As a new feature this year, AllSportsTucson.com is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With August 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the eighth month of the year.
MOST NEWSWORTHY DEVELOPMENTS
Former Cienega standout Andre Jackson was elevated form the Tulsa Drillers to the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers a recently and he took the next step with a spot on the 40-man roster for the Dodgers on Aug. 16. Jackson was a standout at Utah and he was taken in the 12th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Every parent wants the best for their kid, but this was more than we could have ever asked for,” his mother Chach Jackson said. “He has made us so very proud. He has worked so hard and overcome so much to make it this far. To make his debut with the Dodgers at Dodgers stadium was an incredible experience. We are so thankful for our “village” that has supported him since his Little League days. That village was cheering loud and proud last night and we are honored to share this moment with all of them!”
The Pac-12 announced Aug. 25 the creation of a conference championship event for baseball in partnership with the City of Scottsdale and The Arizona Sports & Entertainment Commission. The inaugural Pac-12 Baseball Tournament is scheduled for May 25-29, 2022 at Scottsdale Stadium. The double-elimination tournament will be spread over five days at the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants. The top eight teams in the conference standings at the conclusion of the regular season will earn berths in the Pac-12 Baseball Tournament, from which the champion will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Pac-12’s initial agreement with the City of Scottsdale runs through 2024.
Palo Verde High School canceled its varsity football season Aug. 20 due to a lack of participants, specifically upperclassmen with experience at the varsity level, according to head coach Mike Wells and assistant coach Keith Smith Sr. Smith mentioned the Titans, in the Class 4A Gila region, had only two seniors, two juniors and four sophomores as part of a 31-man roster that showed up to practice this fall. Wells added, “With only two seniors and a total of four players that have played high school football at any level we feel it is best for our program (to cancel the varsity schedule). Very difficult decision but the safety of our players is our highest priority.”
Former Cienega standout Nick Gonzales, a former All-American at New Mexico State, earned a ranking of being the No. 4 prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He missed six weeks due to a broken finger and returned to the lineup on June 26. Gonzales went 4 for 6 with three home runs, four runs and eight RBIs — all career highs in the minors — in leading High-A Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate Greensboro (N.C.) on Aug. 29. He also tied a career-high with his four hits in the 19-11 win over Asheville. The performance follows an Aug. 8 game with two home runs, five RBIs and 10 total bases. He also tallied four hits in games on Aug. 13 and Aug. 22. He had 10 multi-hit games in August and 23 this season. Gonzales then hit two home runs, including a walk-off a grand slam Aug. 31 against the Hudson Valley Renegades. It was his fifth home run and 15th RBI in two games. The Pirates’ first-round pick of the 2020 MLB Draft batted .364 with 10 home runs, one triple, 10 doubles, 28 RBIs and 81 total bases during in August. “I almost feel like I’m back in college again,” Gonzales told reporters. “I’m out there having a blast and not worrying about any particular outcomes. I’m trusting that all the work I do before games will pay off and lately, that’s how it’s been. The season has gone so quickly. I’m just enjoying being around my teammates and everything that comes with it.”
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch announced Aug. 24 that the Wildcats will go with a two-quarterback system to start the season — implementing Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer. Fisch said it was still too close to call. He set no timetable on when he’ll go with one. He was still not clear how he will use – or how often – his quarterbacks but that the two will play in the season-opener against Brigham Young on Sept. 4.
Former Pueblo football standout Leonard Thompson passed away on Aug. 17 at the age of 69. An honorable mention all-city running back with the Warriors in 1970, Thompson went on to play for Arizona Western where he helped the program win a national championship before transferring to play for Oklahoma State in 1973 and 1974. Thompson threw a 40-yard touchdown pass in the final moments of the 1974 Fiesta Bowl to help the Cowboys beat BYU 16-6. Thompson was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1975 and he went on to play 12 seasons with 277 career catches for 4,682 career yards in 175 games. Thompson is considered by the NFL to be the best player to ever get drafted in the 194 spot, surrounded by Shannon Sharpe (192), Antonio Brown (195) and Terrell Davis (196).
