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PODCAST: Dustin Peace, on brink of 100 career wins, reflects on 14 years as CDO’s coach

Dustin Peace’s tenure at Canyon del Oro includes 21 years (seven as defensive coordinator and the last 14 as head coach) (Andy Morales/

Dustin Peace knows it has taken 14 seasons to approach 100 career wins as a head coach, so he is fascinated when thinking of coaches like the late Vern Friedli going well over 300 victories.

Peace, hired in 2009 to replace Pat Nugent, is 99-48 as No. 2 Canyon del Oro (4-1) heads into its 4A Kino opener at Douglas (3-2) on Friday.

Friedli was a head coach for 42 years — six years at Morenci followed by 36 at Amphi — and he amassed a career win total of 331 games (288 with the Panthers).

Friedli, who passed away at age 80 in 2017, coached his last game against CDO in 2011 when Peace was in his third year as head coach.

Friedli was 74 at the time of that 49-0 loss to CDO, coaching in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke before that season.

“When you think about it, I know it’s cliché, but it just seems like, ‘Where has 14 years gone?’ It’s kind of scary when it’s adding up,” Peace said. “The other thing I think about is – how did coaches like Vern Friedli get to 300? He’s iconic. One hundred has been 14 years. I’m pretty sure I don’t have 28 more years of coaching in me.”

Peace turns 41 on Saturday. That means that if he does coach another 28 years he will become 69 in what would be the 2050 season.

Southern Arizona High School Football Coaching Records

List of top active Southern Arizona high school football coaches and their overall career head coaching records. Compiled and researched by
Jeff ScurranRio Rico4A257872.74729
Tom JosephSanta Rita2A171990.63325
Pat NugentMica Mountain4A143640.69120
Matt JohnsonMountain View5A126770.62119
Jorge MendivilAmphi4A113950.54321
Dustin PeaceCDO4A100480.67614

Rio Rico coach Jeff Scurran, who is 74, has a 29-year career record at the high school level of 256-87-2. Scurran is coaching at this level for the first time since leaving Catalina Foothills in 2018.

“Different age,” Peace said when told he will not be 70 yet if he does coach another 28 years.

“This is for all coaches, all sports — it does not ever end any more, it seems like,” he added. “It seems like we’re going in January, we’re going all summer and it definitely takes a toll holistically on the family and everything.

“Commend all the volleyball coaches, swimming coaches, they’re all doing it.”

Peace’s next win will allow him to join the active 100-Win Club that consists of five other coaches locally — Scurran with 256, Tom Joseph of Santa Rita with 171, Nugent of Mica Mountain at 142, Matt Johnson of Mountain View with 125 and Jorge Mendivil of Amphi at 113.

Peace has a special bond with Nugent and Mendivil, playing under them at Flowing Wells and coaching with Nugent at CDO when Peace was the defensive coordinator in 2002 to 2008.

Peace was only 27 in 2009 when he replaced Nugent, who recommended to the CDO brass to elevate Peace to head coach.

The Dorados did not skip a beat when Peace took over. They won the state title in 2009 with a 14-0 record and finished runner-up in 2010 at 13-1. Those teams included the likes of Ka’Deem Carey, Blake Martinez, Josh Robbins and the Tevis brothers (Aaron and Jared).

“Not every coach is liked by every other coach in town. Pat is probably the exception to that,” Peace told the Arizona Daily Star in 2009. “Every coach likes him. Every player likes him. Every principal likes him.”

Peace has taken on that same characteristic with his peers, becoming one of their leaders during meetings while the COVID-19 pandemic was ongoing during the 2020 season. His coaching friends call him, “Dusty.”

“(Peace) and (Mendivil) have impacted me tremendously,” Peace said. “I’ve done this (coaching) for 21 years because those two men have changed my life. I remember when I blew my Achilles my senior year and Coach Nugent took me in a school car to a spring game at NAU.

“He helped me get a walk-on spot and kept my career going. Kept my hopes going and I ended up getting a scholarship after the first semester. I remember Coach Mendivil came up and watched my game. I went and hung out with him and his son at the hotel after the game. … Those moments, you’re a coach for life. They’ll always be my coaches.”

Commitment is important to Peace’s success.

He is married to his high school sweetheart Georgina (they have two sons who Peace will likely coach).

This is his 21st year at CDO as a coach.

He thought about working toward a coaching position in college but staying with the Dorados for the long haul means more to him.

“Real proud of the culture that we have here that I’m able to be here for 14 years, that I’m able to have 100 wins here — that we are able to do that,” Peace said. “All these guys have been with me the whole time. That’s why I’ve been here for 14 years, having the same staff that’s bought into the process of our program.”

His staff includes defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Eric Rossi, quarterbacks/strong safeties coach Matt Powell, offensive line coach Jordan Hitchye, wide receivers coach John Vallejos, cornerbacks coach Jody Basye, safeties coach Andy Basye and linebackers coach Dylan Peace (his brother).

“I’ve always had my wife and then you have kids and you settle down to what’s important,” Dustin Peace said. “You really start buying into how pure the game of high school football is. A lot of times, these kids grow up together. They all play together … being a part of that neighborhood growth and playing with your best friend is something still really special.

“It keeps it pure and it keeps it challenging. In college and in the NFL, you get to pick the people who fit what you want to do whereas here you’ve got to go to what they do best. You’ve got to do what’s best for the kids and what’s best for the team. … There’s no place that’s better in my mind.”

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. 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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