2022 Southern Arizona high school football preview: San Manuel Miners

San Manuel alumnus Ernie Ivy is back for his fourth year as head coach of the Miners (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

1A South: San Manuel Miners

2021 record: 8-2 overall, 5-1 1A South (second place)

Head coach: Ernest Ivy, 15-10, fourth year at San Manuel and overall. Ivy was an All-State Class 3A honorable mention choice by the Arizona Republic as a quarterback for San Manuel following his senior season in 1993. He has coached with the Miners for more than a decade, replacing Damon Lovato for the head coaching position in 2019.


Key returners:

  • RB/LB Mathias Medina, 5-8, 160, Sr.
  • QB/DB Ralphie Valencia, 5-9, 140, Sr.
  • DB/WR Jakob Tafoya, 5-9, 155, Jr.
  • LB Joshua Tafoya, Sr.
  • DB/WR Tony Guisa, 6-3, 175, Sr.
  • C/DT Damien Foster, 6-2, 250, Sr.

“It’s all in their head and heart. If they have it there, they can make plays offensively and defensively.” — Ivy

San Manuel senior Ralphie Valencia takes over at quarterback this season for the Miners (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“Last year, our hopes were to get to the playoffs. We did that, but as a team we were young. We were learning. Our running back (Mathias Medina) got hurt early on. This year, we’re back. We’re healthy this year. We’ve been putting in a lot of work during the summer — weights every day. This year, I feel really confident what our team can do and where we can get to this year.” — Valencia

San Manuel senior Mathias Medina is back after missing most of last season with a knee injury (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“It’s unexplainable how hungry I am right now to come out — I’ve been waiting since the day I got hurt, Sept. 10 to come out — and play, get on the field, to hit somebody.” — Medina, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last season in the third game.

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach: Ernest Ivy
  • Offensive coordinator: Ernest Ivy
  • Defensive coordinator: Kevin Waddell
  • Assistant: Manny Laguna
  • Assistant: Pablo Rodriguez
  • Assistant: Earl Andrade

Notes: San Manuel’s prolific QB Nicolas Velasquez decided to stop playing football after passing for 1,583 yards last year as a sophomore and 2,220 overall in his two varsity years. He completed 72 of 126 pass attempts (57.1 percent) with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions last year. … Ralphie Valencia, who has some experience at quarterback during his youth football days, will take over at the position for the Miners. Valencia is coming off accumulating 10 interceptions as a safety last year, ranking in the top 5 of that category for a season in 1A history in this state. … RB/LB Mathias Medina is entering his fourth year at the varsity level looking for a breakout performance. He has 491 rushing yards and 476 receiving yards in his career, which was affected last year with the season-ending knee injury in the third game. … The Miners play two of their toughest games on the road — against defending 1A state champion Mogollon on Aug. 27 and against runner-up St. David on Sept. 30.

San Manuel WR Tony Guisa gives QB Ralphie Valencia a high five during a recent scrimmage at St. David (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Keep an eye out for: DB/WR Tony Guisa, an athletic senior who is a significant target for Valencia at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. If the ball is thrown in his direction, he outleaps defenders for the reception. He has 17 receptions for 457 yards in his two varsity seasons. He certainly has the ability to surpass those numbers this season alone.

NO. 9 SAN MANUEL (8-2)

Miners compete in the 1A South (8-man football). *Region game. +1A state playoffs. Games at 7 p.m.
8/19Anthem PrepW, 30-141-0
8/27@ MogollonL, 59-01-1
9/2@ Duncan*W, 40-182-1
9/9Mohave AcceleratedW, 48-03-1
9/16@ Valley Union*W, 58-64-1
9/23Fort Apache*W, 22-05-1
9/30@ St. David*L, 69-345-2
10/7@ Ray*W, FFT6-2
10/14Baboquivari*W, 40-67-2
10/21@ Superior+W, 50-208-2
10/28@ Hayden+L, 82-208-3


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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