2022 Southern Arizona high school football preview: Palo Verde Titans

3A South: Palo Verde Titans

2021 record: Palo Verde did not field a varsity team last season because of a lack of players, especially upperclassmen.

Head coach: Jamal Chatman, first season at Palo Verde. He spent four seasons (2012 to 2016) as head coach at Gorham (Maine) High School and went 1-31 (according to MaxPreps) in a difficult rebuilding job there. He has been at Palo Verde since 2018, moving here because his wife wanted to live in a warmer climate. He has served as the Titans’ track and field coach and junior-varsity football coach before this season. He is a Houston native who attended Texas Southern University.

Palo Verde first-year varsity coach Jamal Chatman coached many of the same players last season when the Titans only fielded a junior varsity team (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)


Key returners:

  • C/T Rico Lopez, Sr.
  • NT/LB/RB Marshall McElroy, Sr.
  • QB/LB Spencer Iban, Sr.
  • T/DE Gabe Pratoomratana, Soph.

“I want to see each kid grow. My coaching style isn’t about the football field. … My job is to help us produce future citizens of our society. I want them to understand responsibilities. When you sign up for something, you want to show up. You want to honor your word, and then in there, you’re going to learn how to get pushed down, get back up and understand that everything will not be given to you. You have to have an effort, have the challenges and face them. Understand the difference in what’s given to you and what you can go out and get.” — Chatman

Palo Verde senior QB Spencer Iban taking on the veteran leadership role with the Titans this season (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

“I feel like not having a varsity season last year was like a major step back but now it’s our building stage. … Work hard and keep pushing through.” — Iban

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach: Jamal Chatman
  • Defensive coordinator: Keith Smith
  • Offensive coordinator: Jamal Chatman
  • Defensive/offensive line: Kyon Smith
  • Defensive/offensive line: Dylan Oppelt
  • Linebackers/wide receivers: Gabe Zazueta
  • Running backs/defensive backs: Jeff Brown
Palo Verde senior lineman Rico Lopez is one of the Titans’ top returners from last fall (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Palo Verde was moved from 4A to 3A by the AIA heading into this school year. A move to 2A would have been more ideal for the struggling Titan program. The 3A South is highly competitive with Sabino, Pusch Ridge, Safford and Thatcher. … Palo Verde had 32 players at practice as of Friday (Aug. 12). That’s in stark contrast to the 20 that showed up last year, only two of whom were seniors. … Palo Verde is the last inner-city public school from Southern Arizona to win a state championship in 2005. … New assistant coach Dylan Oppelt, who coaches the linemen along with former Catalina Foothills standout Kyon Smith, has a background of playing at Central Washington, serving as an offensive line coach at Long Beach Wilson High School and earning a bachelor’s degree in history at Grambling. … QB/LB Spencer Iban has good size and speed competing in the 100 and 200 meters for the Titans’ track and field team, which is coached by Chatman. Iban is garnering recruiting interest from small colleges despite Palo Verde not having a varsity season last year.

Keep an eye out for: T/DE Gabe Pratoomratana, a sophomore who has a background of playing with the TYF Raiders, had a productive track and field season as a distance thrower in the spring.

PALO VERDE (2-8, 0-5)

Titans compete in the 3A South. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
8/19San Tan FoothillsL, 48-00-10-0
8/26@ FlorenceL, 73-00-20-0
9/2@ CatalinaW, 60-01-20-0
9/9@ Santa RitaW, FFT2-20-0
9/16Sabino*L, 55-62-30-1
9/23@ Benson*L, 62-202-40-2
10/7@ Safford*L, 59-02-50-3
10/14@ TempeL, 49-02-60-3
10/21Pusch Ridge*L, 69-02-70-4
10/28Thatcher*L, 55-122-80-5


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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