2023 High School Football

2023 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Safford Bulldogs

3A South: Safford Bulldogs

2022 record: 4-6 overall, 2-3 in the 3A South (fourth)

Head coach: Bob Park, 10-11, third season at Safford and overall. He is originally from Utah and has taught physical education and coached at Safford for the last two decades. Took over the program in 2021 as its third coach in three years.

Safford senior QB JoJo Ruelas (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


Key returners:

  • QB/CB JoJo Ruelas, 6-1, 160, Sr.
  • WR/KR, Chris Shatto, 5-6, 150, Sr.
  • RB/LB Monster Rios, 5-6, 130, Sr.
  • WR/CB Cole Goodman, Jr.
  • OL/DL Brandon Aguilar,, 6-2, 225, Sr.


Coaching staff:

  • Head coach: Bob Park
  • Quarterbacks/offensive coordinator: Tyrell Andrews
  • Wide receivers: Marcus Gathjie
  • Offensive line: David David
  • Defensive line: Brad Reynolds
  • Linebackers/running backs: Hunter Cochran
  • Defensive backs: Fuzzy Ruiz
  • Special teams: Clay Emery
  • Running backs/linebackers: Robert White

Notes: Safford traditionally has been strong and Rob Park has been mostly part of that including when he was on Eric Hjalmarson’s staff in recent years. Hjalmarson, a former Arizona walk-on, is now the head coach at Willcox. Park is in his third season trying to establish his mark. The Bulldogs went 6-5 in 2021 and 4-6 last year under him. … QB/CB JoJo Ruelas is a proven leader by performance and by he conducts himself. He completed 97 of 180 pass attempts for 1,297 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. He also showed mobility rushing for 144 yards on 49 carries. … WR/KR Chris Shatto led the team with 31 receptions for 423 yards last season. He also averaged 21.7 yards a return with kickoffs and punts. … As is the case with all 3A South teams, Safford’s schedule is an arduous one. Aside from the quality opponents in the region (Sabino, Pusch Ridge, Thatcher and Morenci), the Bulldogs will play against perennial powers Payson, Pima, Florence, Blue Ridge and Round Valley. … Safford’s lone trip to Tucson this year is a non-region game at Rincon/University on Sept. 8.

Keep an eye out for: RB/LB Monster Rios, who might be smaller than most running backs at 5-6 and 130 pounds but lives up to his first name. He showed durability last season rushing 132 times for 679 yards with 10 touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 247 yards. On defense, he recorded a sack, caused a fumble and recovered a fumble.

SAFFORD (2-4, 0-1)

Head coach: Robert Park
Bulldogs compete in the 3A South. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
8/18at PaysonW, 35-141-00-0
8/25PimaL, 34-251-10-0
9/1at FlorenceL, 29-261-20-0
9/8at Rincon/UniversityW, 49-172-20-0
9/15Sabino*L, 50-212-30-1
9/22Blue RidgeL, 14-132-40-1
9/29at Morenci*------
10/6Round Valley------
10/13at Thatcher*------
10/27Pusch Ridge*------


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 Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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