2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Spotlight: Cienega

Cienega first-year coach Justin Argraves is leading his third program in Southern Arizona (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

5A Sonoran: Cienega

2020 record: 2-0 in a season cut short because of COVID-19.

2021 record: 1-1 after a 49-6 season-opening loss at Peoria Sunrise Mountain and 34-7 win at Buena.


Head coach: Justin Argraves, 1-1 first season at Cienega and 57-51 in his 12th season overall. Argraves, a University of Arizona and Santa Rita High School graduate, was 53-43 in his 10 seasons at Tucson High before his hire at Cienega in February. His head coaching debut was in 2010 at Mountain View when he went 3-7. Argraves is the son of legendary Mike Argraves, who coached softball, volleyball, track and basketball for 32 years at Tucson, Cholla and Santa Rita before passing away in December 2016.

Cienega senior safety Elias Santana returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown against Buena last week (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Key returners:

  • QB Brayden Cherry, Jr.
  • WR/DB Brady Beltz, Sr.
  • RB/LB Ritchie McCormack, Sr.
  • RB/LB Cole McFarland, Sr.
Cienega junior QB Brayden Cherry has good size at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
  • WR/DB Christian Hawkins, Sr.
  • S/WR Elias Santana, Sr.
  • WR/DB Gunnar Hernandez, Sr.
  • WR/DB Josiah Parker, Sr.
  • RB/LB Spiezio Gonzalez, Sr.
Cienega linebackers Ritchie McCormack (22), Cole McFarland (32) and Spiezio Gonzalez are proving themselves to be a formidable unit (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/defensive coordinator: Justin Argraves
  • Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Louis Nightingale
  • Running backs: Chris Blancarte
  • Wide receivers: Scott Bushey
  • Offensive line: Ryan Patterson
  • Tight ends: Jason Holley
  • Safeties: Roy Perkins
  • Cornerbacks: Cam Gaddis
  • Linebackers: Bryan Lopez
  • Defensive line: Marcos Vasquez
  • Defensive ends: Gary Weiss
  • Kickers/punters: Kevin McDonald
  • Offensive assistant: Ovean Moore
  • Strength and conditioning: Steve Schween
Cienega Class of 2023 receiver/defensive back prospect Keron Watson (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Cienega will play the third game of the Justin Argraves era on a rare Thursday night game at home against Salpointe Catholic. It will be the Bobcats’ first home game since a state playoff game won against Phoenix Sunnyslope on Nov. 8, 2019. Only two games were played last season, the final year under coach Pat Nugent, because of COVID-19 protocols. Cienega won those games at CDO and Ironwood Ridge. Nugent moved on to neighboring school Mica Mountain, which is in its second year and will not play a full varsity schedule until next season. … Cienega is 4-2 against Salpointe with the last loss to the Lancers coming in 2006. The programs have not played since 2017, when the Bobcats beat the Lancers 30-20 as part of a 12-1 season with Jamarye Joiner at quarterback. … Cienega’s secondary has already tallied five interceptions through two games, including one last week that was returned 95 yards for a touchdown by senior safety Elias Santana. The secondary is coached by cornerbacks coach Cam Gaddis and safeties coach Roy Perkins. Gaddis, son of former Arizona standout defensive lineman Reggie Gaddis, has played for the Tucson Sugar Skulls since their first season of 2019, He played at Santa Rita through 2010 and at Pima Community College in 2011 and 2012. Perkins, who came to Cienega from Tucson High with Argraves, has a son (Brandon) who is a former Desert View standout who is an assistant coach at Adams State. While as an assistant at New Mexico State, where Brandon starred after first playing at Western New Mexico, Brandon coached his brother Austin, a former Tucson High standout. … Keep an eye on senior linebackers Ritchie McCormack and Cole McFarland, two aggressive-style players, who learned how to win at Cienega playing with the likes of Isaiah Webb, Dillon Silva and Josiah Flores the last couple of years.

Justin Argraves posted a winning record in his 10 years a Tucson High before coming to Cienega this season (Javier Morales/AllSportTucson.com)



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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