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Interim football coach’s goal: keep winning

Interim football coach’s goal: keep winning

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

Assistant coach Jim Monaco was named Pima Community College’s interim head football coach on Dec. 9, after head coach Pat Nugent announced his resignation.

Monaco recently set aside time from a busy schedule to discuss his background and his vision for the football program.

Q: Where did you grow up playing football?

A: Lynn English High School in Lynn, Mass. It’s a small town right outside of Boston. I also played at the University of New Haven. After four knee surgeries, plus ankle and hip surgery, I was done my sophomore year.

Q:  How long have you been coaching football and what was your last coaching job before you became an assistant at Pima?

A: I’ve been coaching now going on my 30th year. I coached at Desert View before I came to Pima. Our first year we were 5-5. We started off 5-1. They hadn’t won five games in the previous seven years and we managed to do that for quite a while.

Q: How did you feel when you found out you got the head coaching job at Pima, even though it has the word ‘interim’ tied to it?

A: I was jacked. This is going to be my last gig. I know there was an interim tag. However, there were still 28 applicants, gosh, a ton from out of state, and I managed to do it.

I also look at it as a tryout. I tell these kids when I recruit them, it’s opportunities. You can’t turn your back on opportunities, because you never know how many you are going to get.

Q: What did you learn under Nugent?

A: Coach Nugent was very dynamic in the way he set up practice. His passing tournaments were very detail-oriented. It’s those kinds of things that I’m trying to steal. Nobody comes up with anything new, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Nugent was very meticulous in the way he ran the program, and that’s what I tried to pick up on as much as possible.

Q: What aspect of the program needs improving, and how do you plan on doing that?

A: The offense was a sore spot for us last year. I’m not going to sit here and say we lost games because of our offense, because we didn’t. I don’t think we capitalized enough. I think there was a little too much strife with the offensive staff. So, we started there.

We brought in a few new people who are amazing, who coached here at Pima back in the day. I think offensively we need to gel, we need to work together as a staff. You don’t always have to agree, but when you walk out of that door you need to be on the same page.

Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals for the football program?

A: You know, I have an issue with long-term and short-term goals. They have a tendency to run into each other.

Short-term goal is, we need to continue winning, we need to fix our grades.

We have to have our students passing, because I don’t believe that one is more important than the other. When you’re here at Pima, you are expected to be a student and a football player — not one or the other.

Long term, this school has to get back to winning. It has to get back to supporting itself.

We have to fund raise and get people in the community excited about Pima football again. We moved into the new soccer stadium at Kino, and my goal is to have a bowl game there.

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Recruiting day draws a crowd

Recruiting day draws a crowd

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

More than 65 potential players and their parents came to see what Pima Community College has to offer when interim head football coach Jim Monaco held his first-ever recruiting day on Jan. 11.

It was the first major event the football program has hosted since Monaco was named the interim coach on Dec. 9.

Pima is looking to fill 50-60 roster spots for the upcoming fall season. Coaches would like to start fall camp with about 90 players.

Recruiting is what Monaco loves to do and what he does best, but being the man in charge makes it a little different from the days in 2004 when he was the recruiting coordinator under Pima head coach Jeff Scurran.

“Being the boss is really different,” Monaco said. “I’m doing a lot more delegating than before, but I know I have an amazing coaching staff that has a ton of experience doing this thing.”

In addition to potential recruits, coaches such as Sahuarita High School head football coach David Rodriguez attended to show support for Pima’s football program.

“It is so important that Pima not only maintains, but thrives, for all of southern Arizona,” Rodriguez said.

“Coach Monaco is a dear friend of mine,” he added. “We’ve known each other for over 10 years and coached together in different spots. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in what he was doing.”

The recruiting day drew prospects from all over the country, but most were Tucson students seeking to continue their playing careers a bit longer.

Cienega High School running back Christian Nash and linebacker Logan Jones said they were extremely excited to play for Monaco.

“I like the weight room here, and I love the community here,” Nash said. “It just seems like everything really fits well together.”

