Month That Was

Month That Was: Newsworthy local developments for December 2021

As a new feature this year, is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With December 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the 12th month of the year.



Arizona Bowl graphic

The Arizona Bowl, in existence since 2015 without a previous cancellation, even last year despite COVID-19 concerns, announced Dec. 27 that this year’s scheduled game between Central Michigan and Boise State on New Year’s Eve will not take place. The bowl, scheduled to be at Arizona Stadium, was canceled after Boise State could not travel to Tucson due to COVID-19 cases within their program. Central Michigan, which arrived in Tucson on Dec. 26, will instead play in the Sun Bowl at El Paso on Dec. 31 against Washington State. The Cougars originally slated to play Miami in that game but the Hurricanes also had to withdraw because of COVID-19 cases. “We would like to thank our conference partners and corporate sponsors for their support,” the Arizona Bowl mentioned in a statement released on Twitter. “We look forward to providing a world class bowl experience in 2022.” Teams from the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West are affiliated with the Arizona Bowl through 2025. Last year’s Arizona Bowl between San Jose State and Ball State was nearly canceled but the game was played in front of no fans at Arizona Stadium because of COVID-19 protocol. The game pitted the champions of the Mountain West and MAC against each other.


USA Basketball graphic

The unreal life story of Steve Kerr added another chapter on Dec. 20 with his selection to be the next U.S. Olympic basketball coach starting in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. From an unknown high school guard out of Pacific Palisades, Calif., to a folk hero at Arizona leading the Wildcats along with Sean Elliott to the school’s first Final Four to five NBA titles in 15 years a pro to three more NBA titles as coach of the Golden State Warriors to now the Team USA men’s basketball coach … the legend grows stronger. “This is truly humbling when I think about how few coaches have ever had this opportunity to be the coach of the Olympic team in USA basketball,” Kerr said Monday morning during his introductory press conference. “I have been very blessed, very lucky in my career and this opportunity is a result of being in the right place at the right time, working with the right people. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I can’t wait to work with all these guys.”


Fox Sports graphic

Arizona’s undefeated run to start the season for the men’s and women’s basketball programs came to an end Dec. 22 with the Wildcat men losing 77-73 at No. 19 Tennessee. Tommy Lloyd’s team was 11-0 and ranked No. 9 at the time of that game. Adia Barnes’ women’s team remained 10-0 through the end of the year after games against Texas on Dec. 19 and USC on Dec. 31 were not played because of COVID-19 protocol. The Wildcats, coming off last year’s appearance in the national title, went into 2022 with a No. 4 ranking despite losing All-American guard Aari McDonald. The men’s and women’s programs were the last in the country to both remain unbeaten and be ranked in the top 10. As a fun bet between Lloyd and Barnes, Lloyd owed Barnes a lunch for his team losing first. “We’ve had a heck of a start to the season, and this (loss to Tennessee) doesn’t diminish it,” said Lloyd, whose team rallied from an early 15-point deficit. “It just reinforces it. I don’t know how many teams could have come into this environment, play like we did and come back a couple of times. To me, it shows something about this team. You have a choice to how you respond to something like this. We can’t let it send us the wrong way.”


Tetairoa “T Mac” McMillan (McMillan photo)

Arizona got its signature recruit of the Class of 2022 — Anaheim (Calif.) Servite High School five-star wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan — on Dec. 18. Arizona coach Jedd Fisch and his staff continued their impressive recruiting effort by getting McMillan to flip his commitment from Oregon to Arizona. The Wildcats’ Class of 2022 was rated No. 24 nationally and No. 2 in the Pac-12 by after McMillan signed with Arizona. Fisch announced Saturday the acquisition via Twitter (McMillan is nicknamed “T-Mac”):

McMillan decided to join three of his Servite teammates in Tucson, especially after former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal left to coach at his alma mater Miami last month. McMillan will join quarterback Noah Fifita, receiver Jacob Manu and tight end Keyan Burnett in the caravan from Anaheim to Tucson.


