Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis leaving to return to Alabama

Rishard Davis, who made history by becoming the first African-American high school football coach to win a state title in Arizona, is leaving the Eloy Santa Cruz program to return to his home in Alabama.

Davis is from Maplesville, Ala., which is within a 100-mile radius of Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Montgomery.

“The decision was to be closer to my parents,” Davis said. “I have a coaching and teaching team opportunity.”

Davis, 36, was also the athletic director at Santa Cruz. He was 58-21 in his seven seasons as head coach, including a victory over Benson for the 2A state title in December. It was the first state championship for the Dust Devils since 1990.

Rishard Davis coached Santa Cruz to its first state title in 31 years (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Davis, who lives in Oro Valley, announced via Twitter on Saturday night his decision to leave the Santa Cruz program and also touched on his past at Flowing Wells and Pusch Ridge as an assistant coach.

“As hard as this decision has been I truly believe it is the right decision for my family and myself,” Davis wrote.

He thanked the “Flowing Wells and Pusch Ridge communities for taking a chance on me and allowing me to learn and develop as a coach. For that I will always be grateful.”

“To Santa Cruz,” he wrote, “we will always be family. The Eloy community and the Santa Cruz administration believed in me when it felt no one would give me a chance.”

Davis’ history with Tucson dates when he walked on to Arizona’s program after graduating from Maplesville (Ala.) High School in 2003. He was hoping to land a spot on the defensive line for the Wildcats, who were transitioning from John Mackovic to Mike Stoops.

He was cut late in spring practice in 2004 and returned to Alabama, where he became a Hall of Fame player at Huntingdon College, a Division III school at Montgomery. In his three seasons with the Hawks, he broke several school records including career sacks (27), career tackles for loss (45), single-season sacks (10), single season tackles for loss (18.5) and sacks in a game (four).

Davis returned to Tucson upon graduating because he said he loved the area and he gained friendships during his one year attending Arizona. He is married to Angel Olague Davis, who comes from the famous athletic Olague family from Sabino High School that includes Manny and Santos Olague.

Davis was working on his masters in education at Arizona and was expecting to be only a math teacher at Santa Cruz in the 2014-15 school year when he accepted a position at the school after serving three years as an assistant coach at Flowing Wells and one season at Pusch Ridge.

He was hired to be the football coach after the previous coach, Ernie Montijo, resigned following a 1-9 season. The Dust Devils were 6-34 in the four years before Davis’ hire.

Davis coached the program to four state playoff appearances, including twice to the championship game. Santa Cruz lost the title to Thatcher in 2017 and defeated Benson 42-7 to claim the championship last fall.

Rishard Davis coached at Flowing Wells and Pusch Ridge before becoming the head coach at Santa Cruz (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“He’s always here for us if we’re having a bad day,” prolific running back Hunter Ogle, an Ed Doherty Award finalist, said of Davis. “He’s going to pick us up even though we are having bad practices. He knows how to pick us up and we work through it.”

Davis’ departure means Southern Arizona will undergo at least eight coaching changes heading into the fall. They are:

Catalina: Chris Barlow has resigned after three seasons to pursue personal interests.

Catalina Foothills: Danny Sainz, a nine-year assistant at Sahuaro under Scott McKee, is replacing Darius Kelly, who is now the head coach for the Sonoran Sidewinders, a team comprised of local junior college students.

Cienega: Justin Argraves, the head coach at Tucson the previous 10 years, is replacing Pat Nugent, who left to become the coach at new school Mica Mountain.

Sahuarita: Jake Price, a longtime Marana and Mountain View assistant is taking over that program after Don Watt resigned following three seasons at the school.

Tucson: Richard Sanchez is leaving Santa Rita to replace Argraves (the hire must first be approved by the TUSD school board).

Marana: Louie Ramirez has announced he is leaving after three years to be an assistant coach in the Phoenix area.

Santa Rita: Eagles have a vacancy with Sanchez gone.


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.

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