The Tucson schools are well-represented in this year’s high school football postseason.
Cienega is the top seed in 5A and plays eighth-seeded Marana Friday night in what is expected to be a great game. Ironwood Ridge holds the sixth seed in the division and heads to #3 Liberty. Salpointe Catholic has one of the most talented rosters in 4A and hosts #5 Cactus tonight.
#1 Pusch Ridge and #5 Sabino, who was last year’s state runner-up, are also contenders remaining in the 3A bracket.
The representation is there, but for Cienega head coach Patrick Nugent, whose Bobcats are the top-seeded team in 5A for the second straight year, the postseason results are key to the Tucson football scene.
“We’ve always had our small number of really good football teams,” Nugent said on the November 1st episode of the #FridayNight360AZ Preview Show. “Salpointe won a few years ago, Ironwood Ridge won a few years ago, so we’ve always had those four or five really good football teams and unfortunately that’s the way it’s been. Tucson football isn’t where it needs to be.”
One way to help earn that respect statewide is simple: state championships.
“It’s the same teams every year making the playoffs,” Nugent said. “We’ve got to change that whole attitude down here because we need more teams to challenge and have the respect from the Phoenix schools because we have the four or five schools that can go up and play with anybody but obviously we’re not getting enough of them to be able to do that. Tucson is always going to be the little brother and we understand that but we’ve got to win championships if we want more respect.”
With the 4A-6A state championships being held at Arizona Stadium on December 2nd, will there be a few participants making short drives to the game?
College coaches have taken notice of playmakers in the Tucson area, with Salpointe Catholic offensive lineman Matteo Mele committing to Washington, Cienega quarterback Jamarye Joiner and Amphitheater guard committing to Arizona and sophomore Salpointe Catholic running back Bijan Robinson already holding offers from Washington, Utah and the in-state Pac-12 schools.