High School and youth football returned to Tucson after widespread uncertainty and cancellations in 2020 becauwe of COVID-19. The first Friday of high school football of the 2021 season with at least 10 local teams playing occurred Aug. 27 with 14 from Southern Arizona competing. Top games included Pusch Ridge defeating Benson, Sabino beating Arizona College Prep, Tombstone defeating Santa Rita (to begin the Tom Joseph era) and Tanque Verde topping Laveen Heritage Academy after two long weather delays. Youth football returned to Tucson, including the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation, on Aug. 22 after last season was canceled because of COVID-19.
Earl Mitchell and Brooks Reed, two standout football players during the late 2000s, will be inducted into the Arizona Ring of Honor due to their 10 seasons in the NFL. Both Mitchell and Reed will be in attendance at the Homecoming game vs. Cal on Nov. 6 to be officially recognized. Mitchell, a 10-year pro with the Texans, Dolphins and 49ers, was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection and was a team captain his senior season. He started off his Arizona career as an outstanding fullback and eventually moved to the defensive line. Mitchell was a third-round pick in 2010 and played in Super Bowl LIV with the 49ers in his final season. Reed, a Tucson native and 10-year pro with the Texans, Falcons, Cardinals and Titans, was also a two-time All-Pac-10 selection and team captain. He was a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft and has 23.5 career sacks in the league while also playing in Super Bowl LI with the Falcons. Reed most recently played for the Tennessee Titans during the 2020 season.
Cody and Patsy Ritchie, dedicated University of Arizona supporters, made a gift commitment of $1 million Aug. 13 to Arizona Athletics toward the Wildcat Scholarship Fund and program enhancements for Arizona Football, as well as Arizona Men’s and Women’s Golf. Half of the gift will go toward the Wildcat Scholarship Fund, which helps provide room, board, books, fees and meals for Arizona student-athletes.
The Team USA women’s basketball team and Arizona second-year freshman forward Lauren Ware struck gold Aug. 15 by defeating Australia 70-52 in the FIBA U19 World Cup championship at Debrecen, Hungary. Ware started for Team USA and finished with seven points, five rebounds, and one blocked shot. She averaged close to 15 minutes per game and scored almost seven points per game. She had a rebounding average of close to five a game.
OTHER TOP DEVELOPMENTS
— The Baboquivari Unified School District instituted a shutdown Aug. 3 of its schools because of positive COVID-19 cases at its Indian Oasis Elementary School, and the move to only remote learning for 10 days of all schools has forced the suspension of the high school’s football practice until Aug. 30. Baboquivari, on the Tohono O’Odham reservation in Sells, was scheduled to play its season opener Aug. 27 at home against 1A South rival St. David, but that game was postponed until Sept. 28. Baboquivari, which plays eight-man football, canceled its season last year because of the pandemic.
— Tucson High grad and Arizona diver Delaney Schnell pulled off one of the best performances Aug. 4 for an American since Laura Wilkinson took fifth place in the 10-Meter Platform in the 2004 Olympics. Quan Hongchan of China won gold last night with 466.20 points, Chen Yuxi of China won silver with 425.40, Australia’s Melissa Wu took bronze with 371.40, Gabriela Agundez Garcia of Mexico scored 358.50 for fourth place and Schnell came in with 340.40 points.
— Elijah Barclay and Kamden Gambrell, two of the top Class of 2022 receivers to play in Tucson last fall, left Salpointe Catholic’s program. Barclay, who transferred to Salpointe last school year from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, has returned to California to attend San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Gambrell is playing at Sabino in 2021.
— Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch walked off the practice field a little before noon on Aug. 6 and said, “we had a good first day.” It was Arizona’s first Fall practice under first-year head coach Fisch, who got up early because, well, he wanted to make sure everything went as well as could be expected. “I probably had the same energy and excitement as those guys did,” Fisch said, comparing him to his players. “It’s not the first practice I’ve coached at, but I am excited where our team is going.” The main focus was on the quarterbacks: Gunner Cruz, Will Plummer and Jordan McCloud, who Fisch said he had never seen him throw a football in person until Friday. That theme carried on throughout fall camp.
— Former Catalina and Pueblo soccer standout Luz Duarte, who helped lead the FC Tucson Women to an undefeated championship season this summer as the organization’s most valuable player, signed a professional contract to play for Puma Femenil on Aug. 6.
— Tucson High School graduate Levi Escobar, a four-year letterman in wrestling with the Badgers, improved to 2-0 in his professional MMA career with an impressive victory Aug. 6 in the Combate Global event at Miami. Escobar, who trains out of his father Martin’s De Brazil Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Tucson, defeated Mario López with a rear naked choke at 1:00 of the first round. Escobar and López weighed in at 159.8 pounds.
— Former Arizona basketball player Josh Green and Australia defeated Slovenia, 107-93, to earn the bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Aug. 7. Green becomes just the third Arizona men’s basketball player to earn an Olympic medal, joining Andre Iguodala, who picked up a gold medal in 2012 with the United States, and Richard Jefferson, to won bronze with the United States in 2004. It also marks the first-ever men’s basketball Olympic medal for Australia. As a result of the medal, Green can now be inducted into the Ring of Honor at McKale Center. Another of his classmates at Arizona, Zeke Nnaji, will also be inducted into the Ring of Honor after being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year following the 2019-20 season. As a freshman during the 2019-20 season that was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Green averaged 12.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and paced the team with 46 steals before being selected 22nd overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2020 NBA Draft. In Tokyo, Green appeared in five games for a total of 15 minutes and scored six points.
— Arizona legend Steve Kerr, an assistant coach for the United States, earned a gold medal with the U.S. posting an 87-82 win over France to claim the gold medal. The United States had lost to France earlier in Tokyo as part of the preliminary round but got their revenge in the closing game. Overall, it’s the fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal for USA men’s basketball.
— Softball Canada announced the roster for the players taking part in a U19 Women’s National Team selection camp that took place from August 8-12 in Surrey, B.C. and current Catalina Foothills standout Rylie Crane made the list. A Wisconsin commit, Crane is following in the footsteps of former Sabino standout Kelsey Jenkins Harshman who earned multiple honors playing for Wisconsin while representing Canada on various national teams. That path ultimately led to an Olympic bronze medal Harshman earned with Canada in Tokyo.
— Sahuaro grad Nate Renfro played in the NBA Summer League for the San Antonio Spurs from Aug. 9-17. In five games, he averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.3 minutes a game. He started all five games. He signed with the Spurs’ G-League team in Austin in January. In 15 games with Austin, Renfro averaged 4.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
— High school football coaching legend Tom Joseph, a Salpointe Catholic alum who won a state championship coaching at Mesa Mountain View in 2002, was hired as head coach at Santa Rita on Aug. 9 after gaining the recommendation of Tucson Unified School District director of interscholastics Dee Dee Wheeler. His hire made him the winningest active coach in Southern Arizona with 170 wins. Richard Sanchez, whose departure from Santa Rita to Tucson High created the vacancy, is next with 161, followed by Mica Mountain’s Pat Nugent with 138. Joseph, a coach since 1980 when he was an assistant at Rincon/University, is in position to take over the Eagles’ program after Sanchez left to Tucson High following a three-year stint at Santa Rita. Joseph, 63, most recently was an assistant under Dennis Bene at Salpointe in 2019 after coaching at Sunnyside as part of Roy Lopez Jr.’s staff in 2018.