New Mica Mountain baseball coach Shane Folsom (Andy Morales/

Mica Mountain announced the hiring of Shane Folsom on Dec. 30 to lead the Thunderbolts’ baseball team. Folsom led Sabino to 3A state championships in 2019 and 2021. There were no playoffs in 2020 due to COVID precautions and the team ended that season 9-0. “I am excited to take over this new program,” Folsom told “I enjoyed my time at Sabino but this is a great opportunity and challenge for me to take on. I am grateful for the opportunity to take Mica Mountain baseball to the next level.” Folsom (121-100) coached at Catalina for six seasons before moving to Sabino in November of 2018.


Scottsdale Horizon coach Andy Litten, a Marana Mountain View grad, in the waning seconds of the Huskies’ win over Salpointe for the 5A state title (Andy Morales/

Salpointe Catholic’s quest for its first state championship in football since 2013 fell short on Dec. 10 as the Lancers lost 38-28 to Scottsdale Horizon, coached by former Marana coach Andy Litten, in the 5A state championship game at Sun Devil Stadium. Salpointe (11-3) has finished runner-up in the state in 2017 and 2018 and now this season. Horizon (12-2) won its first state championship since 1994. Litten, in his first season with Horizon, coached the Huskies to their first state title game appearance since 1995. Litten is a Marana Mountain View alum.


Scott McKee (Andy Morales/

Scott McKee mutually parted ways with Sahuaro on Dec. 17 after coaching the program 13 years. “The run was great, the longest run of current TUSD coaches,” he mentioned via a text message. “What a great time with all those amazing young men and coaches. It was a blast! Loved working there.” McKee, 42, was a star linebacker while at Sabino High School under Jeff Scurran and went on to walk on at Arizona in 1997 when Dick Tomey was coach. McKee was 71-62 at Sahuaro with his best mark 10-3 in 2018. Only the legendary Howard Breinig (110-29-2 from 1983-94) had more wins at Sahuaro than McKee.


The AIA Football Committee met on Dec. 16 and determined the initial conference placements proposed for football. Programs have until Wednesday, Jan. 5 (2 p.m.) to appeal. The Executive Board will announce all decisions on Jan. 18 and Jan. 25 is the deadline for region placements by the conferences. The deadline to appeal region placements is Feb. 8. Region decisions will be made on Feb. 22 and football scheduling runs from Feb. 23 to March 11. Schedules will be posted on Mar. 17.


Tucson (1-8 record in 2021) and Salpointe (11-3) switched with Salpointe moving up to the 6A Conference and Tucson moving down to 5A.

Rio Rico (0-8) moved down to 3A from 4A and Benson (9-3) moved up to 3A from 2A.

Salpointe (up from 5A)

Desert View
Flowing Wells
Ironwood Ridge
Mountain View
Tucson (down from 6A)

Canyon del Oro
Catalina Foothills
Mica Mountain
Palo Verde
Walden Grove

Benson (up from 2A)
Pusch Ridge
Rio Rico (down from 4A)

Santa Cruz
Santa Rita
Tanque Verde

San Manuel
St. David
Valley Union


Francisco Manzo

— Former Salpointe standout Francisco Manzo was named the United Soccer Coaches Men’s Soccer Junior College Division II Player of the Year and the Pima Men’s Soccer Coaching Staff was named the Southwest Region Staff of the Year on Dec. 13. Manzo played and started in all 21 games scoring 12 goals and had eight assists. He scored the final penalty kick that secured the NJCAA Division II National Championship and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after he scored four goals at the Stryker Sports Complex in Wichita, Kan. “It means a lot to me to be named Player of the Year and it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates and the coaches that would push me to be better in practice and in games,” Manzo said in a release. “Being able to leave Pima after finally winning a national championship and to do it with all my teammates and some of my childhood friends was really special.”


