Mike Hayhurst, who coached high school football for 52 years in his state, with stops in Benson, Marana, Casa Grande, Buena and Tombstone, passed away at age 79 from cancer on May 31.
Hayhurst, a native Tucsonan, coached Buena coach Joe Thomas when Thomas was a football and track and field standout at Tombstone from 1998 to 2002.
“I am a product of Coach Hayhurst, as are countless other former players that he influenced in his coaching career,” said Thomas to the San Pedro Valley News-Sun. “He was far more than a coach. He was a mentor, teacher, father-figure and leader.
“When I came in as a freshman in 1998, it was also Mike’s first year coaching for THS. During his years there, he became the face of Tombstone’s football program. He was not only a highly respected coach, but instilled life skills in his players. He wanted all of us to be good people, and demonstrated that through his coaching style. I owe my coaching career to Mike Hayhurst.”
Thomas coached at his alma mater before leaving to Buena in 2015 and Hayhurst returned to Tombstone that season and coached the Yellowjackets through 2018.
Another Hayhurst protégé, 2012 Tombstone graduate Dominik Bonilla, is a former assistant to Thomas at Buena who was hired to coach the Yellowjackets after Jerome Rhoades resigned following last season.
Hayhurst, who owned and operated a small cattle ranch in the San Pedro Valley of Cochise County, also served on the Tombstone Unified School District school board, including as board president.
Mike and his wife Jeannie have three grown children: Patrick, Teri and Jana. Patrick, who played for his dad at Marana from 1984 to 1988, is the football and wrestling coach at Quartz Hill (Calif.) High School.
In a Facebook post, Patrick wrote: “The family is saddened by the loss but we are rejoicing in the fact that Dad is now with Jesus and is no longer in pain from his bout with cancer. Dad was a family man, a loving husband, caring father first and foremost. He sacrificed a lot to give to the world of education, the communities in which he lived and served as a teacher and coach. I can truly say he left his mark on the world. His legacy will remain for generations to come.”
The elder Hayhurst, known for coaching the veer offense, led Marana to the 1983 state semifinals in his first season with the Tigers.
The stops in his head coaching career (finishing with a record of 255-192-3):
- 1968-81 Benson
- 1983-88 Marana
- 1991-92 Casa Grande
- 1994-97 Buena
- 1998-2011, 2015-18 Tombstone
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District