2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Eloy Santa Cruz Valley

James Fitzgerald takes over the Santa Cruz Valley program after his good friend Rishard Davis coached the Dust Devils to a 2A state title (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

2A Rillito: Eloy Santa Cruz Valley

2020 record: 9-1, Class 2A state champions, first state title since 1990.

Head coach: James Fitzgerald, first year at Santa Cruz Valley, 8-12 overall in third year. Fitzgerald, 29, was the head coach at Douglas in 2017 and 2018, an assistant at Brevard College in North Carolina in 2019 and was the offensive coordinator at Gilbert Valley Christian (his alma mater) last season. Early in his career, he was an assistant at Pusch Ridge, serving on the same staff as Rishard Davis, who coached Santa Cruz to the state title last season. Davis returned close to his home and is now an assistant at Chilton County (Ala.) High School. Fitzgerald is also the athletic director at Santa Cruz, a title that Davis also held.

Key returners:

  • RB/LB Ricardo Alaniz, 5-10, 180, Sr.
  • WR/CB Steve Calvin, 5-11, 190, Sr.
  • TE/DE Davin Ethington, 6-1, 180, Sr.
  • DE/OT Tanzor Gil, 6-5, 255, Sr.
  • DT/OT Robert Maldonado, 5-10, 225, Sr.
  • WB/SS Wyatt Ogle, 5-7, 160, Sr.
  • QB/DB Max Rodriguez, 6-2, 210, Jr.
Santa Cruz Valley DE/OT Tanzor “Taz” Gil has a towering presence at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds and he plays as big as he looks (Photos by Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/offensive coordinator: James Fitzgerald
  • Defensive coordinator/linebackers: Bill Askew
  • Receivers/defensive backs (JV coach): Matt Nelson
  • Offensive line: Curtis James
  • Defensive line/tight ends: Danny Escarcega Jr.
  • Assistant offensive/defensive line: Armando Muñoz
  • Director of football operations: Mike Ibarra
  • Films: Fred Aleman
Santa Cruz Valley WR/DB Steve Calvin was an important player in the Dust Devils’ championship season last year (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Santa Cruz has the significant void to fill of RB/LB Hunter Ogle, an Ed Doherty Award finalist, exhausting his eligibility. Ogle rushed for 2,096 yards on 199 carries in only 10 games last season, including the state championship game in which he gained 244 yards on 26 rushes with three touchdowns. He had 25 rushing touchdowns last season. As a linebacker, he had 59 tackles, including six for loss. Ogle is now at Simpson College in Iowa. … Hunter’s brother Wyatt, a senior who is also an accomplished wrestler like his brother, has shifted from quarterback to wingback to take advantage of his athleticism. Max Rodriguez, a 6-foot-2 junior, is taking over at quarterback. … A potential Division I prospect is senior DE Tanzor Gil (6-5, 255 pounds) who last year totaled 22 tackles with two for loss and recovered a fumble in the state title game. Gil reportedly is being looked at as a preferred walk-on by Arizona and a recruit by NAU, among other schools. … RB Ricardo Alaniz and WR Steve Calvin are other prospects to watch. They combined for 1,338 all-purpose yards last year — Alaniz rushed for 592 yards with his strength between the tackles and Calvin ran for 417 yards using his speed on end-arounds. … Santa Cruz is shifting from the 2A Gila to the 2A Rillito this season, which means it has local schools Catalina, Tanque Verde and Santa Rita on its schedule.



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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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