Highly-touted recruit Paris Clark with Adia Barnes (Clark photo)

— Arizona’s recruiting Class of 2022 — the best group in Wildcats history — had three of the top 31 players rated in ESPN’s HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings after the commitment Dec. 13 of Mount Vernon (N.Y.) Long Island Lutheran High School guard Paris Clark. She was the No. 21-rated recruit and the fifth-best shooting guard listed by ESPN’s rankings. The others in Adia Barnes‘ Class of 2022 rated among the top 31 are No. 9 Maya Nnaji (Zeke Nnaji’s sister) and No. 31 Kailyn Gilbert. Maya, a forward, hails from Hopkins (Minn.) High School and Gilbert, a point guard, from IMG Academy in Manatee County, Fla.


— Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch found his defensive coordinator to replace Don Brown, who departed on Nov. 22 after one season to become the head coach at UMass. Fisch hired Johnny Nansen on Dec. 1 to be the next defensive coordinator for Arizona Football. Nansen has spent the last two seasons coaching the defensive line for UCLA and has coached in the Pac-12 since 2009. On Dec. 7, Fisch hired Jason Kaufusi from UCLA to be an assistant of Nansen, continuing the working relationship they had at UCLA. Kaufusi was UCLA’s outside linebackers coach for three seasons from 2019-21. This season, Nansen played a significant role in UCLA’s success defending the run as the Bruins allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the conference (124.2), 26th nationally. In his first season with UCLA in 2020, the Bruins defense led the Pac-12 in fewest rushing yards per carry allowed (3.6) and rated eighth in the nation while leading the league in sacks per game (3.29).

— The Arizona men’s basketball program announced on Dec. 1 that its Pac-12 opener at home Dec. 3 against Washington was postponed due to COVID-19 impacts within the Washington program. The game was first rescheduled to Jan. 25 but than was switched to Jan. 3 because Arizona’s games at UCLA Dec. 30 and USC Jan. 2 were postponed because of COVID-19 protocol.

Sam Benjamin

— Ironwood Ridge lineman Samuel Benjamin (6-4, 250) was offered a preferred walk-on spot by Arizona on Dec. 2. Former Arizona standout and current defensive backs coach Chuck Cecil extended the offer to Benjamin. Benjamin recorded 53 tackles with 31 of those unassisted this fall. He also had 12 tackles for loss in 11 games played for the Nighthawks including 10 sacks. The 5A Sonoran coaches named the senior first team OL and DL for the region. nA preferred walk-on is able to earn a scholarship entering the second year of competition.

— Ironwood Ridge girls beat Walden Grove 1-0 on Dec. 3 to capture the championship of the Brandon Bean Invitational. The Nighthawks went 3-0-1 at the invitational named for a former Salpointe player who passed away on 1992 after an on-field collision at a soccer scrimmage. Tucson High beat Sunnyside 1-0 to win the boy’s championship. Ismael Ruiz scored on a penalty kick in the 28th minute in a match where the Badgers dominated the flow in the first half and the Blue Devils controlled possession in the second half.

— Sunnyside took first in the William Bell Wrestling Invitational on Dec. 3 and 4 at Pueblo High School.

Sunnyside’s wrestling team (Sunnyside photo)


  1. Sunnyside
  2. Buena
  3. Walden Grove
  4. Pueblo

106- Audrey Jimenez (Sunnyside)
113- Zach Bates (Walden Grove)
120- Sergio Vega (Sunnyside)
126- Carlos Stanton (Sunnyside)
132- Christian Rivera (Sunnyside)
138- Ayden Bostick (Sunnyside)
144- Victor Gonzales (Sunnyside)
150- Jaime Rivera (Sunnyside)
157- Job Lee (Sunnyside)
165- Mike Avelar (Sunnyside)
175- Morgan Schierloh (Sahuaro)
190- Rene Fragoso (Sunnyside)
215- Rene Bostick (Sunnyside)
285- Sa’Kylee Woodard (CDO)

— Sahuarita captured the championship of the Perry High School Puma Duals on Dec. 3 and 4 by going 4-0:

Sahuarita 66, Shadow Mountain 9
Sahuarita 60, Cesar Chavez 21
Sahuarita 54, Dobson 18
Sahuarita 50, ALA-Gilbert 27

— Sahuarita also emerged as the top team in the Mountain View Dual Tournament on Dec. 18. The Mustangs topped Mesa and Yuma Catholic as the top three teams.

