Arizona Centennial Plus 1912-2015: Football Championships


Southern Arizona State Football Championships

24-year-old James Fred "Pop" McKale (Arizona Collections)

24-year-old James Fred “Pop” McKale (Arizona Collections)

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) began conducting “official” state football championships in 1959. Still, Tucson High’s championship record prior to that has been well-established.

It all began in the 1900’s (Interscholastic Athletic Association) with teams from Phoenix Union, Phoenix Indian, Williams, Prescott, Tempe Normal, the University of Arizona and Tucson High. The Badgers won Arizona’s first mythical football championship in 1912.


Tucson High’s Rollin T. Gridley coached the most championships from Southern Arizona (5) and Flowing Wells has played in eight championship games and won one in 1975 under Larry Hart.

Southern Arizona has been shut out of 3A championships since 1981 (San Manuel) due to enrollment figures that benefit the rest of the state for that division. For example, only Safford, Santa Cruz and Empire were able to fit that division’s parameters over the last few years until the divisional reconfiguration moved teams such as Sabino and Catalina Foothills into the 3A/Division III slot.

Santa Cruz won three state championships from 1978-80. Three different coaches won the championships with a combined record of 37-2. Jay Denton went the longest between championships at the school: 1978 and 1990.

James Fred “Pop” McKale coached the Badger’s to their first championship and was hired by the University of Arizona a year later. Besides his legendary status, McKale has the distinction of giving Tucson High it’s “Badger’s” nickname and was at Arizona when the school became the “Wildcats” in 1914.

There have been seven documented ties since 1959 with Bill House of Patagonia earning one in 1991 for his third title in a five-year span and Howard Breinig of Sahuaro breaking through in 1994 with a 17-17 tie against Peoria.

Breinig had been a runner-up three times at Sahuaro prior to his win.


Tucson High (13)
1912: (James Fred “Pop” McKale)
1929: (Charles McFarland)
1937: (Rollin T. Gridley)
1942: (Rollin T. Gridley)
1943: (Rollin T. Gridley)
1944: (Rollin T. Gridley)
1945: (Rollin T. Gridley)
1951: (Jason Greer)
1952: (Jason Greer)
1965: 5A (John Mallamo)
1966: 5A (John Mallamo)
1970: 5A (Ollie Mayfield)
1971: 5A (Ollie Mayfield)

St. David (8)
1960: 1A (Jim Crawford)
1972: 1A (Jim Crawford)
1977: 1A (Jim Crawford)
1979: 1A (Jim Crawford)
1997: 1A (John Bryant)
1998: 1A (John Bryant)
2000: 1A (John Bryant)
2001: 1A (John Bryant)

Santa Cruz (7)
1965: 3A (Lonnie Foster)
1966: 3A (Lonnie Foster)
1969: 3A (Lonnie Foster)
1978: 3A (Jay Denton)
1979: 3A (Eddie Jones)
1980: 3A (Jim Ewan)
1990: 2A (Jay Denton)

Thatcher (6)
1986 : 2A (Ed Hughes)
1988: 2A (Ed Shamey)
1998: 2A (Jim Hughes)
2000: 2A (Don Conrad)
2001: 2A (Don Conrad)
2006: 2A (Don Conrad)

Canyon del Oro (3)
1976: 4A (Bob Smith)
1977: 4A (Bob Smith)
2009: 4A-I (Dusty Peace)

Marana (3)
1964: 2A (Duane Morrison)
1967: 2A (Don Hawkins)
1968: 2A (Don Hawkins)

Patagonia (3)
1987: 1A (Bill House)
1988: 1A (Bill House)
1991: 1A (Bill House)

Sabino (3)
1990: 4A (Jeff Scurran)
1992: 4A (Jeff Scurran)
1998: 4A (Jeff Scurran)

Valley Union (3)
1985: 1A (Gary Mauldin)
1986: 1A (Gary Mauldin)
2007: 1A (Tony Luzania)

Amphitheater (2)
1975: 5A (Jerry Loper)
1979: 5A (Vern Friedli)

Palo Verde (2)
1973: 5A (Van Howe)
2005: 4A-II (Todd Mayfield)

Safford (2)
1969: 4A (Dick Pottle)
1971: 4A (Dick Pottle)

Sunnyside (2)
2001: 4A (Richard Sanchez)
2003: 4A (Richard Sanchez)

ASDB (Tucson Deaf and Blind) (1)
1976: 1A (John Milford)

Flowing Wells (1)
1975: 4A (Larry Hart)

Ironwood Ridge (1)
2012: D-II (Matt Johnson)

Mountain View (1)
1993: 4A (Wayne Jones)

Pueblo (1)
1961: 5A (Lou Farber)

Sahuaro (1)
1994: 4A (Howard Breinig)

Salpointe (1)
2013: D-II (Dennis Bene)

San Manuel (1)
1981: 3A (Damon Becker)

Suffolk Hills (Immaculate Heart) (1)
1982: 1A (Steve Sorce)

Willcox (1)
1982: 2A (Paul Hanley)

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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 and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at



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