By MYLO ERICKSON
Photo by ED ADAMS
Once again that time of year is upon us, a time when players take it to the gridiron and carry the old pigskin up and down the field.
It is time for football and the Pima Community College Aztecs (1-0) are ready to go.
Third-year head coach Pat Nugent will lead a team of 92 players, with 39 returning from last season.
Nugent is ready to see his team climb in the rankings. He and his staff hope to get six to eight wins, after winning just three games last season.
“We’re really excited about our offensive line,” Nugent said. “We’re pretty excited about the type of kids we got this year.”
One returning player is quarterback Zander McKean, who threw for 1,214 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
Daniel Simmons and Jordan Christianson are returning to their line spots. Pima also received a transfer from North Carolina State, Sam Jones.
The defensive line appears to be the key concern, due to academic ineligibility, injuries and a couple of recruits not showing up.
“Our defensive line, we’re kind of mismatching little guys in that spot,” Nugent said.
The upside is that the line and their secondary will have tremendous speed, with players like freshmen safety Deanthony Easley, safety Danell Miles and cornerback Josh Kimbell.
The Aztecs must replace running back Aubra Taylor, who was on the All-Western States Football League first team. Pima also lost second team All-WSFL defensive end Pepa Fonokalafi, who had 31 tackles, 5.5 for a loss and is redshirting this year.
The players are excited and ready to go. At a recent practice, they praised and ridiculed plays to pump each other up.
When one player made a sliding catch, freshman cornerback Brandon Jackson said, “Way to hit the ground, partner,” then talked about how he got a 3-D view of the catch.
Pima opened the season on Aug. 27 with a 59-0 win against the Institute of Technology of Sonora in Douglas, Ariz.
All three quarterbacks saw playing time. McKean got the start and threw two touchdown passes to sophomore receiver Cameron Gaddis.
Sophomore reserve quarterback Michael Molina connected with tight end Cory Myers for a touchdown.
The defense and special teams also put points on the board. Freshman safety Darius Kelly returned an interception for 60 yards and freshman Cody Woody returned the second half kick-off 70 yards for a touchdown.
Nugent said the Aztecs didn’t know anything in advance about the team, but was ready to have some fun.
“You always wish as a head coach that you had another week or two to prepare, but it’s time to play a game,” he said. “It’s time to see what our kids look like under the lights and get going.”
Three of Pima’s five home games will be played at Kino Stadium, formerly Tucson Electric Park. Due to schedule conflicts with the stadium, the Sept. 10 and Oct. 8 games will be played at Tucson High School.
Pima will need some confidence going into the season. The Aztecs face a brutal schedule in arguably the best conference in the country, the WSFL.
After a Sept. 3 game at Glendale Community College, Pima opens home play Sept. 10 against Scottsdale Community College.
PCC hosts No. 7 Snow (Utah) College on Sept. 17 in their first WSFL game. On Sept. 24, Pima travels to a revenge-minded Phoenix College, which lost twice to the Aztecs last year.
Play against ranked teams continues Oct. 1, when the Aztecs travel to Yuma to face No. 5 Arizona Western College. Pima hosts No. 18 Eastern Arizona College on Oct. 8.
An NJCAA poll picked PCC to finish last in the nine-team WSFL.
Last year Pima went 3-8, their best record since 2004.
Pima assistant coach on UA committee
Pima assistant coach Glenn Howell is serving on the University of Arizona presidential search committee.
The strength and conditioning coach is one of 23 the Arizona Board of Regents chose to look for a new UA president.
The committee hopes to recommend a new president by the next year.
Sept. 3: @ Glendale CC,
Sept. 10: Scottsdale CC, 7 p.m. (at Tucson High School)
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