132: Daniel Miranda, Mountain View
144: Gabriel Gallardo, Sahuarita
157: Austin Scott, Mountain View

106: Anthony Escalera, Coconino over Khel Lipumano, Yuma Catholic
113: Zach Bates, Walden Grove over Shevy Landis-Ku, Poston Butte
120: Justin Fox, Sahuarita over Hunter Lane, Chino Valley
126: Sergio Peña, Sahuarita over Jaden Buchanan, Mountain View
132: Daniel Miranda, Mountain View over Isaiah Miller, Sahuarita
138: Christian Lopez, Sahuarita over Gabe Gomez, Mountain View
144: Gabriel Gallardo, Sahuarita over Troy Garrick, Ironwood Ridge
150: Hunter Hancock, Yuma Catholic over JT Richardson, St. Johns
157: Austin Scott, Mountain View over Isaac Romero, Bonita Vista
165: James Thomas, St. Johns over Julian Prieto, Sahuarita
175: Julian Gordan, Mountain View over Kaleb Hill, Bradshaw Mountain
190: Travis Christianson, Payson over Dakota McMains, Chino Valley
215: Mason Ennen, Mesa over Levi Pannell, Sahuarita
285: Peyton Hines, Bradshaw Mountain over Wyatt Baier, Mesa

— Corvallis, Ore., and Oregon State have been very good for Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mathurin. He’s combined for 60 points in two games up there, getting 29 this season on Dec. 5 to help Arizona to a 90-65 win over the Beavers. Because of it, he was named the conference’s Player of the Week on Dec. 6. It’s the first player of the week honor for the Montreal native, but his second overall weekly award from the conference after being named Freshman of the Week on Jan. 4, 2021. Mathurin is the second Wildcat to be named Pac-12 Player of the Week after Christian Koloko received the honor on Nov. 22. Mathurin earned the Pac-12 men’s basketball player of the week again the following week after Arizona became a top 10 team for the first time in three years, coming in at No. 8 after beating Illinois on Dec. 11. Mathurin became the first repeat Pac-12 player of the week since ASU’s Tre Holder in 2017-18. The last Arizona player to be named Pac-12 Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks was Hassan Adams in 2005-06. In wins against Wyoming and at Illinois, Mathurin averaged 27.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He shot 60.6 percent (20-33) from the floor overall and 50.0 percent (7-14) from the 3-point line

Benn Mathurin (Arizona Athletics photo)

–Former Palo Verde standout Angel Addleman was named ACCAC Division II Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 29-Dec. 5 playing guard for Pima. Addleman averaged 15.5 points shooting .526 (10-19) from the floor. She also had a total of 15 rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

— Arizona forward Sam Thomas was named a candidate for the 2021-22 Senior CLASS Award on Dec. 7. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. The candidate field will be narrowed down to 10 finalists who will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots are set to be distributed nationwide to media, coaches and fans who will then vote for the candidate. The winners will be announced at the 2022 Final Four.

— Arizona was represented by seven players on the All-Pac-12 football team released Dec. 7 and for the first time since 2010, the Wildcats had two players on the first team as all-purpose standout Stanley Berryhill III and punter Kyle Ostendorp were selected. Berryhill and Ostendorp are Arizona’s first All-Pac-12 First Team selections since J.J. Taylor back in 2018. defensive lineman Kyon Barrs was named to the second team while placekicker Lucas Havrisik, defensive lineman Trevon Mason, offensive lineman Josh McCauley and linebacker Anthony Pandy were named honorable mention.

— Former Cienega standout Haley Harris earned United Soccer Coaches NAIA All-America status on Dec. 8. Harris is a freshman midfielder playing for Embry-Riddle. Harris also earned NAIA All-American Honorable honors on the same day.

— Arizona was without starting center Lauren Ware most of its 59-47 win over North Dakota State on Dec. 9 after Ware suffered a right knee injury 30 seconds into the game. Ware clutched her right knee when she fell to the ground 30 seconds into the game while trying to grab a rebound. She was helped off the court and was tended to in the locker room before returning to the Wildcats’ bench in the second quarter using crutches with a brace on her knee. Arizona coach Adia Barnes mentioned after the game that Ware’s knee would be examined by a doctor and that she may be out a week or two weeks. It was later learned that Ware suffered a dislocated knee, which was put back in place by Arizona’s trainers.