Jones said he attended because Pima coaches emailed and called.

“Touring this campus, I like what I see,” he said. “The football program looks nice and I really like the weight room.”

Pima had 29 verbal commits at press time, with more expected.

Monaco said he is very pleased with how the team is shaping up, and will be excited to see how the team looks when it’s finally put together.

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Pima hires Monaco as next football coach.

Pima hires Monaco as next football coach.

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

It’s been a little more than a month since Pat Nugent resigned as Pima Community College’s head football coach.

The search for his replacement came to an end on Dec. 5, when PCC announced the hiring of former assistant coach Jim Monaco as the Aztec’s newest football coach.

The hiring is on an interim basis and still needs to be approved by Pima’s governing board.

Monaco has been Pima’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the past two seasons.

A majority of the football staff wanted to see Monaco get the job, based on interviews conducted by Aztec Press.

Athletic Director Edgar Soto interviewed many qualified candidates, and felt that Monaco was the best choice.

Coach Monaco has done an outstanding job here at Pima Community College,” Soto said.He has a passion that is unparalleled when it comes to coaching football.”

 

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Jim Monaco, new PCC interim head football coach. (Photo courtesy of PCC)

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FOOTBALL: Aztecs end season on winning note

FOOTBALL: Aztecs end season on winning note

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

The Pima Community College football team finished the season 5-5, marking the first time since 2003 that the Aztecs did not have a losing record.

Pima closed out the season Nov. 9 with a 38-22 win over No. 7 Arizona Western College in the final game of the playoffs’ consolation bracket.

The No. 5 Aztecs entered the game undermanned, with the defense missing five starters.

“They played amazing,” head coach Pat Nugent said. “I have to thank all the coaches and players for getting up for this game and giving their all.”

Sophomore Dominic Grigsby led the Aztecs with 86 yards on 16 carries, with two touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler D’Amore finished his Pima career with a bang, leading the Aztecs to four touchdown drives during the first half.

“I just got a hot hand and started seeing things really well,” D’Amore said. “We were firing on all cylinders today. The Pima Aztecs are coming up, and people better watch out.”

Looking back on his Pima career, D’Amore has nothing but fond memories.

“You say ‘family’ as a slogan but you don’t really understand the concept of it until that last game and you see what all you’ve done,” D’Amore said. “ I spent the last six months with these guys, and I’m gonna miss the relationships I had with all of them.”

On Nov. 2, Pima lost 31-6 to Glendale Community College in the first round of the playoffs.

Glendale clearly didn’t forget the beatdown Pima gave them several weeks before, and wanted to return the favor.

Pima started the game on a good note when sophomore Kevin Snead recovered a muffed punt to give the Aztecs a first down on Glendale’s 10-yard line. Three plays later, D’Amore scored  on a one-yard touchdown run.

After that play, the train fell off the tracks for the Aztecs. Glendale scored the remaining 31 points of the game and completely dominated both sides of the ball.

“They ran the piss out of the ball,” Nugent said. “They came right at us. They didn’t have to throw the ball this time around, so we couldn’t force any turnovers.”

Pima injured defensive players were not able to play, which contributed to the defensive problems.

The offense struggled as well.

“They were really good at their blitzes and assignments today,” D’Amore said. “They gave us a lot of confusing looks and we couldn’t execute our game plan. When that happens, you lose.”

Freshman Levonte Little John fights for extra yards in Pima's win over Arizona Western College on Nov. 9. (Aztec Press photo by Larry Gaurano)

Freshman Levonte Little John fights for extra yards in Pima’s win over Arizona Western College on Nov. 9. (Aztec Press photo by Larry Gaurano)

 

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FOOTBALL: Pima falls to New Mexico

FOOTBALL: Pima falls to New Mexico

By JAIME HERNANDEZ 

The Pima Community College football team fell to New Mexico Military Institute 51-28 on Oct. 19 in the final regular game of the season.

“We just didn’t show up,” head coach Pat Nugent said. “I don’t know if it was the long travel time or what, but we didn’t bring it.”

