High schools are proceeding with releasing their 2020 football schedules despite the uncertainty of what COVID-19 might bring to fall sports. The schedules give us an idea of what might be ahead.
The AIA officially released the schedules yesterday, although Douglas is still in search of its 10th game. This is the Bulldogs’ slate as of the moment:
The last of Southern Arizona schools to release their football schedules are Sahuaro and local schools from the 2A San Pedro: Benson, Bisbee, Pima, Tombstone and Willcox (see notes below).
The following are the schedules (special thanks to Southern Arizona Football’s Chris Kidney for allowing us to publish his graphics … Kidney’s son Caleb, a senior at Cienega, is one of the top receivers in Southern Arizona).
AMPHI enters its seventh season under coach Jorge Mendivil. Junior RB and kickoff returner Kiko Trejo is a player to watch. He rushed for 606 yards on 66 carries and also had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Panthers have four long trips this season: Sahuarita, Phoenix Thunderbird, Tempe Marcos de Niza and Douglas. Amphi originally had Sahuarita scheduled at home but the schools made an agreement for the game to be played at Sahuarita because the Mustangs had only four home games otherwise. Now both schools have five home games.
BENSON is coming off an 8-4 season last year under coach Chris Determan, who will be entering his 20th season of coaching and has a career record of 125-85-1. Leading returning tackler Devin Bowling (56 tackles) will be a junior at linebacker. Gone are running backs Carson Barney and Dondre Villalobos, who combined for 2,379 rushing yards last season. Barney’s brother Jace, a junior, returns after rushing for 309 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
BISBEE opens its season at Douglas in the 151st meeting between the schools — the second-longest rivalry in the nation. The Pumas are coming off an 8-3 season. Top running backs Hunter Perry and David Ballesteros, who combined for 2,362 yards rushing last season, are gone as is QB R.J. Wright (88 of 124 for 1,276 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions). WR Dano Lopez (55 receptions for 961 yards) has also exhausted his eligibility. Two-way standout Manny Amaya, a senior, returns as the team’s leading tackler with 99. He also had 23 receptions for 276 yards last season as a tight end.
BUENA plays two Phoenix-area teams — hosting Barry Goldwater in the season-opener Aug. 21 and playing at Surprise Shadow Ridge on Sept. 18. The Colts also have a showdown on the road against former 5A Southern rival Cienega on Aug. 28. The Colts have surged under coach Joe Thomas but will be without graduated quarterback Jovani Borbon. The Colts have one of the top receivers in the state in junior Keyon Taylor. Also, leading rusher Tory Walters (760 yards on 104 carries) returns for his senior season.
CDO has quite the bookends on its schedule — hosting Salpointe in the opener Aug. 20 and playing at Sahuaro to end the regular season on Oct. 30. Dustin Peace enters his 12th season as the Dorados’ coach with one of the top running backs in the state on his roster, senior Stevie Rocker, who was limited to six games last year because of an ankle injury suffered in the preseason. Starting quarterback Montana Neustadter also returns as does versatile senior Alex Maldonado. CDO has two difficult non-region games on the road against Apache Junction (7-3 last year) and Peoria (9-3).
CATALINA FOOTHILLS will be in Year 2 of the Darius Kelly era. Senior receiver Derrick Williams is a player to keep an eye on. Look for the Falcons to be the favorites in the 4A Gila, which includes Amphi, Douglas, Empire, Palo Verde and Rio Rico.
CHOLLA will welcome back coach Virgil Henderson, who coached the Chargers in 2014 and 2015.
CIENEGA, under sixth-year coach Pat Nugent, annually plays tough teams from Phoenix and that continues with the Bobcats opening with Sunrise Mountain (8-4 last year) at home and traveling to Gilbert Campo Verde (10-4). Gabe Levy returns for his senior season after rushing for 982 yards last season. The defense should be solid again with six of the top 10 tacklers from last year returning, including senior linebacker Dillon Silva, who had a team-high 83 tackles.
DESERT VIEW will feature one of the most talented backfields not only locally but in the state with 1,000-yard rushers Serge Gboweiah and Carlos Alvarez, both to be juniors, returning for coach Robert Bonillas, who played tight end for Dick Tomey at Arizona. Gboweiah (1,404 yards rushing last year) and Alvarez (1,078) are the only 1,000-yard rushers returning locally. Joining them will be freshman quarterback Cameron Hackworth, who has a ton of potential leading the Tucson Youth Football 14U All-Star team to the national championship game in December. Desert View hosts rival Sunnyside in the season opener after beating the Blue Devils in three out of the last four meetings of the “Duel of the District.” The Jaguars face a challenging road schedule with games against Sahuaro, Salpointe and Buena.
