As a new feature this year, AllSportsTucson.com is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With September 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the ninth month of the year.
MOST NEWSWORTHY DEVELOPMENTS
During a memorial ceremony honoring the late Lute Olson on Sept. 12, former Arizona players and friends and associates of the Arizona program came, saw (one another) and concurred – Olson was more than a coach to them, but a friend, associate and a mentor for life. “I would just thank him,” Steve Kerr said when asked what he’d do or say if he would be able to talk to him. “Everybody here was impacted by him so dramatically. My life changed in an incredible fashion after coming to UA and playing for Coach O, learning everything I did from him. My whole professional career in basketball is really thanks to Coach.” That coming from a five-time NBA champion as a player and an NBA coach who has won another three NBA titles. Kerr and many others – Mike Bibby, Miles Simon, Jason Terry, Jud Buechler, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and so many more – were on hand to pay tribute to the man they played for in the 25 years he was a coach for UA. Videos came in from Arizona great Sean Elliott, former player turned coach Josh Pastner and former North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
Former Cienega softball standout Blaise Biringer entered the transfer portal in early September with the intent to leave Ole Miss and the All-SEC Freshman standout found a spot with Arizona on Sept. 12. “I have decided to continue my academic and softball career at the University of Arizona,” Biringer said in a tweet. “I love what this program represents. Thank you Coach Cait (Caityln Lowe) for giving me such an amazing opportunity.”
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd announced Sept. 2 that Steve Robinson, a former head coach and long-time assistant coach at the Division I level, was named an assistant coach for the Wildcats. Robinson won three national championships as an assistant coach at North Carolina, where has spent the last 18 seasons as Roy Williams top assistant. In his 38 seasons as a head coach or assistant coach at the Division I level, Robinson has been to the NCAA Tournament 27 times. He’s won three national championships in eight Final Four appearance and claimed 15 conference regular season titles in addition to five conference tournament crowns. Lloyd also announced on Sept. 13 the addition of Riccardo Fois as an assistant coach for the Wildcats. Fois served as a player development coach for the Phoenix Suns the last two seasons and has experience on the coaching staff with the Italian national team.
Former Salpointe and Arizona standout golfer Trevor Werbylo was named Forme Tour Player of the Year on Sept. 13. Werbylo collected 981 points in eight events on the tour to earn the recognition. Werbylo won the Fuzzy Zoeller Classic at Covered Bridge Golf Club in August, earning $25,000 in the process. In all, Werbylo earned $39,800 on the Forme Tour. Golfers from 21 different countries took part in the newly-formed tour. Werbylo made his PGA Tour debut at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif., on Sept. 16-19. Werbylo automatically qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour.
Arizona’s football team lost its 16th straight game in a 41-19 setback at Oregon on Sept. 25. The Wildcats started 0-4 in the Jedd Fisch era with losses to BYU on Sept. 4, San Diego State on Sept. 11, NAU on Sept. 18 and against Oregon. The Wildcats used their third starting quarterback against the Ducks — South Florida transfer Jordan McCloud — after Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer started previously. Stanley Berryhill III emerged as an All-Pac-12 candidate at receiver in September totaling 33 catches for 338 yards and one touchdown.
Oscar Valdez took to the microphone and apologized to the more than 4,500 fans on Sept. 11 to say he was sorry for not giving them a “knockout” performance in a bout televised on ESPN at Casino del Sol’s AVA Amphitheater. He gave them the next best thing: a victory, although it took some time to get it as it went all 12 rounds and to the scorecards. They were: 115-112, 117-110 and 115-112, Valdez, Southern Arizona’s hometown hero, survived the early rounds of Robson Conceicao to eventually take over the fight and retain his WBC junior lightweight title. Conceicao felt he was robbed, but what fighter in a close fight doesn’t ever think that?
Sunnyside sophomore Audrey Jimenez made history on Sept. 17 beating fellow standout Paige Morales in the 106-pound competition of FloWrestling’s first all-girls card of its Who’s Number One competition at Dallas. The 10-bout card featured three No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches, with the main event featuring a pair of No. 1-ranked wrestlers from different weight classes. The final No. 1 vs. No. 2 competition was between Jimenez (bronze medalist the at the Cadet World Championships this summer) against Morales (a winner this summer at the Fargo, N.D., Championships). Jimenez, seeded No. 1, was tied at 9 with Morales, of Clovis, Calif., with 54 seconds left in the match. Morales’ attempted throw was blocked by Jimenez, who mounted Morales and locked the pin.