— Arizona State offered former Salpointe standout Coben Bourguet a preferred walk-on (PWO) spot Aug. 14. He is training alongside his brother Trenton Bourguet who is a redshirt freshman QB with the Sun Devils. According to their father, Toby Bourguet, Coben has been training and gaining weight over the last few months in preparation for this offer. Coben graduated from Salpointe in 2020. Former Arizona standout Bobby Wade made the phone call to the Bourguet family and Wade is now a receivers coach with ASU. “Honestly is just a blessing and kind of unexpected,” Coben said. “I’m going to talk to coach Wade to figure out the logistics but I’m pretty sure it’s for a receiver.”
— FC Tucson also added Brandon Sanchez, a 17-year-old fielder who is a senior at Canyon del Oro High School to its roster for the Aug. 14 game against Union Omaha in a 1-0 loss. He is part of the organization’s Youth Soccer Academy. In his first game, he played about 60 minutes and made an immediate impact. “I’ve seen him since he was 11 years old,” FC Tucson coach Jon Pearlman said. “He drove a long way from CDO to play for us. He earned his way up.” Sanchez got his start at Tanque Verde Soccer Club before moving on to RSL-AZ Southern Arizona. “I’m just happy I got out there to be with some great players,” Sanchez said. “I just wanted to make a great first impression for myself, so I’m pretty proud of myself. It was just an amazing feeling to be out there in front of fans and my family.”
— Longtime Salpointe boys golf coach Jim Flannery retired over the summer. It was announced on Aug. 18. Flannery led the Lancers to state titles in 1981 and 2004. He also picked up second-place finishes in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2016. Flannery also coached the Salpointe boys basketball team from 1977 to 1993. Steve Armenta will coach the Lancers this fall.
— Former Palo Verde and Pima College standout Sydni Stallworth signed a professional contract to play for Lemvig Basketball in Denmark. Stallworth went on to play for Alaska-Anchorage where she earned all-conference recognitions. Despite her 5-foot-3 frame, Stallworth is known as a scorer and she recorded 2,182 points with Palo Verde which puts her No. 21 in the history of girls basketball in Arizona and No. 5 for Southern Arizona. She scored 1,103 points for the Aztecs (16.5 point per game) which led to two ACCAC Div. II Player of the Year honors. Stallworth was a standout for the NorCal Raiders of the Women’s Universal Basketball Association (WUBA) where she averaged 16.8 points a game to earn WUBA Conference Player of the Year honors.
— Arizona great Jason Terry moved on after a season at his alma mater as an assistant to the G-League where he became the head coach of the Denver Nuggets’ affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Aug. 19. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Terry was also being considered to join the Dallas Mavericks’ staff under coach Jason Kidd. Wojnarowski wrote Terry “wanted to get on a path to becoming a head coach after an NBA career that included a championship with Mavs in 2011 and an NBA sixth-man of year award in 2009.”
— The Tucson Sugar Skulls defeated Northern Arizona 56-38 on the road Aug. 21 but fell just short of making a postseason appearance in their second full season of operation. Tucson needed to beat Northern Arizona, and both Sioux Falls and Bismarck had to win their games for the Sugar Skulls to qualify for the eighth and final playoff spot. Two out of those three things happened, but Duke City outlasted Bismarck as Tucson was pulling away from Northern Arizona early in the fourth quarter. The Sugar Skulls, playing their first season with Dixie Wooten as head coach, finished 6-8.
— Season 2 of Athletes Unlimited got underway on Aug. 24 with the Week 1 Draft with eight players with Tucson ties:. Former Sabino standout Kelsey Harshman returns for her second year after she helped lead Team Canada to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. A newcomer to this professional format is former Sahuaro and University of Arizona pitcher Gina Snyder. Snyder coached the Bradenton Slice to third place finish in the Florida Gulf Coast League this summer and she is a volunteer assistant with North Florida. Former Arizona standouts Alyssa Denham, Jessie Harper, Katiyana Mauga, Taylor McQuillin, Dejah Mulipola and Danielle O’Toole will also be important players in the second season of Athletes Unlimited. McQuillin and O’Toole were taken in the first round last year.
