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2022 Southern Arizona high school football spotlight: Marana Tigers


5A Sonoran: Marana

2021 record: 7-3 overall, 3-2 5A Sonoran (third)

2022 record: 1-0

Head coach: Philip Steward, 8-3 second year at Marana and overall. Steward became the head coach in before last season after Louie Ramirez took an assistant coaching position at powerhouse Scottsdale Saguaro. Steward is from Missouri City, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where he was an all-state linebacker. He was with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 and 2014 after signing as a free agent following his career at Houston (where he played for former Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin). He also played in the Fall Experimental Football League and the Canadian Football League. He joined former Arkansas standout and NFL player Alonzo Highsmith Jr. at Willcox. He coached with Highsmith (who resigned before last season) for three years before joining Ramirez’s staff in 2020. He coached outside linebackers and running backs. Steward moved to Tucson because his fiancée is attending pharmacy school at Arizona.

Phillip Steward has coached Marana to consecutive victories over rival Mountain View for “The Boot” trophy (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

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Key returners:

  • QB/WR Elijah Joplin, 6-1, 185, Sr.
  • QB/WR Jason Wood, 6-1, 165, Sr.
  • WR/CB Sam Brown, 6-0, 175, Sr.
  • WR/DB Dezmen Roebuck, 5-10, 160, Soph.
  • RB/LB Matthew Jensen, 5-9, 180, Sr.
  • WR/CB/FS Jaelen Collins, 6-1, 165, Sr.
  • CB/RB Lee-Vi Nez, 5-10, 162, Sr.
  • DT Logan Thatcher, Sr.
  • DT Angel Murrieta, Sr.
  • LB Markus Gonzales, Jr.

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/linebackers/running backs/offensive coordinator: Philip Steward
  • Quarterbacks: Lee Joplin
  • Defensive coordinator/secondary/offensive line: Jim Yencarelli
  • Defensive line/strength & conditioning coordinator: Matt Thomas
  • Wide receivers/defensive backs: Jordan Kirchner
  • Linebackers: Chad Sweatman
  • Strength and conditioning/offensive line/defensive line: Matthew Thomas
  • Assistant: David Catalano
  • Wide receivers/defensive backs: Austin Ballard
  • Kickers/punters; Benjamin Min
  • Wide receivers/defensive backs: Jay Sharp
  • Wide receivers/defensive backs: Corey Wims Jr.
  • Running backs/offensive line: Randy Boswell

Notes: Marana coach Philip Steward said last week he was awaiting the doctor to clear senior QB Elijah Joplin to play after Joplin suffered a broken orbital bone while playing a 7-on-7 game in June. After the go-ahead, Joplin was cleared to play. He threw four passes and completed three for 31 yards in the 37-21 win over host Mountain View. He is coming off a 2,658-yard passing season last year while completing 194 of 279 pass attempts (.695 completion percentage) with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Whether Joplin can return full-time is not determined. Jason Wood, a junior, took most of the snaps against Mountain View, completing 17 of 23 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns. … The Tigers will be one of the favorites for the 5A Sonoran title. They must build enough points for a state-playoff run. That makes games against CDO (at home Sept. 23) and Cienega (on the road Oct. 7) essential to play well. Mesa Westwood, which visits Marana on Sept. 30 is another potential point-producing opponent — a 6A school that went 6-4 last year. … WR Dezmen Roebuck, a sophomore who is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, was offered a scholarship by Arizona in January after producing 44 catches for 502 yards with five touchdowns last season. He also had 32 tackles, two for loss, as a cornerback. … Senior WR/CB Sam Brown, a starter at quarterback when he was a freshman in 2019, has 2,064 total yards in his career. He had 883 receiving yards last year on 52 receptions.

Keep an eye out for: LB Markus Gonzales, a junior whose seven tackles against Mountain View are one more than he had in six games last season with the Tigers. He also recorded 1.5 sacks.

MARANA (3-0, 0-0)

Tigers compete in the 5A Sonoran. *Region game, Games at 7 p.m.
DateOpponentW/LOvrReg
9/2@ Mountain ViewW, 37-211-00-0
9/9@ BuenaW, 35-02-00-0
9/23CDOW, 40-373-00-0
9/30Westwood
10/7@ Cienega
10/14Nogales*
10/21Sunnyside*
10/28@ Flowing Wells*
11/4@ Cholla*
11/10Rincon/University*

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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. 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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