Manny Barreda graduated from Sahuarita in 2007 with 19 wins on the mound and 14 home runs from the plate and the Yankees drafted him as a pitcher in the 12th round. From there the right-hander made it up to the Double-A level before transitioning to the Mexican leagues in 2014. Barreda pitched for the Atlanta Triple-A affiliate in 2017 before returning to Mexico but he made it back to the Baltimore Orioles organization at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk where the Orioles announced the move on Sept. 6 to promote Barreda to the MLB level. Barreda is first Oriole to ever wear No. 84.
Former Arizona and NFL offensive lineman Hicham El-Mashtoub has passed away at the age of 49 on Sept. 15 after a reported battle with cancer. El-Mashtoub was a 295-pound center born in Beirut, Lebanon, and raised in Montreal, who played with the Wildcats under coach Dick Tomey from 1991-94. He was occasionally viewed as reckless, yet engaging in a few fights during his Wildcat career. Fellow offensive lineman Warner Smith, who passed away in 2018 from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), told former Arizona Daily Star reporter Anthony Gimino in a 1994 article: `If you’re not careful, he’ll put one right past you. He’ll make people do what he wants them to do without them knowing it.” He was drafted in the sixth round of the 1995 draft by the Houston Oilers, and he spent two years with that franchise before completing his pro career with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL in 1999.
It was reported by AllSportsTucson.com on Sept. 26 that high-profile Class of 2023 point guard Armari Carraway, who averaged 21.3 points, 3.4 assists and 2.4 steals per game for Pueblo last season, has confirmed that he has returned to Fresno after spending the 2020-21 season with the Warriors. Carraway is enrolled at Fresno’s San Joaquin Memorial High School. He came to Pueblo last season as a distant relative of coach Harry Whitaker Jr., after a standout freshman season at Fresno’s Washington Union High School in 2019-20.California’s high schools suspended play last winter because of COVID-19 protocol and Carraway was afforded the opportunity to play at Pueblo. “I am now back home in Fresno but I will never forget about the city and state that showed me the most love and made me feel like as if I was home,” Carraway mentioned in a text message. “I look forward to coming back to Tucson, Arizona in the long run. University of Arizona Men’s basketball, let’s make it happen!”
OTHER TOP DEVELOPMENTS
— FC Tucson completed a very successful September, going 3-0-2 and earning 11 points in the month, by defeating second-place Union Omaha — a team that beat the Men in Black all three times previously this season — by a score of 1-0 on Sept. 25 at Creighton, Neb. The win extended the Men in Black’s unbeaten streak to seven games (five of which were on the road) and propelled them ahead of the Greenville Triumph for third place in the USL League One standings.
— Lathan Ransom, Bijan Robinson, Rhett Rodriguez and Jordan Morgan are recent Southern Arizona high school graduates who were slated to start for their respective Division I college football teams for games Sept. 3 and 4. Ransom and Robinson of Salpointe started for Ohio State and Texas, respectively. Ransom, a safety, lined up against Minnesota and Robinson played against visiting Louisiana. Rodriguez, a Catalina Foothills graduate who transferred from Arizona to Lousiana-Monroe after last season to reunite with his dad RIch Rodriguez, started at Kentucky. Rich Rodriguez is the associate head coach and offensive coordinator of Louisiana-Monroe. Morgan’s start against BYU at Las Vegas on Sept. 4 was scratched because of an injury. He is a former Marana offensive tackle.
— The Jedd Fisch era began for Arizona on Sept. 4 against BYU in a 24-16 loss at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The loss extended Arizona’s losing streak to 13 games spanning three seasons. A couple of missed field goals and a bad misread by starting quarterback Gunner Cruz were part of critical mistakes. A poor offensive first half didn’t help either. Still, there was a lot to like. This team played hard. Played like it had a chance. Played like it’s tired of losing. “I don’t think we’re the same team,” Fisch said. “I mean, we’re nothing like what (they used to be) … There’s whatever it might be 148 of us that were never a part of last year, you know, we have about 200 people that work in Lowell Stevens, but 148 of us arrived on Dec. 28 and beyond so it’s really hard for me to compare, you know, I really don’t want to.”
— Two of the hottest teams in Southern Arizona met in the championship match of the TUSD Girls Volleyball Invitational on Sept. 4 and Empire came away with 2-0 win over Rincon/University to set the tone for the regular season.
