Mica Mountain’s development since 2018 led to first varsity win over Coolidge

Mica Mountain won its first varsity football game on Friday night withstanding Coolidge 13-7 in front of a capacity crowd of more than an estimated 3,000, but the first stirring victory for Southern Arizona’s newest high school occurred 34 months ago in November 2018.

That’s when Vail voters narrowly approved — by 483 votes — a $61.3 million bond that paved the way toward the construction of the high school southeast of East Valencia Road and South Houghton Road.

Approximately $35 million was designated toward the construction of the high school to alleviate the concern of overcrowding in the classrooms with Vail rapidly growing because of the emergence of companies such as Amazon and Caterpillar along with Raytheon in that area.

Mica Mountain’s captains for its first varsity game in program history were juniors Zach Brent (6), junior Jacob Ford (40) and Octavio Vidrio (10) and senior Ethan Black (24) (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“We didn’t think it was going to happen there for a while because of the vote being so close,” Mica Mountain coach Pat Nugent said Friday night about an hour before kickoff. “We were like, ‘Now, what is going to happen?’ There were these grand plans to make this a powerhouse program, and it looked like it might not happen.

“When the bond passed, (principal) Nemer Hassey got the ball rolling and it’s been amazing to go through the development to where we are now.”

Nugent coached neighboring Vail School District school Cienega for six seasons through last year, upholding the winning tradition Hassey started at that school in 2002, before giving his full attention to the Thunderbolt program.

The legendary coach of 25 years in Tucson, from when he was Flowing Wells’ coach beginning in 1997, played a significant part in the planning of Mica Mountain’s program from its color scheme (Carolina blue, black and white) to the ordering of equipment.

Nugent also does the team’s laundry in massive washing machines and dryers that NFL teams use.

“Nobody wins without having quality student-athletes, and nobody wins without having quality coaches. The students from the Vail community are here, but getting the right adults to lead them is something that was very important to us,” said Mica Mountain vice principal of interscholastics Jay Campos, another proven administrator and coach who led Sabino’s football program to 14 consecutive state playoff appearances from 2003 to 2016.

Whitney Holland, the former athletic director at Cienega who came to Mica Mountain with Nugent, is revered as one of the top athletic administrators by his peers. Kyle Howell, the assistant athletic director, recently coached Sabino’s softball program to a state title while serving as the Sabercats’ athletic director.

It’s no wonder that Mica Mountain started its varsity football existence Friday night in spectacular fashion against Coolidge, similar to the unique flashing stadium light display when the Thunderbolts enter the field or when they score a touchdown.

The atmosphere at Mica Mountain’s football field on Friday was different from their 59-14 win over Salpointe’s junior varsity team there on Sept. 9 with the capacity crowd and the smell of popcorn and grilled hamburgers in the air.

Pat Nugent has now won games coaching at Flowing Wells, CDO, Pima College, Cienega and Mica Mountain (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Nugent and his staff are coaching six of their nine games this season against junior varsity teams. The Thunderbolts’ next varsity game is scheduled for Oct. 8 at Douglas. They are slated to host Amphi and running back Kiko Trejo on Nov. 5.

An interesting element of that game is Amphi coach Jorge Mendivil was the first coach for the last new school in Southern Arizona to open — Vail’s Empire High School in 2006. Mendivil coached the Ravens to a 10-2 record in his fourth season there.

Mica Mountain is expected to have similar immediate success with Nugent as head coach. HIs roster now only has two seniors (safety Ethan Black and lineman Taylor Goodwill).

“The first play of the game (against Coolidge), we came out and we were ready to play,” said junior running back Kaspen Colbert, who finished with 158 yards on 15 carries, including a 45-yard run on a third-down play in Mica Mountain’s last possession that secured the win.

“I told everybody, ‘Let’s do it. It’s 0-0 the whole game.’ It happened and now we get to say we’re the first team in history to win a varsity game at Mica Mountain.”

When the bond passed almost three years ago, Colbert and his younger brother Kason, a sophomore linebacker, were living in Georgetown, Ky. They transferred to Mica Mountain in the spring after their father was hired at a local corrections facility.

Kaspen is listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds while his brother is at 6-1 and 220. Their impact on Nugent’s program is immeasurable.

Kason set the tone defensively for Mica Mountain recording three tackles for loss in Coolidge’s first two possessions.

The Bears’ formidable running back Tad Lynch, who was the Arizona Cardinals High School Player of the Week last week following his 366 yards and six touchdowns on 18 carries against Phoenix Christian, was limited to 52 yards on 15 carries.

Mica Mountain’s nose tackle Jacob Ford and the linebacker trip of Kason Colbert, Octavio Vidrio and Jacob Flores behind him made it difficult for Coolidge to make big gains up the middle or on the perimeter.

“The biggest thing is our defense just played great football,” said Nugent, whose team allowed only 106 yards of total offense and prevented Coolidge from getting a first down until the Bears’ first possession of the second half. “Our defense just shut (Lynch) down all night long.

“They really didn’t move the ball on us much. (Defensive coordinator) Brett Darling and the defensive staff did a great job. We have some great players on defense. We know that they’re still young. We had six sophomores and one freshman playing over there, so we got a lot of work to do to keep getting better.”

Defenses for both teams were dominant to start the game until Mica Mountain freshman quarterback Jayden Thoreson entered the game in the second quarter.

Thoreson completed his first eight passes of the game, including seven consecutively in a 10-play, 82-yard drive that resulted in his 7-yard scoring pass to Flores with 19.4 seconds left in the half.

The Thunberbolts’ quarterback of the future, Thoreson completed 8 of 12 passes for 106 yards.

“He’s a gunslinger,” Nugent said. “He’s just a kid that’s going to grow. We’re not quite ready let the reins go on him because he is so young. But he stepped up.

“He has a great arm and he just wants to get better every day. What we’re trying to do with him is just keep slowly progressing him with very simple pass routes.”

Mica Mountain’s rushing attack behind Kaspen Colbert took shape in the third quarter when he broke free for runs of 36 yards and 13 yards that set up a 5-yard scoring run by Zach Brent with 2:05 left in the quarter. The drive that started at the Thunderbolt 8-yard line was eight plays, all consisting of runs, four by Kaspen Colbert for 56 yards.

Coolidge finally mustered a sustained drive on its last possession, aided by a 33-yard pass from Conner Ferguson to Augustin Chian. Ferguson ultimately capped the nine-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak into the end zone with 3:11 left.

Coolidge did not try an onside kick and Mica Mountain started at its 25-yard line. Kaspen Colbert sealed the win with his 45-yard burst on third-and-2 with 1:01 remaining.

“Bringing all these young kids on the field, we didn’t know what to expect tonight,” Nugent said. “If you had told me six weeks ago after watching us practice for the first time … I thought I was absolutely nuts coming to this place and trying to build a team … these kids have stepped up and they’ve gotten better.

“It’s crazy when you think about it. We really had one senior play tonight. The opportunity that all these kids have in the next few years it’s really going to be special.”

Pat Nugent talks with an assistant at Mica Mountain before kickoff (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top