me. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll see you for our district (region) games. He was like, ‘Oh, I forgot about that.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll see you come district and see what happens.'”
As Price said, “It’s kind of funny how life works itself out, you know?”
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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.