TUSD ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Salpointe: Meena Moore
Catalina Foothills: Lauren Rumel
Rincon/UHS: Sophia Lee and Emma Mullins
Empire: Sophia Vera and Emmy Overson
Tanque Verde: Jasmin Joseph
Marana: Abriana Hernandez
Cienega: Kaitlyn Molina
Pusch Ridge: Christina Shaffer
— Former Sahuarita standout Mari Acosta recorded four goals and nine points to help lead Pima’s women’s soccer team to a 3-0 start. Acosta was named Player of the Week by the ACCAC on Sept. 6.
— Bijan Robinson rushed for 103 yards and one touchdown and he added 73 receiving yards and one more touchdown as Texas opened up the 2021 season with a 38-18 victory over Louisiana. His efforts earned him the National Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week honor along with the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award on Sept. 7. Robinson was an AP Preseason All-American selection.
— Cholla standout Malachi Eafon rushed for 207 yards on 22 carries with 5 TDs in the Chargers’ 55-22 win over Rincon/UHS on Sept. 3. The junior also returned a kick for 80 yards and another score. For his performance, Eafon, the nephew of former Arizona running back Kelvin Eafon, earned a banner from APS Digital and he also earned the Frog and Firkin Football for his teammates to sign. All APS Digital/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week honorees received those rewards. The others honored in September: Willcox junior Cristian Pando rushed for 336 yards on 32 carries with four TDs in the Cowboys’ 48-14 win over San Tan Foothills on Sept. 10; Catalina Foothills senior Yasuo Bean rushed for 247 yards on 30 carries with 4 TDs in the Falcons’ 34-16 win over Pueblo on Sept. 17; and Tanque Verde senior receiver Calvin Jones had five receptions for 201 yards with four TDs in a 42-33 win over San Tan Charter on Sept. 24.
— Pando and Marana quarterback Elijah Joplin earned Ed Doherty Award Nomination Medallions for their performances in September. By earning the medallion, they will attend the end of season Ed Doherty Award Luncheon on Dec. 18 in which one athlete will become the recipient of the Ed Doherty Award honoring the state’s best player.
— Ironwood Ridge girls volleyball coach Bill Lang collected his 500th win coaching the girls program on Sept. 7 with a 3-0 win over Buena at home. He leads all coaches from Southern Arizona with 1,106 matches coached and 718 combined wins with 218 wins from when he coached the boys at the school.
— Former Catalina Foothills and current Arizona standout Brooks Fail was named to the USA Swimming National Team on Sept. 12 as part of the 200 Butterfly crew with a time of 1:56.18 at the USA Olympic Trials. Fail is joined by former Wildcats Matthew Grevers (100 Back) and Chris Weiser (400 Free) on the National Roster. Fail took fifth place in the 400 Free at the USA Olympic Trials with a personal best time of 3:48.47.
— Former Tucson High and current Wildcat and Team USA diver Delaney Schnell was named Female Junior of the Year by Arizona on Sept. 12.
— Mountain View won the 40th version of the Flowing Wells Girls Volleyball Invitational on Sept. 11 with a victory over Walden Grove in the championship match. Caballeros coaching legend Ed Nymeyer was honored during the event. The Mountain Lions came in with a 3-1 record in power-ranking matches with the only loss coming against Rincon/University in a five-set affair that came down to the last two points. “We’re a very scrappy team, we’re making plays and we have amazing hitters this year,” senior setter Myra Johnson said on her Mountain Lions. “We are a very consistent team.”
— Arizona lost to in-state school Northern Arizona for the first time since 1932 with a 21-19 setback against the Lumberjacks on Sept. 18. More than 30,000 fans came to Arizona Stadium to see an end to the dreaded losing streak (the nation’s current longest) and left with another loss. The announced crowd of 33,481 was the smallest since Arizona joined the Pac-12 in 1978. The smallest since 1974 when it faced Colorado State. “Our players our hurting right now,” Fisch said. “We have a very hurt locker room.”
— Pueblo freshman Araceli Gonzales ran away from the pack at the 29th Los Mezquites Invitational hosted by Sunnyside at Kennedy Park on Sept. 18 with a time of 22:27.1. She improved to 3-0 in her first three races in high school. As a team, Nogales took first with 29 points. Samuel Johnston of North Phoenix Prep on the boys race in a time of 17:01.7. Thatcher put together the team effort on the boy’s side for the championship, edging North Phoenix Prep 64 to 65.