Arizona graphic

— Arizona redshirt soccer senior Jill Aguilera was named CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team on Dec. 9. Along with 10 other athletes, Aguilera was recognized as one of the top in the nation for her academic performance as well as her time on the pitch and in her community. This marks Aguilera’s second CoSIDA All-America honor, earning third team after her performance during the 2020-21 season.  Aguilera is only the second athlete in program history to receive a CoSIDA All-American First Team honor and the first to receive multiple CoSIDA All-America recognitions. Along with the two All-America honors, Aguilera has received a multitude of academic honors in her years at Arizona. She has been on the Pac-12 Honor Roll three times, received Pac-12 All-Academic honors twice and made CoSIDA Academic All-District twice. Aguilera completed her undergraduate degree in Sports and Society with a GPA of 3.85 and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Real Estate Development with an ongoing 4.00 GPA. 

Randy Robbins is a Casa Grande graduate, former defensive coordinator and longtime athletic director. The Arizona cornerback great, who went on to play in three Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, is also now a state champion with the Cougars. Robbins, Casa Grande’s athletic director, walked on to the turf with his hands raised in jubilation when the last second went off the clock Dec. 10 in Casa Grande’s 33-28 win over Poston Butte at Sun Devil Stadium. It is the Cougars’ first state title in the Arizona Interscholastic Association format. The school won a mythical state championship in 1958 with a 9-0-1 record before the AIA administered the playoffs. “I am so happy for our kids and our community — they worked so hard for this,” said Robbins, who graduated from Casa Grande in 1980 before playing with the Wildcats from 1980-83. “The great thing about it is these kids have been playing together since youth football when they were 6, 7 years old. To see them finish out with a state championship, first one in our school’s history, this is awesome. … I waited 42 years for this. I graduated in 1980 … I’m just elated.”

— The Tucson Jaguars 13U took second place in the AYF National Championship game on Dec. 10 with a 31-8 loss to the Detroit Eastside Cowboys — a team comprised most of 14-year-olds. The Jaguars competed up an age class in the 14U tournament. “I am proud of my team because through it all we never quit and played for each other and with each other the entire four quarters of that game,” Jaguars QB Jake Rogers wrote in a daily update for “Even though it is not how we wanted this season to end we can still be proud of the season that we had. We came a long way and still ended up showing that we are one of the top teams in the nation. I look forward to seeing what me and the rest of my teammates can accomplish in our futures.”

— The Sahuarita girls basketball team improved to 5-2 on the year after the Mustangs went undefeated at the Benson Bobcat Holiday Tournament culminating Dec. 11. The Benson tournament has been held every year since 1962. The Benson girls took second place to Sahuarita in the championship game 35-31.

— Former Cienega setter Annabelle Somoza was named to the NAIA AVCA All-Southwest Region team on Dec. 13 playing for Benedictine Mesa. Somoza recorded 466 assists with an average of 5.01 per set. Somoza also earned Cal Pac Setter of the Year honors.

Rio Rico grad Luisa Chavez is one of Pima’s standouts (Pima photo)

— Former Rio Rico standout Luisa Chavez was named ACCAC Division II Player of the Week for Pima on Dec. 13. Chavez averaged 12.5 points in two Aztec wins. She also had a total of 22 rebounds, 12 assists and two steals.

— Former Catalina Foothills standout Kelsey Siemons helped Colorado Mesa to a sweep at home early in December. She averaged 13.5 rebounds, five blocks and 1.5 steals over two days. The senior had 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks in CMU’s win over Black Hills State. The following day against Chadron State, she was an efficient 5-for-8 from the field for 15 points to go along with 11 more rebounds, three blocks and two steals against the Eagles. For her effort, Siemons was named RMAC Defensive Player of the Week.