New Mexico took a 24-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. At the half, the lead was 31-14. New Mexico continued the dominating play in the second half to finish off the game.

Freshman running back Kevionte Alexander had two rushing touchdowns for the Aztecs, scoring on 1-yard and 5-yard runs.

Sophomore wide receiver Chris Mays caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Jack Nyakza.

Freshman Levonte Little John scored with a 60-yard run.

Sophomore defensive back Mitch Fischer had an interception in the game.

With the loss, the Aztecs fell to 4-4 and were in fifth place in their conference. They will play in the consolation bracket of the playoffs.

“Even though we didn’t make the main playoffs, the goal is still our record,” Nugent said. “We can give Pima our first winning record in years, and recruits love that.”

Pima will host Glendale Community College in the first round of the consolation playoffs on Nov. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at Kino Stadium. The Aztecs will play again on Nov. 9.

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Freshman Dominic Grigsby runs to daylight behind a block by freshman Trent Austin during the Eastern Arizona College game. (Aztec Press photo by Jaime Hernandez)

 

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FOOTBALL: Pima loses heartbreaker to Eastern Arizona

FOOTBALL: Pima loses heartbreaker to Eastern Arizona

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

The Pima Community College Aztecs fell to the Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters 10-7 on Oct. 12 in their last home game of the season.

The loss eliminated Pima from the winner’s bracket playoffs.

The game was a defensive battle throughout. Eastern got on the board first, scoring a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the second quarter.

On Pima’s next possession, sophomore quarterback Tyler D’Amore threw an interception that put Eastern within field goal range.

Eastern missed the 51-yard field goal, and the ball fell into the hands of Pima sophomore defensive back Mikell Everette. He ran 102 yards for a touchdown as the quarter ended.

Eastern scored a 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter to seal the win.

The Aztecs had several opportunities to take the lead late in the game, but couldn’t capitalize. Their last offensive possession ended with D’Amore fumbling the ball at Eastern’s 43-yard line with two minutes to go.

“I was trying to make a play at the end of the game,” D’Amore said. “I take full responsibility for it and I just need to throw the ball away in that situation.”

Head coach Pat Nugent praised the defensive play. “Anytime you hold your opponent to 10 points, you’re doing something right, but our offense needs to play better,” he said.

Pima finished with 108 yards on the ground and 93 yards passing for the game.

“Terrible performance by our offense,” Nugent said. “We couldn’t get anything going. They controlled the line of scrimmage the entire game.”

Trent Austin (72), Esteban Escarcega (44), Denzel Jones (84) and Denzel Glover (94) watch from the sidelines as their playoff hopes disappear. (Aztec Press photo by Jaime Hernandez)

Trent Austin (72), Esteban Escarcega (44), Denzel Jones (84) and Denzel Glover (94) watch from the sidelines as their playoff hopes disappear. (Aztec Press photo by Jaime Hernandez)

D’Amore said the Aztecs had a hard time finding their rhythm. “Ever since the Scottsdale game, we just can’t seem to find our offensive rhythm.”

Added freshman offensive guard Louis Aldridge, “We just didn’t play like ourselves today. I’m not sure what happened.”

Pima will close out the regular season Oct. 19 at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M. A win would give them a .500 record finish for the regular season.

The Aztecs will then play in the consolation playoff bracket, where they could potentially finish the season with their first winning record in more than 10 years.

“We just need to put some points on the board,” Everette said. “We gotta go hard and play defense like we did today and we will come away with the win.”

Freshman Tyler Bigot No. 76 and sophomore CJ Healy No. 66 open a hole from freshman running back Shahid Hoover No. 25 on Oct. 12 vs Eastern College.

Freshman Tyler Bigot (76) and sophomore C.J. Healy (66) open a big hole for freshman running back Shahid Hoover (25) in the Oct. 12 game.

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Defense dominates in win against Glendale

Defense dominates in win against Glendale

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

The Pima Community College football team destroyed Glendale Community College 33-17 on Sept. 28.

Pima’s defense dominated the game for the second straight week.

