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2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Willcox


Eric Hjalmarson is entering his second season at Willcox (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

2A San Pedro: Willcox

2020 record: 3-3 in season shortened by COVID-19. The Cowboys won their first three games but lost their last three.

Head coach: Eric Hjalmarson, 19-16 fifth year overall, 3-3 second year at Willcox. Hjalmarson (pronounced Hahl-mar-sen) took over the Willcox program last year after moving from Safford, where he coached that program to the 3A South title in 2019 with an 8-3 overall record. Hjalmarson was 14-6 in his two years at Safford and was 2-7 at Globe in 2009. After playing for legendary coach Paul Moro at Blue Ridge, where he won three state titles, Hjalmarson played at Eastern Arizona College before transferring to Arizona as a walk-on for the 1999 season. He was a teammate of Scooter Sprotte’s at Blue Ridge and Arizona. Hjalmarson replaced former Arkansas and NFL player Alonzo Highsmith Jr. at Willcox before last season. Highsmith, Willcox’s coach for three seasons, is now the defensive coordinator at Phoenix North High School.

Key returners:

  • QB/DB Ayden Fuentes, 5-11, 195, Jr.
  • RB/LB Cristian Pando, 5-10, 190, Jr.
  • RB/LB Oren Allsup, 5-9, 175, Soph.
  • WR/DB Kash Macumber, 5-9, 175, Soph.
  • WR/DB Marcus Olivares, 5-9, 155, Sr.
  • WR/DB Alex Mills, 5-7, 160, Sr.
  • C/DT Izzy Villegas, 5-11, 285, Soph.
Ayden Fuentes is off to a productive start in his varsity career at Willcox (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/offensive coordinator: Eric Hjalmarson
  • Defensive coordinator: Mike Rand
  • Offensive line: Mike Patterson
  • Assistant: Trevor Ward
  • Assistant: Steve Ward
  • Assistant: Joel Todd
  • Stats: George Medrano
  • Film: Steve Casillas
Willcox coach Eric Hjalmarson has started a tradition of recognizing everyday practice players with an ironman plaque in their honor for posterity and also a plaque for all-state selections (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Hjalmarson said he believes Fuentes can emerge as a potential Division I college prospect by the end of his senior season. Fuentes completed 32 of 53 passes (60.4 percent) for 492 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions last season. He rushed 57 times for 271 yards with two touchdowns. … Pando is another junior who has two more years to develop into a college prospect. He rushed for 248 yards on 43 carries with two touchdowns and he was second on the team in tackles with 47 last season. … Assistant coach Trevor Ward is the Justice of the Peace at Willcox. … After hosting Globe and Tanque Verde in the first two weeks of the season, Willcox will play three consecutive games in the Phoenix area against San Tan Foothills, Valley Lutheran and North Pointe Prep. … Hjalmarson will coach against his former high school and college teammate, Scooter Sprotte, when Willcox hosts Tanque Verde. Sprotte, in his first year as an assistant on Jay Dobyns’ staff, earned the Ed Doherty Award as the state’s player of the year when he rushed for 2,961 yards at Blue Ridge in 1994. He started out as a tailback at Arizona but he transitioned to a starting spot on the linebacking crew in 1998. When asked if a bet might be made on the outcome of the game between the two close friends, Hjalmarson joked that some whiskey might be on the line.

Cristian Pando (10) and Marcus Oliveras (5) are two talented players returning to Willcox’s backfield (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Schedule:

(AZPREPS365)

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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. 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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