— Salpointe junior Kylie Wild won the Mt. Carmel XC Invitational senior event on Sept. 18 with a time of 15:35.9. Wild won the Division III state championship last year with a time of 18:37.3. The Mt. Carmel Meet is a 2.7-mile course run in Balboa Park in San Diego and the AIA state meet is a 5K or roughly 3.1 miles. Salpointe junior Michael Urbanski won the junior event with a time of 16:19.6 and his Lancer teammate Diego Veliz took second with a time of 16:27.1. The Salpointe boys and girls swept the D-III state tournament last year.
— The baseball community of Southern Arizona and New Mexico — a representation of the many impacted by the late Rich Alday — gathered at El Rio Golf Course on Sept. 18 to pay homage to the legendary coaching figure. About 120 people consisting of Alday’s family, former players and friends gathered to play 18 holes with proceeds from entrance fees going toward the Pima baseball program, of which he was an integral part for 17 seasons. Alday, one of Tucson’s most respected coaching legends, passed because of health reasons on Jan. 6 at the age of 71. The event at El Rio brought many local luminaries together with Alday’s wife Norma for food and an opportunity to reminisce in the clubhouse after the rounds were complete. “I know they are honoring Alday and they love him, and hopefully now they pass it forward, too. because there is a lot of things in this life we have to realize — family, friends and our community,” Alday’s wife Norma said. “Look at all the locals that are here and they are beautiful young men. I’m proud of them. Alday always was. We’ve been blessed.”
— Former Ironwood Ridge standout Harrison Beemiller was named Player of the Game by NAU after the Lumberjacks defeated Arizona on Sept. 18. Beemiller collected 10 tackles with 4.5 for loss and he forced a fumble.
— USA Swimming announced the 2021 Scholastic All-American Team on Sept. 20, and, according to a release, swimmers had to achieve a grade point average of 3.5 for the 2020-21 school year and attained a 2019 Winter Junior qualifying time in any individual event between Sept. 1, 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021. The Southern Arizona swimmers recognized: Colin Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills (Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics), Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge (Flying Fish Arizona Swim Team) and Aidan Reagan, Sahuaro (Flying Fish Arizona Swim Team).
— Former Rincon/University standout Aydalis Felix was named ACCAC Division II Defensive Player of the Week for Pima on Sept. 20. She finished the week of Sept. 13-19 with 38 digs and 11 assists in two matches.
— Arizona legendary linebacker Byron Evans, who went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles for eight seasons, returned to Tucson on Sept. 24 to coach here for the first time and he led his Phoenix South Mountain team to a 26-20 win over the Tucson Badgers.
— Catalina Foothills swept through bracket play of the Hawk Invitational held Sept. 24 and 25 at Tanque Verde High School including a 25-11, 25-15 win over Buena in the championship match. Mica Mountain lost to Tanque Verde in the third-place match but the Thunderbolts played the match tight, 26-24 and 25-23. Mica Mountain played a modified junior varsity schedule last year for the new program located in the Vail School District and the team won its first region match in program history on Sept. 22 with a 3-0 sweep over Walden Grove.
— Former Walden Grove middle Haley Duncan and former Marana opposite Kaylee Moseley were named to the Chandler-Gilbert All-Tourney Team on Sept. 25 playing for Pima.
— The AIA Executive Board approved a motion to increase the number of beach volleyball pairs at state competition from 16 to 24 due to an increase of teams to draw from. Division I went from 40 teams to 42 teams with the addition of McClintock and Cienega and D-II went from 36 to 38 with the addition of Arete Prep and Desert Heights Prep. Cienega hired former Tombstone standout Melinda Escarcega to lead the program. Escarcega teaches at Cienega and she won almost $54,000 in cash and prizes on Wheel of Fortune.
— Former Salpointe standout Angelina Amparano earned her second ACCAC Keeper of the Week honor this season for Pima on Sept. 29. Amparano finished with 12 saves in Pima’s 1-0 loss at Phoenix College on Sept. 25 and she played and started in all nine games for Pima to that point with saves and a .872 saves percentage.
— CDO pitcher Julia Holt to Howard on Sept. 19.
— Pusch Ridge swimmer Paige Housman to Kentucky on Sept. 21.
— CDO infielder Megan Clark to Regis on Sept. 25.
— Tucson High infielder Marina Chacon to Colorado Mesa on Sept. 29.
A LOOK BACK
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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.