The Aztecs forced 10 turnovers in the game. Nine were interceptions, which is a new Pima single-game record.

“I’ve never in my life seen nine interceptions in a game,” head coach Pat Nugent said. “Our defense played amazing. It was clearly the best performance they have had since I’ve been coaching here.”

The defense was lead by sophomores Mitch Fischer and Eddie Releford. Each player returned an interception for a touchdown.

The Aztec defense notched another touchdown when Patrick Mulrow scored on a 14-yard fumble recovery.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler D’Amore had 102 yards passing and freshman quarterback Jack Nykaza passed for 42 yards.

The Aztecs’ ground attack was lead by sophomore Seth Ellis. He recorded 34 yards on 11 carries, and scored a touchdown. Freshman Dominck Grigsby also had a rushing touchdown.

“Our offense didn’t have their best performance,” Nugent said. “We missed a lot of assignments and got a little complacent, but it’s nothing we can’t fix.”

The Aztecs now have a 3-3 conference record, and are fighting to get into the top four of the conference standings to make the playoffs. They are in fifth place, one game behind Mesa.

“We’re sitting in a good spot right now,” Nugent said. “As long as New Mexico Military loses one more game and we win out, we will be in the playoffs.”

On Sept. 21, Pima fell to Scottsdale Community College 35-28.

The Aztecs dominated two of three phases of the game. That would result in a victory most of the time, but Pima allowed a kick return and a punt return to go for touchdowns.

“It’s a tough loss to take,” Nugent said. “Anytime you dominate a game like that and still lose it really hurts, but they are still a lot of positives we can take away from this game moving forward.

“The most positive thing we can take away is that we outplayed the best team in our conference,” he added. “We had 571 yards of total offense, and we held the best offense in the nation to 343 yards. The confidence level of our kids is really high right now.”

In the first half, the Artichokes held a 28-14 lead. Fourteen of those points came from Scottsdale sophomore Teddy Rubin, who had a 57-yard punt return and a 96-yard kick return.

The Aztecs were led by the play of their two quarterbacks, Nykaza and D’Amore. Both players had two rushing touchdowns.

D’Amore threw for 170 yards and gained 28 yards on seven carries.

Nykaza got the Aztecs on the board with a 2-yard score with 5:21 left in the first quarter. He scored
again on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.

Nykaza threw for 165 yards and had one interception. He had four carries for negative-four yards.

Releford and Fischer led the Aztecs in tackles with seven each.

(Editor’s note: The print version of Aztec Press inaccurately stated the final score as 37-17. We apologize for the error.)

On Deck

Oct. 12: Eastern Arizona College, Kino Stadium, 1:30 p.m.

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Pima upsets powerhouse Snow College

Pima upsets powerhouse Snow College

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

Pima Community College took down perennial NJCAA powerhouse Snow College 21-14 on Sept. 14. The Aztecs went down 14-0 early in the first half before Pima running back Seth Ellis scored the first of his three touchdowns from 27 yards out right before the first half ended.

Ellis then racked up two more TDs in the second half, the last one coming with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Pima’s defense did the rest, holding Snow College out of the end zone to seal the game for the Aztecs.

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FOOTBALL: Aztecs defeat Phoenix College

FOOTBALL: Aztecs defeat Phoenix College

By JAIME HERNANDEZ

Aztec Press

Pima Community College football head coach Patrick Nugent is heading into his fifth season. In his first four years, Nugent compiled a 8-35 record but the wins and losses don’t tell the whole story.

In the five years before Nugent arrived, the Aztecs went 1-50. In the years since, the team’s record has slowly improved. In addition, Nugent has placed three of his players into major college programs and another 12 into four-year universities.

Granted it’s not the same as going 72-30, which was his record at Canyon del Oro High School while he was the head coach there, but Nugent insists he’s where he wants to be.

“The level of play is so much higher here at the junior college level than it is at the high school level,” he said.

The talent pool isn’t as rich in southern Arizona as it is in the Phoenix area. Community college coaches there can recruit at more than 100 high schools.

