BENSON — Southern Arizona was buzzing with high school football Friday night lights, and about 45 minutes south of Tucson there was a matchup of two teams looking to make a statement early in the season after disappointing ends to last year.
The Benson Bobcats went unbeaten last year until losing in the 2A state title game to Eloy Santa Cruz Valley, while the Pusch Ridge Lions reached the Class 3A state semifinals where they lost to Yuma Catholic.
Benson was in a rare position last year, reaching the title game without a single senior on the roster.
Now, with a roster filled with talent and experience, head coach Chris Determan started his 19th season at Benson with hopes of that repeated, sustained success the program has come accustomed to.
Friday’s game started off red-hot for both sides, with the score being 21-14 Benson at the half. Benson was playing their traditional brand of hard-nose football, with rushing touchdowns accounting for all three of their first half touchdowns.
It’s a brand and style of football that I myself am pretty familiar with, being a former player of Determan’s from 2012-2015.
While Friday’s contest slipped through the Bobcats’ claws late due to a few costly mistakes and fantastic throw by Pusch Ridge’s Ryan Fontaine on a 4th-and-11 situation for a game-changing touchdown, the sentiment around Benson after the loss was of optimism and a readiness to get back and learn from their mistakes.
Many of the players and coaches had the same reaction: We think this will be good for us in the long run.
Determan has always been a teacher. It’s hard to make it almost two decades as a coach and not teach a thing or two.
He is always looking for learning opportunities for his football team. I can remember many of these kinds of loses, Determan coming in with a smile to Saturday morning film or Monday morning practice, because it was teaching time. (And trust me, he sure loves using someone as an example for a teachable moment when need be.)
Only time will tell if this early season loss will propel the Bobcats where they want to go. But if history is any indicator, they will more than likely be in the thick of things come October.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.