2023 High School Football

Mica Mountain continues impressive surge with dominating win over Sabino

Mica Mountain is 3-0 this season after the 49-7 win over visiting Sabino on Friday (Dante Escobar/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

October 14, 2022.

Mica Mountain was 4-7 in its varsity existence at that time after the Vail school opened in the 2020-21 school year.

The fortunes dramatically changed for Pat Nugent at Mica Mountain, which is 8-0 since that date following Friday night’s 49-7 win over previously unbeaten Sabino (3-1).

Challenged by a four-game losing streak when nearby Empire visited on Oct. 14, 2022, Nugent privately wondered if he made the right move leaving Cienega’s established program to lead Mica Mountain’s fledgling operation.

“We’re looking for big things down the road, but we really have to work right now,” Nugent said at the time.

Mica Mountain was 1-4 following a 55-14 loss at Salpointe heading into the game with Empire.

Jimmy Leon happened and Mica Mountain (3-0 this season) has not lost since routing Empire 48-6 on Oct. 14, 2022.

Leon, a tenacious and relentless junior defensive end at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, became eligible for that game after sitting out the first five games per AIA transfer rules following his arrival from Salpointe. He immediately made an impact with three sacks.

Leon finished with five sacks on Friday night against Sabino, a phenomenal feat inasmuch as talented Sabercat quarterback Cam Hackworth is one of the most elusive players at his position in the state.

“We were just beating them up front; we were beating them all day,” said Leon, who received a scholarship offer from Arizona State over the summer.

Legendary fiery coach Richard Sanchez, who led Sunnyside to state titles in 2001 and 2003, was added to the staff by Nugent a week after Oct. 14, 2022, to coach the offensive line.

Kason Colbert of Mica Mountain rushed for 216 yards in the victory over Sabino (D’Andre Davis/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Fortunately for Nugent and the Thunderbolts, Sanchez resigned as head coach at Tucson High shortly before last season because he believed his demands of the administration were not met for the resources necessary to make the Badgers a winning program.

Mica Mountain’s toughness has intensified since.

The Thunderbolts have outscored its eight consecutive victims 310-95 since Oct, 14, 2022 after they were pummeled 165-82 in their first five games last season.

“Coach Sanchez likes to get on the (blocking) sled against me, so helped me get better if I get or stopped,” said senior bulldozing runner back Kason Colbert, who rushed for 216 yards on nine carries with three touchdowns against Sabino.

“When I get hit, (Running against the blocking sled) has helped me keep going and driving through and keep my legs moving.”

Colbert (6-foot-1 and 220 pounds) had touchdown runs of 58 and 60 yards, breaking multiple tackles in the process.

He was overpowered tacklers for a 46-yard run in the second half.

“He’s unbelievable,” Nugent said. “He’s been focused. He’s had a different attitude the last couple of weeks.

“He’s grinding with everything in the weight room. He’s a beast right now. We just love him.”

Pat Nugent High School Career Coaching Record

YearsSchoolRecord Pct.
1997-1999Flowing Wells18-13.581
2021-2023Mica Mountain20-8.632
21 years158-65.708

Nugent reached career win No. 150 in his 21st year as a high school head coach with previous stints at Flowing Wells, Canyon del Oro and Cienega.

He also coached at Pima College from 2009 to 2013 before joining Nemer Hassey’s staff at Cienega in 2014.

“One hundred and 50 (wins) doesn’t mean a thing to me,” Nugent said. “I’m doing a lot of things right and it’s about great coaches and great players. It’s just a number when you put a kid like 44 (Colbert) on the field. You can win a lot of football games.

“We’ve got a great group of kids right here. They’ve really proven that they’re a dominant football team.”


— Hackworth, feeling the heat from Leon and Mica Mountain’s defensive front most of the game, completed 18 of 38 passes for 221 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He became the seventh Southern Arizona quarterback to eclipse 6,000 career passing yards. He is now at 6,056, only 18 yards behind Marana’s Elijah Joplin (2020-22) for No. 6 on the career passing chart.

1 Rhett Rodriguez, Catalina Foothills 8,694 (2013-16)
2 Trenton Bourguet, Marana: 7,612 (2015-18)
3 Andrew Cota, Sunnyside/Salpointe, 7,554 (2010-13)
4 Reggie Robertson, Sahuaro 7,106 (1996-99)
5 Brian Chason, Tucson Christian: 6,408 (1982-85)
6 Elijah Joplin, Marana: 6,074 (2020-2022)
7 Cameron Hackworth, Sabino: 6,056 (2020-current)
8 Tyler D’Amore, Ironwood Ridge: 5,915 (2008-10)
9 Adriell Alvarado, Cienega: 5,910 (2012-15)
10 Adam Rodriguez, Desert View: 5,774 (1985-89)
11 Jovoni Borbon, Buena: 5,666 (2016-19)
12 Justice Summerset, Mountain View: 5,264 (2013-15)
13 Alex Lopez, Walden Grove: 5,062 (2017-19)

— After Colbert fumbled the ball away on Mica Mountain’s first possession, he scored on touchdown runs of 58 and 5 yards to cap the Thunderbolts’ next two possessions. Mica Mountain led 13-0 at that point with 10:38 left in the first half. Colbert’s rushing totals through the first three games: 419 yards on 27 carries with seven touchdowns. He is averaging an incredible 15.5 yards per carry.

— Hackworth completed a 34-yard pass to Arizona recruiting target Shamar Berryhill before connecting with Berryhill for a 1-yard touchdown pass that cut Mica Mountain’s lead to 13-7 with 2:09 left in the half. On the first play of the Thunderbolts’ ensuing possession,Colbert busted free for a 60-yard touchdown run.

Devin Hayward made an interception and had a 53-yard return to give Mica Mountain the ball at the Sabino 27 with 1:01 left. Three plays later, Jayden Thoreson completed a 14-yard TD pass to Jack Bradley to put the Thunderbolts ahead 27-7 at halftime.

— Sabino opens 3A South play at Safford (2-2) on Friday. The Bulldogs defeated host Rincon/University 49-17 on Friday night.

— Mica Mountain, of the 4A Kino, plays at 5A Southern opponent Sunnyside (1-2) on Friday. It will be the Blue Devils’ first game at their home field since they lost to Cienega on Oct. 29, 2021. They did not play a game at home last season because of the installation of new turf and they played the first three games this season on the road.


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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