— The Pima men’s coaching staff received national recognition from the United Soccer Coaches on Dec. 16 earning selection as the Junior College Division II National Staff of the Year. The Aztecs coaching staff is composed of head coach David Cosgrove and assistant coaches Paul-David SeldisAnatole Levallois and Rene Huerta. “As everyone knows, to be successful in anything; life, business or athletics, it always takes great people. No one can do it by themselves,” Cosgrove said. “This award recognizes that it takes a lot of coaches and support staff to be successful. Pima College is very lucky to have Paul-David Seldis, Anatole Levallois and Rene Huerta working with our student-athletes. This award extends out to our athletic administration, our Pima College administration, our athletic trainers and all our academic support staff.”

— Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch called it “a great day for Arizona football” during the start of the early signing period Dec. 15. “We took a very aggressive approach of recruiting that, every day, no matter what was going on, we’re going find ways to do recruiting,” Fisch told reporters. “I don’t care if it was Saturday after a loss. I don’t care if it was Sunday after a loss. I don’t care if it was Saturday after the Cal win. I don’t care, whatever it was, we were never going to miss a day to recruit and to build this roster. So whatever coaching changes happen, they happen, but we weren’t going to stand pat and not let that become a priority for us.” Rivals rated the group No. 3 in the Pac-12 Conference and 40th overall. He signed 20 players, but the list could grow to as many as 30 when it’s all over – given preferred walk-ons, more signings and, of course, the important transfer portal. He already had one from Pac-12 member UCLA in defensive back DJ Warnell.

Arizona Class of 2022 Football Recruits

List of Arizona Class of 2022 football recruits, symbolic of the first full year of recruiting for coach Jedd Fisch and his staff. Star ratings made by Rivals/ *Preferred walk-on.
Keyan BurnettTEAnaheim (CA)6'4"222****
Jai-Ayviauynn CelestineDBMiami (FL)5'10"175NR
Jonah ColemanATHStockton (CA)5'9"185***
*Brandon CraddockLBGlendale6'2"210**
Russell Davis IIDEChandler6'4"215***
Tacario DavisDBLong Beach (CA)6'3"175***
Noah FifitaQBAnaheim (CA)5'9"175***
Kevin Green Jr.WRMission Hills (CA)5'10"155***
Isaiah JohnsonDTChandler6'3"290**
AJ JonesWROntario (CA)6'4"195***
Sterling LaneDEWestlake Village (CA)6'4"235****
Rayshon LukeAPBBellflower (CA)5'8"175***
Jacob ManuLBAnaheim (CA)5'11"207***
Tyler MartinLBCambridge (MA)6'2"235***
Tetairoa McMillanWRAnaheim (CA)6'4"185*****
Tyler PowellTEPhoenix6'6"205***
Ephesians PrysockDBMission Hills (CA)6'3"170****
Jacob ReeceOLSalt Lake City6'4"295**
Jonah SavaiinaeaOLHonolulu6'4"330***
Grayson StovallOLChandler6'4"290***
TaiTai UiagaleleiDESanta Ana (CA)6'3"220**
Isaiah WardLBOntario (CA)6'6"230***
Jermaine Wiggins Jr.DTNorth Bridgton (ME)6'4"250***
Pueblo’s Victoria Cazares (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

— Pueblo junior Victoria Cazares scored 32 points against Buena at home Dec. 16 to reach 1,000 career points. She passed that milestone on a 3 of her own with 15.7 seconds left in the first quarter. Cazares became the fifth Warrior to reach that mark in the last five years (Alicia ReyesAraceli LoyaIlyssa Galindo and Summer Fox) and she now has a shot at more than 1,500.

— Sabino senior Emma Wall passed the 1,000-point mark on Dec. 17 during a victory over Amphitheater at the Central Arizona Holiday Classic hosted by Casa Grande. Wall scored 673 points playing for Tanque Verde before moving over to Sabino after the cancellation of the girls basketball program at the school.

— Patagonia standout Santiny Aguilar broke 1,000 career points after he scored 33 points to help defeat Tombstone on Dec. 16.

