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CHAMPIONSHIP: Class 5A (known as Class AA at the time)
SCORE: Pueblo 16, Phoenix St. Mary’s 14
DATE: December 3, 1961
SITE: Arizona Stadium (then called Varsity Stadium with an estimated crowd of 5,000)
GAME SUMMARY: Pueblo won its first and only state championship after the state-playoff system was instituted in 1959 behind a 21-yard field goal by Gus Moreno — incredibly the first of his career — with 1:30 remaining.
The 5-foot-9 and 176-pound reserve quarterback became the hero after the passing of Richard Martinez and catching of John Straw and Ray Morgan put the Warriors in position to win.
The victory was not only Pueblo’s first state title but also the initial one for Southern Arizona in the three years Class AA state championships were held.
Martinez, Straw and Morgan helped Pueblo (8-4) rally from a 14-6 deficit to victory in the last 12 minutes of the game.
Morgan scored both of the Warriors’ touchdowns in the game — a 48-yard run and short pass from Martinez.
Martinez completed 11 of 17 pass attempts for 110 yards in the fourth quarter and 14 of 23 passes for 169 yards overall.
Pueblo trailed since the middle of the first period when Moreno’s point-after try sailed wide, allowing St. Mary’s to hold on to a 7-6 lead. The Knights led 14-6 at halftime.
Martinez engineered a 73-yard scoring drive in nine plays to cut the lead to 14-13 with 5 minutes remaining. He passed for 11 and 39 yards to Straw and another 18 yards to Morgan. Martinez’s 5-yard scoring toss to Morgan, who made a diving catch, and Moreno’s extra-point kick completed the drive.
After forcing St. Mary’s (8-2-1) to punt, Pueblo marched 55 yards to the Knight 11 to set up Moreno’s game-winning field goal attempt. Martinez again went to the air, passing 37 yards, in that drive to put the Warriors in position to win the game.
Pueblo got to the 3-yard line after a 6-yard run by Morgan but Martinez was sacked to the 11, forcing fourth down.
Legendary Pueblo coach Lou Farber opted to send in Moreno for the relatively short field goal attempt after Moreno was adept at kicking extra-point attempts.
St. Mary’s managed to get the ball to the Pueblo 37-yard line on a 38-yard pass from Larry Martin to Lefty Broderick.
On the next play, Moreno continued his late-game heroics putting pressure on St. Mary’s quarterback, hitting the arm when a pass was attempted. The ball went into the air into the hands of Pueblo’s Rene Castellum to secure the victory.
DID YOU KNOW: Pueblo coach Lou Farber, who led the Warrior program from their inception in 1955, also led the school to a state title in 1958, a year before the state-playoff system was recognized by most schools. His 1967 team finished runner-up to St. Mary’s, capping an 11-2 season. He had only one losing season in 17 years at Pueblo. He was an All-American pulling guard for the famed 1926 Brown “Iron Men” team.
THEY SAID IT: “How about that? They didn’t even get a first down in the second half!” — Pueblo defensive coordinator Ed Brown said to the Arizona Daily Star. The late Brown went on to a legendary coaching career at Cholla High School. He is in the University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame after a stellar career in football and track with the Wildcats.
BOXSCORE (printed in the Arizona Republic):