Despite that disadvantage, Nugent manages to find diamonds in the rough and turn them into Division 1-caliber players.

Examples include defensive back Darius Kelly, who received a scholarship to Syracuse University in New York, and defensive tackle Maurice Chavis, who is now playing at University of Texas-El Paso.

Nugent said this year’s team looks to have to more high-quality players than any of his previous teams. He praised sophomore players such as offensive lineman Quincey Davison, linebacker Eddie Releford, and defensive backs Mitch Fischer, Patrick Mulrow and Mikell Everett.

Even though it seems the defense has the most talent, the offensive side has the most experience. A  majority of the players on that side of the ball have returned this year to play again for the Aztecs.

Sophomore returnees include running back Seth Ellis, quarterback Tyler D’Amore and three offensive linemen.

A freshman, Jack Nykaza, will also see lots of playing time because Nugent has decided to use a two-quarterback system this year.

“They both are gonna see a lot of playing time,” Nugent said of  D’Amore and Nykaza.

“As the game goes on, we will stay with whoever has the hot hand,” Nugent said. “You hope, though, as the season goes on one player will separate himself from the other and we will stick with him.”

Though the Aztecs finished 1-10 last year, they played competitively in every game. In seven of their 10 losses, they had the lead going into the fourth quarter but couldn’t find a way to hold on.

“Learning how to win is the most difficult thing a player has to learn,” Nugent said. “Hopefully they can apply what they learned from what they went through last year and apply it to this season.”

The Aztecs have started this season 1-1.

In the second game of the season on Aug. 31, the Aztecs defeated Phoenix College 20-17.

Freshman running back Anthony Thompson scored on a touchdown run, and the Aztecs entered halftime with a 9-6 deficit.

D’Amore gave Pima the lead when he scored touchdown runs on the Aztec’s first two possessions of the second half. He first ran a 71-yard keeper, then made a 2-yard run after Phoenix College fumbled its punt.

Phoenix College used a blocked punt to bring the score to 20-17 with 4:10 left in the third quarter, but the Pima defense halted the next three Phoenix possessions. Sophomore Mikell Everette, who had two interceptions in the game, broke up a pass to end the final threat.

On Aug. 24, Pima lost its first game 34-7 to powerhouse Arizona Western College in Yuma. Thompson scored the Aztecs’ lone touchdown.

The Aztecs will play their home opener against Mesa Community College on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. at Kino Memorial Veterans Stadium complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way. Admission costs $5 general, $3 for students.

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FOOTBALL: Aztecs packing on muscle year-round

FOOTBALL: Aztecs packing on muscle year-round

By STEVE CHOICE

wPg16-SprintLong gone are the days when football players could do weight and speed training strictly during the season and expect to compete with their peers.

It’s a year-round proposition for teams these days, and the Pima Community College football program is no different. The squad is always readying itself for the challenges that come on fall Saturdays.

“It’s not possible to compete with anybody if you just work four months a year,” head coach Pat Nugent said.

“We get beat up on a regular basis. If your body’s not strong enough and physical enough, you’re going to run into some serious problems.”

Building up the necessary strength and speed to do battle with other college players requires time and dedication.

“We go about 11 months a year; that’s the reality,” Nugent said. “The speed development, the strength training and the conditioning aspect of athletics are what it’s all about these days.

“The bottom line is you have to be prepared, because you’re fighting for a job from day one.”

 

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Pima football players named to All-ACCAC teams

Pima football players named to All-ACCAC teams

By MYLO ERICKSON

Three Pima Community College players received recognition when the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference released its selections for All-ACCAC teams on Nov. 14.

Sophomore defensive back Darius Kelly and offensive lineman Maurice Chavis made the all-conference first team. Freshman wide receiver Denzel Jones was named to the All-ACCAC second team.

Head coach Patrick Nugent was proud of his players.

“This is an unbelievable football league,” Nugent said. “To get an honor like this as the last-place team is pretty special.”

All three student-athletes played high school football in Southern Arizona.