— Amphitheater standout Mat’tanaya Vital also broke 1,000 points in December.

— Pueblo senior guard Marcus Coleman needed 11 points against Superior on Dec. 28 at the Santa Cruz Tournament to reach 1,000 career points and he did that and more after scoring the 11 points for his team and finishing with 17 to bring his team to a 10-5 overall record and 7-2 in power-ranking games.

2021 Ed Doherty Award nominees (Andy Morales/

— Some of the state’s top high school football talent, including five players from Southern Arizona, gathered at Scottsdale McCormick Ranch Resort on Dec. 18 for the 38th Annual Ed Doherty Award Ceremony. One of the best in the state’s history — former Salpointe running back Bijan Robinson — was also on hand. Robinson is the only two-time winner. Attending the ceremony were nominees receiver/defensive back Sam Brown and quarterback Elijah Joplin of Marana, running back/linebacker Jake Lambert of Empire, running back/cornerback Serge Gboweiah of Desert View and Willcox running back/linebacker Cristian Pando. Salpointe senior linebacker Davian Miranda-Carrasco was the recipient of the 2021 Impact Award, given to the most impactful leader through community service. Salpointe quarterback Treyson Bourguet, another nominee, could not attend the event because of family obligations. 

— Former Canyon del Oro thrower Turner Washington was a finalist Dec. 18 for the Bowerman Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding NCAA track and field athlete. Washington won the NCAA championship in the indoor shot and outdoor shot and discus for ASU.

— Due to COVID-19 protocols and contact tracing within the Arizona women’s basketball program, the Dec. 19 scheduled game agaisnt Texas in Las Vegas was cancelled. COVID-19 protocols within the USC and UCLA programs meant the Wildcats would go at least three weeks between games — from the Dec. 17 win at NAU until a scheduled game Jan. 7 against Washington State at McKale Center.

— Former Walden Grove standout Daniel Moody scored 30 points on 12 for 17 shooting to help Pima beat Arizona Sol 129-85 on Dec. 13. For that performance, he was named ACCAC D-II Player of the Week on Dec. 20. Moody went 6 for 11 from beyond the arc. He also posted a double-double adding 10 rebounds as well as three assists and two steals.

Montaya Dew, a Class of 2023 forward who hails from the same high school in Las Vegas that produced Sam Thomas, committed to Adia Barnes’ program at Arizona on Dec. 23. Dew, who attends Centennial High School in northwest Las Vegas, chose Arizona from 12 finalists including UCLA, Kentucky, Louisville, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee and Virginia. A 6-foot-2 wing forward, she is rated a four-star prospect by ESPN. She is ranked No. 19 in the ESPN Super 60 recruiting rankings. She joined Centennial after transferring from Liberty High School in Las Vegas. She was also selected the Las Vegas Sun Super Seven in the preseason.

— Tucson Youth Football & Spirit Federation lineman standouts Noah Banhie of the Tucson Jaguars and Roman Pit-Og of the Oro Valley Dolphins were selected on Dec. 23 to the 2021 8th Grade National All-Star Game at Las Vegas during the Pro Bowl festivities from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1. The All-Star game is slated to be played Feb. 1 at Bishop Gorman High School. Banhie played for the city and regional champion Jaguars, who played earlier in December in the AYF national tournament at Kissimmee, Fla. Pit-Og was a member the TYFSF 14U All-Star Team that also played in Kissimmee. He has a martial arts background winning the 2019 team sparring state championship.

Mica Mountain won the Aztec Class Silver Division Tournament (Andy Morales/

— The first varsity football season for Mica Mountain this fall under legendary Pat Nugent nearly resulted in a spot in the 4A state playhoffs. The boys basketball team also has an established coach — Gary Lee with a 402-152 record with two state runner-up finishes at Laveen Cesar Chavez High School — who is making the new Vail school an immediate winner in his sport. Only 10 games into their varsity experience, the Thunderbolts (6-4) defeated Cholla 78-62 on Dec. 22 at Pima College’s West Campus Gym to claim the Aztec Classic Silver Division championship. “The kids have put a lot of time and effort to try to develop and become a varsity team,” said Lee, who has returned to his Southern Arizona roots as a Tucson native and Benson High School product in track and basketball. “To have some rough beginnings and start to see them understand how hard they have to play and share the ball it’s really been special.”