EMPIRE will be in its second year with George Kelly as coach. Leading rusher from last season, senior Yani Brown (668 yards on 70 carries) returns.
FLOWING WELLS will be in its second year with Scott Cortese as head coach. Senior running back Giovanni Walls rushed for 736 yards on 143 carries last season. Daunting schedule for Cortese, who has six road games and does not play at home until the fifth week of the season against Nogales.
IRONWOOD RIDGE, in its second season with James Hardy as coach. The Nighthawks’ schedule includes three games against Phoenix-area teams (other local schools have mostly scheduled no more than two) to start the season before hosting Salpointe on Sept. 11 in a showdown that will include Nighthawks quarterback Peyton Pelletier going against his former school and twin brother Parker. After playing at Peoria Ironwood to start the season on Aug. 21, Ironwood Ridge will host Mesa Desert Ridge and travel to Gilbert Campo Verde, before hosting the Lancers. Peyton Pelletier, a senior-to-be, played briefly in one game for the Lancers last year before transferring after it appeared Treyson Bourguet (sophomore last season) would get the starting quarterback role under former coach Dennis Bene. Peyton’s brother Parker remained at Salpointe and will be a senior cornerback with the Lancers. Salpointe will play for new coach Eric Rogers, who has been with the school as an assistant varsity coach, head freshman coach and head junior varsity coach for 14 seasons starting in 2002.
MARANA coming off a 1-9 season under Louie Ramirez, who will be entering his third season, faces a tough 2020 schedule with six road games including the last two against potential playoff teams Cienega and Ironwood Ridge. The Tigers open the season Aug.20 in the “The Boot” rivalry game with a game at Mountain View. The Marana schools have not played each other since 2014. Freshman QB Samuel Brown showed some promise with 809 yards passing last year, including 407 in the last three games.
NOGALES, under coach Jake Teyechea, opens against rival Rio Rico, which travels to play the Apaches on Aug. 28.
MOUNTAIN VIEW enters Year 2 of the Matt Johnson era after the Mountain Lions advanced to the 5A state playoffs following a 5-0 run through the 5A Sonoran. Keep an eye on senior quarterback Giovanni Ciaccio and tight end/defensive end Daylin Smith — two players who will advance to the next level. Johnson also has a solid core of 13 seniors. “The Boot” rivalry game with Marana (the season-opener Aug. 20) resumes after a six-year hiatus. Johnson’s schedule is one of the most difficult in the state with a three-game stretch against playoff teams from last year from Aug. 28 to Sept. 11 at Sahuaro (9-3 last season), at Peoria Sunrise Mountain (8-4) and at home against Goodyear Millennium (9-3).
PUEBLO will be in transition from popular coach Brandon Sanders, also the school’s former athletic director and an Arizona football standout, to Jake Allen, a former standout at Ironwood Ridge. Allen’s father Dave Allen has been on the coaching staffs of Mountain View coach Matt Johnson since 2010. Jake comes from that coaching lineage. Sanders left Pueblo after six years as head coach to become an assistant with the Indoor Football League’s Tucson Sugar Skulls. Sanders took the moribund Pueblo program to great heights, going 41-22 with two region titles, three playoff appearances and two eight-win seasons. Allen has to deal with a schedule that includes six road games, including four straight from Sept. 4 throught Sept. 25. The season starts tough with a game at Sahuaro on Aug. 28.
PUSCH RIDGE, who will be under new coach Kent Middleton, will have senior running back Evan Lovett as a prospect to watch. He is the son of former Arizona player Lamar Lovett, who is on the Pusch Ridge staff.
PALO VERDE experienced a resurgence early last year under first-year coach Mike Wells, a longtime former assistant under Jeff Scurran at Catalina Foothills. The Titans were 3-3 six games into the season before losing their last four games. Wells faces a tough two games to open the season at Walden Grove and Pueblo.
RINCON/UNIVERSITY will have a new coach with Mike Strack heading back to Kansas after two productive years with the Rangers. Strack, the grandson of late Arizona athletic director Dave Strack, led Rincon/University to only its second winning season in the last 13 years last year with a 6-4 record. Former assistant Khyree Copeland takes over as head coach. Leading tackler from last season — senior LB Jacob Vasquez (81 tackles).
RIO RICO coach Kevin Kuhm will be in his second season after returning to the school of which he coached in 2012 and 2013. After playing at Cottonwood Mingus (a team that went 0-10 last year) to open the season, Rio Rico will travel to Nogales on Aug. 28. Kuhm coached at Nogales after leaving Rio Rico previously.
