All Sports Tucson Talk

Southern Arizona Coaching Memories: Longtime Amphi defensive coordinator Ed Roman


Ed Roman coached nearly four decades with the late Vern Friedli during the glory years of Amphitheater High School football.

The annually challenged for region and state championships coaching the likes of Jon Volpe, the Bates brothers (Michael, Marion and Mario), Steve Doolittle, Riki Ellison and Sam Merriman.

Roman, the longtime defensive coordinator at Amphi, was known for his aggressive style, often blitzing and putting pressure on quarterbacks.

His tough-nosed yet endearing way enabled him to coach from 1970 to 2012 and gain a legion of former players who put him on a pedestal.

He also taught Spanish at Amphi starting in 1970 after earning a degree at Western New Mexico, much to the appreciation of his father who tried to steer him away from the career he endured as a smelter laborer at the copper mines near his hometown of Morenci.

Ed Roman, left, with his former player and coaching pupil Matt Johnson (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Roman was the perfect complement to Friedli, whose stern presence and frank demeanor always commanded respect. As Roman puts it, Friedli knew he would get feedback from him whether he liked it or not and the two of them grew together in the coaching profession like brothers.

They shared in the jubilation of Amphi’s state titles in 1975 and 1979 and the pain of coming so close to another in 1997 against powerhouse Mesa Mountain View.

Friedli, who passed away in 2017, and Roman coached Mountain View coach Matt Johnson when Johnson played for the Panthers until graduating in 1992.

Johnson was on the same staff at Amphi with Friedli and Roman from 1997-2000 and returned there in 2002 after a year as an assistant at Flagstaff Coconino. He then took his first head coaching job at Rincon/University in 2003 before returning to Amphi for his third stint in 2007.

He again became a head coach at Ironwood Ridge from 2008 to 2018 and led the Nighthawks to the state title in 2012, the last year Friedli and Roman coached at Amphi. Johnson has coached at Mountain View the last three seasons.

Roman is the first guest of the All Sports Tucson Talk podcast’s Southern Arizona Coaching Memories show co-hosted by Johnson. It was Johnson’s idea to talk with legendary Southern Arizona coaching figures and get their recollections from the time they impacted young athletes during the careers. Click on the podcast player to hear the interview:


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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

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