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Scurran describes how Pima made impossible possible in must-read book “One Game One Time”

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Jeff Scurran

Jeff Scurran

Jeff Scurran can tell a story as well as he can coach football. No other statement can be a better endorsement to read his new book “One Game One Time”.

Scurran would modestly disagree because his career path resulted in him becoming a football institution in Tucson instead of a full-time sportswriter after earning his journalism degree in 1969 at the University of Florida.

Anybody who knows the history of football coaching in Tucson knows Scurran has shown the Midas touch in all of his stops. He won three state titles at Sabino, where I first met him while stringing for The Arizona Daily Star. In only four years, he built Pima Community College’s program from scratch to beating a Texas junior college powerhouse, the premise of “One Game One Time”.

Santa Rita went 0-10 before his hire in 2007. The Eagles went 12-2 in back-to-back seasons, losing in the state title game each time under Scurran. Now, he is in the midst of building the Catalina Foothills’ program into a winner.

I have been a Facebook friend of Scurran’s long enough to remember all the photos he published during his stint as a coach of a semi-pro team in Italy after coaching at Santa Rita. He also had a recurring role as head coach for a high school all-star team that would travel to other countries to play games.

Since covering Scurran for the The Arizona Daily Star during my younger years, I have maintained a fascination over his ability to lead young players. I always thought of him as confident, not cocky. Scurran certainly can talk, but he builds up others through his words and does not tear them down.

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Scurran.OneGameOneTime
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That’s evident in his book with how he avoided using the name of former Pima chancellor Ray Flores, the man responsible for Scurran abruptly resigning his position as coach in 2004. Flores wanted to downsize the program that Scurran labored diligently over and funded on many occasions through his own wallet.

Scurran wanted the focus of the book to be about the inspirational accomplishment of Pima’s fledgling program in 2004, not about his gripe with the school’s administration. He took the right approach by fictionalizing the non-fiction story by not naming names and making the readers use their imagination, a sign of an intelligent writer.

His last game as Pima’s coach was the stuff of which dreams are made, or what books are written about. We can only hope that the captivating story of the rise of Southern Arizona College, the disguised name of Pima’s program in Scurran’s book, becomes a motion picture. Pima defeating Kilgore (Texas) Junior College 10-7 in the heart of the football-crazed state of Texas is the equivalent of Arizona upsetting Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

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Scurran made the impossible possible for Pima. His descriptive writing style achieves that same kind of magic for “One Game One Time”, a title that is ingenious in itself. Any sports nut, or believer that any challenge is insurmountable, can’t resist picking up a book by that title.

It is refreshing that Scurran does not use cliches or coachspeak to deliver his message of what it takes to build a successful football franchise.

The book has many meaningful passages describing the events that led to Pima’s game against Kilgore in the Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl Classic. Kilgore was 10-1 overall and the No. 3-ranked team in the nation. The book recounts the steps Scurran took to make the “Storm”, as Pima was called, believe it can do the unthinkable and win.

“If we play these guys ten times, we lose nine. Nine out of ten games…losers for sure. I guess that makes us the underdog. But we don’t play them ten times. We only play them once. A single game played only one time…for everything.”
Jeff Scurran’s message to Pima before playing Kilgore (Texas) Junior College in 2004

One of the best passages was his conversation with the late Larry Smith, who was known as a giant killer when he coached Arizona from 1980-1986. Smith was retired and living in Tucson when Scurran requested his advice on how to prepare for Kilgore. Pima was 8-3 after losing consecutive games before traveling to Mount Pleasant, Texas, to play in the nationally televised game on Fox Sports Net.

“When the pundits start writing about this game, you’ll be substantial underdogs,” Smith told Scurran, whose team was projected by some Texas newspapers as a 42-point underdog (Las Vegas does not post odds on junior college games). “It will be hard to keep this news from your kids, so your psychological approach will be paramount to getting prepared. . . .

“There is no sure-fire do this and you win way to get it done. That said, there are some things I think you need to have in your plan, or time will get the better of you.”

Time was of the essence to get his team prepared. Scurran evidently used that time wisely.

He also made the most of his spare time between his coaching stops in Italy and Catalina Foothills to work on “One Game One Time”.

Similar to Pima’s results against Kilgore, the book is a winner.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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