During the 2012 Pima season, Kelly rushed for 72 yards on nine carries with one touchdown run. On the defensive side, he led the team with 55 tackles, three forced fumbles, three fumble returns and one interception. He also broke up three pass plays.

“I’m glad I received it and I hope I inspired or impacted someone’s life this season,” Kelly said. “That’s really what it’s all about, impacting on and off the field.”

Kelly has verbally committed to Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., but has also received interest from Syracuse University and the University of Arizona.

After Kelly found out about Pima players making the All-ACCAC team, he called up Chavis to tell him, “We made it! We made first team.”

“At first I couldn’t believe it,” Chavis said. “The feeling was great. I felt like I achieved something at Pima.”

Chavis had 26 tackles and two sacks this season. He declined to divulge his university options, saying only that they are all out-of-state offers.

Jones had 34 catches for 514 yards this season.

“It was a good feeling when I found out,” Jones said of his second-team honor. “We didn’t really have a good season, so I didn’t expect to be selected for anything.”

Jones is not sure if he will return to Pima next year.

The football team finished the 2012 season with a 1-10 record.

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FOOTBALL:  Aztecs end season with another loss

FOOTBALL: Aztecs end season with another loss

By MYLO ERICKSON

Pima Community College lost its last football game of the season on Nov. 10, falling 46-26 against the New Mexico Military Institute Broncos.

“Today was a conclusion of what the season was,” head coach Pat Nugent said after the game. “Turnovers, mistakes just led to negative things. That’s how it was all season.”

The defeat extended the team’s losing streak to eight games.

“I love this team; we play hard,” sophomore safety Darius Kelly said. “Things just don’t fall our way sometimes. That’s been the story of the season, but we play hard.”

The Aztecs scored during the first quarter after forcing a fumble. Freshman quarterback Max Shepard scored a touchdown on a one-yard run.

Pima failed on the extra point attempt, but held a 6-0 lead until the second quarter. At halftime the Aztecs were down 7-6.

After the Broncos scored on four consecutive possessions in the third quarter to take a 31-6 lead, the Aztecs answered by scoring on their final two drives of the quarter.

The first play was a nine-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Michael Molina to freshman wide receiver Dominic Moore.

Pima then recovered its onside kick and ended the possession with a 25-yard touchdown run from Kelly.

At the end of the third quarter the Aztecs were down 31-20.

The Aztecs forced the Broncos to fumble and punt in their first two possessions of the fourth quarter. Molina then scored on a two-yard run to bring the Aztecs within five points, 31-26.

Pima’s momentum ended when the Broncos scored on their final two drives of the game.

The Aztecs finished the 2012 season with a record of 1-10. Their only win came in the third week of play, on Sept. 9 against the Air Force Academy JV.

Molina called Pima a stepping stone to the next level.

“It’s a junior college,” he said. “It doesn’t always come out to wins and losses.”

Nugent doesn’t have any definite answers for next season, as he never knows which players will return.

“It’s been a good run, a great group of kids, but unfortunately we didn’t get the W’s we needed,” Nugent said.

At least one player came away with a positive attitude and valued friendships.

“I’m just happy for my boy Darius Kelly. He had a great game,” sophomore defensive lineman Maurice Chavis said. “He’s my best friend, always.”

 

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FOOTBALL: Aztecs lose sixth straight

FOOTBALL: Aztecs lose sixth straight

By MYLO ERICKSON

The Pima Community College football team was unable to make a comeback in a 35-17 contest against Glendale Community College on Oct. 20.

Freshman quarterback Max Shepard got the start over sophomore Quinn Rollerson.

“He did a good job last week in the early going,” head coach Patrick Nugent said of Shepard. “Plus it’s nice to be able to go to Rollerson if we have to.”

Sophomore wide receiver Alex Hanover had a 67-yard reception for a touchdown, freshman running back Joe Pizzuto had a 20-yard touchdown run and sophomore kicker Adam Valenzuela made a 25-yard field goal.