— The Women’s Premier Soccer League awards kept coming for the FC Tucson Women and the WPSL affiliate brought home all four major Desert Conference recognitions. FC Tucson Women was named Franchise of the Year for the third season in a row (there was no 2020 season); Kelly Pierce was named Conference Coach of the Year for the second season in a row and former University of Arizona standout Laura Pimienta was named All-Conference for the second season in a row. Even more, Pimienta was named Defender of the Year and Luz Duarte earned All-Conference honors and Offensive Player of the Year honors. Former Arizona standout Priscilla Pimienta was named All-Desert Conference as well.
— John Garza, a member of the state-champion Garza family with the Sunnyside wrestling program from 2005 to 2008, passed away on Aug. 22 because of health reasons. He was 32. Garza made headlines at The Arizona Daily Star in February 2020 for creating a unique financial literacy course at Pistor Middle School and he was a headliner at Sunnyside along with this twin brother Paul, both of whom contributed to the Blue Devils winning a state-record 14 consecutive state titles between 1998 and 2011 under former coach Robert DeBerry.
— FloWrestling’s Who’s Number One will for the first time have a full lineup of women’s matches Sept. 17 and it was announced Aug. 25 that Sunnyside sophomore Audrey Jimenez is in the headliner match against Paige Morales at 106 pounds. Jimenez is the No. 1 wrestler at that weight class in the nation according to FloWrestling because she defeated Nyla Valencia and Faith Cole at the Women’s National Championships in May. She outscored opponents 44-1 in that competition, which earned her the Most Outstanding Wrestler award. Jimenez is coming off winning a bronze medal in the Cadet World Championships at Budapest, Hungary, last month.
— Former Canyon del Oro and current Arizona goalie Hope Hisey was named WPSL Desert Conference Goalie of the Year on Aug. 30 after she helped lead FC Tucson Women to an undefeated season this summer. This award follows a lengthy series of recognitions for the Women in Black.
— Another former Dorado, Bailey Thompson, who helped lead Seattle University to back-to-back Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament championships, announced Aug. 31 she will complete her graduate studies playing for Arizona this season. Thompson was an All-WAC selection in 2018, 2019 and 2021 and she earned a spot on the NFCA Pacific Third Team her senior season. Thompson also helped Canyon del Oro win a state championship in her season with the Dorados against Sunrise Mountain, coached by former Wildcat Jody Pruitt. Thompson started all 50 games for Seattle in 2021 and she batted .327 with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 46 RBI. She led her team in all three categories. “We are thrilled to welcome Bailey to our program,” said head coach Caitlin Lowe in a release. “She brings a ton of experience and a great passion for this game. She will add some depth behind the plate as well as a lot of pop offensively. We are so happy to have her join our wildcat family.”
— The National Wresting Hall of Fame Arizona Chapter Awards Banquet is set for Nov. 21 at the Wild Horse Pass and Casino in Chandler and five members from Southern Arizona will be honored. Bill Bell, Tim Berrier, Robert DeBerry and Jay Denton will be entered in the Hall of Fame as coaches and former Flowing Wells standout Dominick Cruz will enter as an athlete. Lifetime Service to Wrestling: Bell, Palo Verde, Pueblo and St. Johns (1990 state championship);
Berrier, Ironwood Ridge, Pueblo and Salpointe (425 wins/4 state championships); DeBerry, Canyon del Oro, Sunnyside, Tucson (481 wins/15 state championships); and Denton, Santa Cruz (308 wins/3 state championships). Outstanding American Citizen: Cruz.
— Former Salpointe Lancer Angelina Amparano was named ACCAC Goalkeeper of the Week on Aug. 31 for the week of August 23-29 after she finished with seven saves in Pima’s 2-1 win over previously No. 1-ranked Phoenix College.
— Salpointe golfer Augie Quihus to Pima on Aug. 17.
— Central Arizona outfielder/catcher Kiko Romero, a CDO grad, committed to Arizona on Aug. 28.
— Nogales infielder Demetrio Crisantes to Arizona on Aug. 29.
A LOOK BACK
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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.