Three high school football coaching positions filled in Southern Arizona

New Santa Rita coach Douglas Smith (Santa Rita photo)

The announced hire on Monday of Douglas Smith as Santa Rita’s new football coach means three vacancies of local high school programs have been filled.

Tucson High has hired Salpointe running backs coach Zachary Neveleff pending TUSD board approval Thursday, and Tanque Verde last week filled its open coaching spot with Sahuarita defensive coordinator Jeff Bollnow.

Smith comes to Santa Rita after spending the last four years as the defensive coordinator at El Mirage Dysart High School. El Mirage is on the far northwest side of the Phoenix area, west of Glendale.

Smith was also defensive coordinator at both Barry Goldwater and Shadow Mountain high schools. He was the head wrestling coach at Bourgade Catholic, North Canyon, and Shadow Mountain.

“I’m very excited to be named the head football coach at Santa Rita High School and look forward to building a football program that everyone associated with the school and community can be proud of,” Smith stated in a release issued by TUSD.

Smith faces the daunting task of resurrecting a program that played only two games last season before having to forfeit the rest of its games because of a lack of healthy and eligible players.

Two Arizona high school football coaching legends Richard Sanchez and Tom Joseph, who have combined for three state championships at Sunnyside and Mesa Mountain View, respectively, have coached the Eagles in recent years.

Both tried to stir interest in the 2A San Pedro program from its student body but struggled with numbers and that translated to the Eagles going 4-36 under them from 2018 to 2022.

Sanchez’s 3-7 season in 2019 are the most wins for the program since the Eagles went 3-7 in 2010 and 2011 after going 11-3 and losing to Glendale Cactus for the 4A state championship in the 2009 season under Jeff Scurran.

Neveleff is set to replace interim coach Malcolm Nelson, a former Tucson Sugar Skulls assistant who was hired at Tucson High right before the 2022 season after Sanchez resigned.

Bollnow, son of esteemed local high school football referee Kirby Bollnow, will replace Jay Dobyns at Tanque Verde. Dobyns resigned after three years of work resurrecting the Hawks’ program, including coaching it to the state playoffs last fall for the first time.

Dobyns was 14-9 in his stint at Tanque Verde, which competes in the 2A San Pedro. Before Dobyns’ hire in 2020, the Hawks were 24-98 since the first season 2007.

Bollnow has led the Mustangs’ defense and operated the strength and conditioning program the last two years. Before that, he was a defensive assistant at Cienega under Pat Nugent.


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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