SABINO will be one of the top teams in Southern Arizona. Coach Ryan McBrayer has high-profile senior quarterback A.J. Skaggs returning along with senior linebacker Luke Thompson (tallied 102 tackles last year). The Sabercats host brand new Mesa program Eastmark High in the second game of the season. They host the annual rivalry game with Sahuaro on Sept. 18.
SAHUARITA coach Don Watt will enter his fourth season with a peculiar game to end the season, traveling to 4A school Glendale Deer Valley on Oct. 30. The Mustangs are in the 3A South.
SAHUARO coach Scott McKee enters his 17th season of coaching after leading the Cougars to a 9-3 record last year. McKee will count on seniors Devyn Roberts at quarterback and Jamir Gasaway and Trevion Watkins in the backfield to keep the productivity of the offense going without graduated Izaiah Davis (1,083 yards on 129 carries). Gasaway and Watkins combined for 1,685 yards rushing last year. The defense’s two top tacklers — Miguel Yslas (32 tackles) and Watkins (31) return. Both are linebackers. Sahuaro no longer has Salpointe on its schedule The slate is interesting with four straight home games to start the year followed by five consecutive road games before hosting CDO to end the regular season.
SALPOINTE enters the 2020 season without Texas signee Bijan Robinson, the best high school player in Tucson history statistically, and 17 of its top 20 defenders, including Ohio State-bound safety Lathan Ransom. The Lancers, who advanced to the open-division state semifinals before losing at Chandler, will also have a new coach for the first time in 19 years after Dennis Bene resigned after last season. Eric Rogers, a 14-year assistant and junior varsity and freshman team coach at Salpointe, takes over. Treyson Bourguet, who Class of 2022 quarterback prospect who already has Division I scholarship offers from Arizona and Vanderbilt, will be called upon to lead the Lancers in this rebuilding effort.
Salpointe’s schedule (all based on if COVID-19 does not get in the way) was released tonight and five games stick out the most:
— The season-opener Aug. 21 against former 4A Kino rival CDO at the Dorados’ home field. The Dorados played the Lancers tough at Salpointe last season, trailing only 14-0 at halftime before succumbing 35-0.
— The home opener Sept. 4 against perennial power Cienega coached by Pat Nugent.
— The Sept. 11 game at Ironwood Ridge (pitting Nighthawks quarterback Peyton Pelletier, formerly of Salpointe, against brother Parker, a Lancer cornerback).
— The Sept. 25 game at Phoenix Pinnacle — the school Salpointe eliminated in the state quarterfinals last season.
— The Oct. 16 game at Buena. The Colts lose four-year starting quarterback Jovani Borbon but they have an experienced defense returning along with high-quality skill-position players on offense (led by junior receiver Keyon Taylor).
SUNNYSIDE coach Glenn Posey hopes to keep building the program of his alma mater back to prominence. He started a freshman quarterback — Deion Conde — last year and Conde threw for 1,604 yards while completing 114 of 218 pass attempts. The Conde-to-Anthony Galvez connection will be something to watch in 2020. Sunnyside opens its season Aug. 28 at rival Desert View in the “Duel of the District” showdown. Sunnyside leads the series 14-4 but the Jaguars have won three of the last four meetings, including last year’s 20-6 win at Desert View. Sunnyside hosts South Mountain and former Arizona great Byron Evans on Aug. 28. Evans was hired to coach his alma mater last month.
TOMBSTONE hopes to rebound from a 2-8 season under Jerry Rhoades, who returns for his second year as head coach.
TUCSON, the only local team classified in 6A, again plays a schedule heavy against Phoenix-area teams. It only has three games against Southern Arizona schools — Rincon/University, Marana and Salpointe. The Badgers also play Evans’ South Mountain team in Phoenix on Sept. 11. Justin Argraves will be in his 10th season as head coach.
WALDEN GROVE has an established coach in Corey Noble which will help the Red Wolves try to recover from significant player losses from last year’s 9-2 team that won the 4A Gila with a 5-0 record. Gone are quarterback Alex Lopez (904 yards rushing and 2,332 passing yards completing 63.2 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions), twin brother Jordan (38 catches for 838 yards with 12 touchdowns) and leading tackler Rick Avelar III (162 tackles with 17.5 for loss). Sebastian Adamski tallied 130 tackles, including 11.5 for loss will be a senior captain at linebacker.
WILLCOX, coached by former Arkansas standout Alonzo Highsmith Jr., is coming off a 5-5 season. Highsmith played parts of three seasons in the NFL from 2013-15 for Miami, Kansas City and Washington. He loses only six seniors from last year’s team. The roster had 18 freshmen and sophomores combined returning.
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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.