2022 Southern Arizona high school football preview: Catalina Trojans

Catalina second-year coach Greg McKinstry puts the linemen through a drill (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

2A San Pedro

2021 record: 1-9 overall, 0-4 2A San Pedro (last place)

Head coach: Greg McKinstry, 1-9 second year at Catalina and overall as a head coach. Before last season, he moved to Tucson from Sioux Falls (S.D.), where he was an assistant coach at O’Gorman High School since 2016. McKinstry moved to Tucson because of family in the Phoenix area and his wife’s family lives in Tucson.


Key returners:

  • DB/WR Degan Gurnett, 5-8, 140, Sr.
  • WR/LB Waylon Bleil, 6-0, 150, Sr.
  • OL/DL Francisco Sean, 6-3, 302, Sr.
  • WR/DB Ashmar Johnson, 5-5, 125, Sr.
  • T/DE Isaac Salazar, 6-1, 190, Sr.

“Last year, we were starting from scratch, putting in the foundation. Now, with the whole offseason of training and spring football, the guys have a little more buy-in. They trust the process a whole lot more. So there is a lot better attitudes. I can see more commitment to playing the sport. We have a lot more people out here, which makes a big difference in terms of camaraderie. Guys are a lot stronger. They had some playing experience last year. We’re a lot better off than last year when we started.” — McKinstry

“I’ve convinced everyone you can’t be defeated. Just keep working your hardest, 100 percent all of the time. … I’ve never thought about quitting. I couldn’t play football throughout middle school. I always wanted to, so when I got the opportunity to, I’ve loved it.” — Gurnett about the experience of playing at Catalina

Catalina assistant Terrell Bennett runs a drill for his receivers and defensive backs (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach: Greg McKinstry
  • Assistant: Scott Dean
  • Assistant: Terrell Bennett
  • Assistant: Jesus Lopez
Catalina assistant coach Jesus Lopez talks with one of his players (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: McKinstry took over a program that has not had a winning season since 2007 under Shawn Wasson. He is the Trojans’ fifth head coach in the last 11 years. McKinstry’s coaching background includes being the co-offensive coordinator at O’Gorman, which was 33-12 in his four seasons there. A former defensive back at Ohio University and Northern Iowa, McKinstry also served as an assistant at Northern Iowa from 2009-12. His high school coaching stops include Waterloo, Iowa, and Milwaukee. He worked as a behavioral specialist at a middle school in Sioux Falls before carrying on the same role at Catalina. He is now working with the Goodwill METRO Youth REC (Rescue through Engagement Center). McKinstry and this program help young adults get their lives on track through education, including assisting them to earn their GEDs. … Dean’s addition to the staff is substantial. He has a background of being the head coach at Page High School in addition to schools in Oregon and Utah. He most recently coached six-man football at Oregon at Prairie City/Burnt River High School. … Former receiver and defensive back standout Kyler Manning, who is now playing Ripon (Wis.) University, worked out with current members of the team during the summer. He is a significant example to the Trojans that their college dreams can be realized playing football at Catalina. … The Trojans will have some long bus rides this year to use as bonding sessions. They play at San Pasqual that is near Yuma, Phoenix Cortez, Kingman and Willcox. … Catalina was afflicted with a lack of varsity players last year, especially coming off the 2020 season canceled because of COVID. Participation is up this year with close to 20 players in uniform at practice. … McKinstry’s staff grew from having only athletic director Tim Bridges with him last year to adding Dean, Terrell Bennett and Jesus Lopez.

Keep an eye out for: DB/WR Degan Gurnett, important senior captain for McKinstry, who barks out encouragement like a coach during practice and his teammates listen. Essential to help McKinstry and his staff spark belief in the program among his peers.

CATALINA (1-9, 1-4)

Trojans compete in the 2A San Pedro, *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
8/26@ San PasqualL, 28-00-10-0
9/2Palo VerdeL, 60-00-20-0
9/9@ Phoenix CortezL, FFT0-30-0
9/15@ Kingman AcademyL, 54-00-40-0
9/23GlobeL, FFT0-50-0
9/30Tombstone*L, 48-00-60-1
10/7@ Tanque Verde*L, 54-00-70-2
10/14Santa Rita*W, FFT1-71-2
10/21@ Willcox*L, 52-61-81-3
10/28Bisbee*L, 36-141-91-4


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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