— Nearly a year after he last took a snap in a game, former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles showed he still has some of that Super Bowl MVP talent in his right arm. Jimmy Graham caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Foles with 1:01 remaining, Damiere Byrd made an acrobatic reception for the 2-point conversion, and the Chicago Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks 25-24 on Dec. 26. “The last couple years haven’t been the easiest, but at the end of the day you can still find joy in little things each and every day,” Foles said. “So going to work and being in a locker room with the guys that care for one another, that’s what I look at and that’s what I’m grateful for.” Making his first start since last season, Foles led the Bears 80 yards in the closing minutes, capping the drive with his TD toss to Graham, who spent three seasons with the Seahawks. Graham posted up a pair of smaller defensive backs to make the catch in the corner of the end zone, his third TD of the season.

— Salpointe Class of 2022 safety Cruz Rushing announced Dec. 27 via Twitter that he has committed to attend Arizona State. His decision could impact that of his younger brother Elijah Rushing, a Class of 2024 standout defensive end who has been offered a scholarship by Arizona, ASU, Utah and Washington. Arizona and ASU had each offered Cruz Rushing a preferred walk-on spot going into the 2022 season. “After a great deal of prayer and talking things over with my parents, I have decided to bet on myself and commit to Arizona State University,” Cruz Rushing mentioned in a Twitter post. His father George Rushing, a Miami product, played at Florida as a tight end under Steve Spurrier. In an article earlier in December, the elder Rushing said it is “a strong possibility” the brothers will play together in college. “We would love for the two of them to play together, yes,” said George Rushing, who is the director of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona.

— Former St. Augustine runner Nico Montañez, now at BYU, was ranked No. 5 in Marathon for American runners by Track and Field News on Dec. 27. His time of 61:13 in the Half-Marathon ranks him No. 4 in that event. Montañez earned 10 state championships with the Wolves.

— The Orlando Magic signed former Arizona guard Gabe York to a 10-day hardship deal on Dec. 29, giving him the opportunity to play in his first NBA game but he tested positive for COVID-19 a day later. York will likely have to sign another 10-day deal later to play in the NBA. He has been playing for Ft. Wayne of the G League. “I appreciate everyone’s messages and well-wishes, it meant a lot to me,” York posted on Instagram. “Unfortunately, I came in contact with someone who had Covid and caught it from what the test results said this morning. The grind and dream of playing in the NBA will continue and I’ll get my opportunity again.”

— Flowing Wells held off a scrappy and quick Westwood squad 66-57 on Dec. 29 to win the championship of the Flowing Wells Shootout. The Warriors came back from an early 26-15 deficit to take a 39-35 lead with 4:13 left in the third but the teams battled back and forth from there until the Caballeros pulled away in the final 5:45 of the game. Nyese Jones hit a bucket to cut the Flowing Wells lead down to 51-49 and she went on to cut the lead down to 59-54 with 1:17 left but Leamsi Acuña and Navine Mallon scored seven points down the stretch for the 66-57 win.

— Pueblo’s boys basketball team claimed the Santa Cruz Holiday Tournament title on Dec. 29. The Warriors, under new coach Daryl Jones, started the season successful despite two significant departures from last year’s team that made it to the state playoffs — point guard Armari Carraway and center Zach Morgan.


— Sahuaro defensive end Jordan Pfeiffer to Carroll on Dec. 6.

— Salpointe outfielder Jordan Johnson to San Jose State on Dec. 9.

— Salpointe Class of 2024 baseball outfielder Gunner Geile to Arizona on Dec. 11.

— Ironwood Ridge utility player Shane Melick to Hardin-Baylor on Dec. 19.

— Catalina linebacker/athlete Kyler Manning to Ripon on Dec. 22.

— Salpointe safety Cruz Rushing to ASU as a preferred walk-on Dec. 27.



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FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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.

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