2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Santa Rita

2A Rillito: Santa Rita

2020 record: 0-2 before COVID-19 protocols shut down the season. The Eagles are 10-70 dating to 2012 when former Arizona quarterback Kris Heavner was the head coach. They have won more than two games in a season once in that span, a 3-7 season under previous coach Richard Sanchez in 2019.

Head coach: Tom Joseph, 170-88, first season at Santa Rita (24th overall). His hire makes him the winningest active coach in Southern Arizona with 170 wins. Sanchez, whose departure from Santa Rita to Tucson High created the vacancy, is next with 161, followed by Mica Mountain’s Pat Nugent with 138. Joseph is a Salpointe Catholic alum who won a state championship coaching at Mesa Mountain View in 2002. Joseph had three title-game appearances as Mesa Mountain View’s coach from 2002 to 2010. In his tenure there, he compiled a 92-27 record, including the 14-0 season in 2002. He was also the head coach at Superior (1991-1995), Tempe Marcos de Niza (1996-2001) and Tempe Corona del Sol (2011-2013). He has four state championship game appearances (three with Mesa Mountain View and one with Superior).

All Sports Tucson Talk Podcast with Tom Joseph:

Santa Rita’s Tom Joseph is embarking on his 24th season as a head coach (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

All Sports Tucson Talk Podcast with Santa Rita athletic director Tony Gabusi:

Tony Gabusi is a longtime coach and educator in Tucson (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Key returners:

  • WR/S Giovanni Nunez, 5-10, 153, Sr.
  • WR/CB Jaden Gulliver, 5-3, 105, Sr.
  • FB/LB James Davis, 5-8, 185, Sr.
  • LB/FB Michael Delgado, 5-9, 190, Sr.
  • OT/DT Oscar Valle, 6-0, 240, Sr.

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/offensive coordinator/linebackers: Tom Joseph
  • Offensive and defensive lines: Chuck McCollum
  • Wide receivers/defensive backs: David Williams

Notes: Joseph, who wants to be a special education teacher’s aide at Santa Rita, is trying to get as many students to be part of the football program, which means some have no prior football experience. Santa Rita’s enrollment is less than 500, affected by the three Vail high schools and Palo Verde and Sahuaro on the eastside. … Helmet-size issues forced Gabusi to request Cholla coach Virgil Henderson for four helmets. Henderson received a couple of Santa Rita helmets in exchange. Gabusi was an educator and coach at Cholla for 20 years before moving to Santa Rita to be the athletic director, boy’s golf coach and baseball coach. … Gabusi and assistant Chuck McCollum have experienced something similar to Santa Rita’s situation when they began coaching at Catalina and had only 18 players initially show up for practice. Santa Rita started with 23 and is at more than 30 now. Eight seniors are on the roster. McCollum most recently was part of Pat Nugent’s staff at Cienega. … Joseph said he wants to incorporate as many alumni as possible with the program. Assistant coach David Williams is a former Eagle. He has already scheduled Jim Anders (Class of 1976 alum) to talk with the team. Anders went on to play with NAU and had stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before becoming a local school administrator.




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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