Catalina may be eliminated from the state playoffs this year but the Trojan story is about a new beginning, not an end.
The Trojans are just 1-6 with their lone victory coming over section rival Santa Rita last week. Many would consider this season a failure, more of what has been expected by Catalina. But the Trojans are in year one of a culture change.
Former Cienega and Utah standout Zach Davila was hired to help usher in a new era, an era where athletics will be elevated in importance thanks in part to an administration with a rich athletic background.
Principal Kathi Shaw was a former University of Arizona softball player, assistant principal Antasio Holley was an All-American football player and he played professional Arena Football and former Arizona basketball standout Harvey Thompson is the athletic director.
Seniors Zach Holmes and Andy Trinh have seen the changes up close.
“I wish the coaches were here for my freshman year,” Holmes said. “More people are coming to practice and there is more heart than usual. This program will win games.”
Trinh runs the offense and he literally runs on the cross country team. He has had to adjust to the changes more than just about anyone on the team.
“In the beginning we didn’t play like a team. It was hard to keep going,” Trinh explained. “But we have started to finally see the winning culture that it takes. We started to play together as team over the last three games.”
But teams with rich football cultures are struggling this year. Cienega, Canyon del Oro, Sahuaro and Salpointe have more than enough culture and more than enough players to get it done but each is struggling to find a missing piece of the puzzle. Davila just may be the missing piece for Catalina.
“We are showing them that they can erase the stigma that they don’t have the ability to win,” Davila explained while watching “walkthroughs” on Thursday morning.
“Last week proved to them that if they play like a team and for each other good things will happen. They earned that win.
“We still have a few seniors who don’t show up for practice but that will change. Our freshman team is very exciting. They are a good team,” he added.
Part of the future includes 6-foot4, 220 pound lineman Jose Lugo. Davila feels he will be a sure D-I recruit by the time he is a senior. Davila should know.
Davila was an All-State lineman under Nemer Hassey at Cienega when Utah came calling. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has spoken to his players and Davila still considers Hassey a mentor.
“We basically have a mini Cienega here at Catalina,” Davila explained. “What we do in the locker room and with the coaches is what I brought from Cienega.”
Catalina visits Palo Verde (1-7) tomorrow night. There will be no media frenzy associated with the game. No one will crunch numbers to calculate hopes. But the game will feature two neighborhood programs fighting for one more win, fighting for the name on the front of their jerseys. School pride.
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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com