By CASEY MUSE JR
The Pima Community College football team hopes to build on a successful 2015 season despite facing a tough conference schedule for 2016.
The Aztecs committed five turnovers and were held scoreless Sept. 10 in a 20-0 loss to No. 5 Arizona Western College in Yuma.
AWC set the tone with a first-quarter interception of a tipped pass by freshman quarterback Justin Martin. The Matadors then blocked both a field goal and a punt attempt before scoring their first touchdown of the night.
The Aztecs finished the first half with 98 yards of total offense. They attempted to rally in the second half and had a chance to score in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over on downs.
Pima started the season by defeating Air Force Prep Academy 42-24 on Sept. 2 in Colorado Springs.
The game was a dogfight in the first half, with the Aztecs only able to mount a one-touchdown lead at the break.
In the second half, Martin helped the Aztecs outscore their opponent 21-10. Martin totaled 400 yards and six touchdowns, throwing for five touchdowns and running for one.
He was named WSFL/ACCAC Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 7.
Last year, the Aztecs boasted a 4-1 home record and were 7-4 overall. They finished as runners-up in the Western States Football League, falling in the championship game to Snow College of Utah.
PCC ranked 13th in the nation in scoring with 407 total points and 15th in total offense at 4,376 total yards. The team was also 12th in first downs per game at 21.6.
Head coach Jim Monaco returns to lead the team in 2016. Pima entered the season unranked but was the fifth and final team to receive votes and consideration for the top 20 NJCAA poll.
Sophomore running back Sirgeo Hoffman will play a big role on offense, jumping from productive backup to full-time starter. Sophomore wide receiver Jeff Cotton will also be asked to step up.
The Aztecs return one of the most intriguing defenses in the conference. Last year, they were eighth in the nation with 954 total tackles, second in the nation in fumble recoveries at 16 and seventh in the nation in defensive touchdowns with five.
“Our goal on defense this season is to get the ball back to the offense and, more specifically, stop the run,” defensive coordinator Pat Ryden said. “Our long-term goal is to win our conference and play in a bowl game.”
Look for sophomore linebacker Kana’l Picanco to be thrust into the limelight. Sophomore cornerback Paul Davis will anchor a secondary unit that plans to cause problems for opposing quarterbacks.
Ryden also offered “welcome back” to sophomore linebacker Tyson Otuafi, who is returning to the team from a two-year church mission.
“We just need to make sure that we are tough and physical in all aspects on our side of the ball,” Ryden said.
Sept. 17: Scottsdale CC, Kino North Stadium, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8: Eastern Arizona College, Kino North Stadium, 7 p.m.