Pima cut Glendale’s lead to 11 with 10:34 left in the game. However, the Gauchos reached Pima’s end zone with five minutes remaining, closing the door for the Aztecs.

It was the sixth loss in a row. The team’s season record is 1-8.

In an Oct. 13 game, the Aztecs were unable to collect a victory against the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes. The final score was 44-21.

“Hands down to the defense, they play lights out every game,” Rollerson said.

The Aztecs never led, but tied the score at 7-7 in the first quarter when freshman running back James Colbert had an 11-yard touchdown run.

Colbert also had a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to get Pima within seven points of Scottsdale.

“We’re a strong team first half,” Rollerson said. “One mistake happens and the team collapses.”

The Aztecs got back on the board in the fourth quarter when Shepard scored on a 22-yard run.

“Offense, we are not one unit yet,” Rollerson said. “We haven’t executed that well.”

Valenzuela converted all three of his extra-point attempts.

“We played hard the last couple of weeks,” Nugent said. “If we keep working, maybe good things might happen.”

Pima will have its bye week Oct. 27, then head to Thatcher to take on the Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters on Nov. 3.

The team will have two light days of practice and then get the weekend off.

Nugent thinks the time off will be good, as some players need to recover from injuries.

“The players just need to deal with life for a while,” he said.

ON DECK

Nov. 3:  @ Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher, 6 p.m.

Nov. 10:  New Mexico Military Institute, Kino Stadium, 1:30 p.m.

 

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FOOTBALL: Hawaiian brothers hang loose, tear it up

FOOTBALL: Hawaiian brothers hang loose, tear it up

By STEVE CHOICE

Pima Community College football players Pepa and Peti Fonokalafi both have the laid-back nature and easy smile most people associate with their native Hawaii.

But the defensive linemen also know how to summon “the beast” when they get between the lines.

“In Hawaii, everything is ‘hang loose, relax, chill,’” said Peti, the younger of the two brothers. “But on the football field, your personality has to change. You can’t be that chill person you were off the field.

“Off the field, I’ll hold the door for you. I’ll be a gentleman and respect you, and respect everybody. But on the field, you gotta be a beast. You gotta go out there to destroy somebody.”

Pepa agrees with his “little” brother, who weighs right around the same 292 pounds that he does.

“Most people say, ‘You can’t turn the switch on and off,’ but I’m a naysayer on that,” he said, laughing. “I put my hand down on the line, and I could actually snap.”

Despite the warrior mentality the two brothers adopt on the field, they’re quick with a laugh and a friendly word. They also share a deep and abiding respect for family, whether it be actual blood relations or just other “cousins” who they hang around with in Tucson.

“For us the other Polynesians are family, you know,” said Pepa, who is currently rehabbing a torn medial collateral ligament and is unable to play. “The other ‘Polys’ on the team, we call them cousins.”

Big brother is happy to have his real sibling close to him in Tucson, especially with their mother having health problems back home.

“She’s real sick right now,” said Pepa, who garnered second-team all-ACCAC honors in 2010. “My mom is our main income. So now I’m trying to buckle down and put some money together to support me and my little brother out here.”

Pepa already felt a sense of responsibility for his brother before their mother began to have health problems.

“I told my brother I’d support his decision wherever he went to play after high school,” he said. “But he came here, and I played a very big part in that. Also he understood our family situation.

“Our family can’t support us in two different places.”

For now, the two brothers have different takes on Tucson.

“I look at Tucson as home,” said Pepa, who hopes to get a scholarship from the University of Arizona. “Everybody back home was joking like, ‘Are you a Tuck City boy now?’

“Everybody’s asking me when I’m going to return, but I actually like it here now.”

And Peti’s initial impression?

“I miss the beach,” said the freshman, who had a sack in a 43-0 loss at Mesa Community College on Sept. 29. “It’s also really hot here.”

For a newly arrived transplant, and one who very recently was basking in the gentle, island breezes of Hawaii, a little homesickness isn’t all that surprising. He’s hoping to make the most of his time in Arizona, though.

“I just have to keep pushing myself to get to the next level,” he said. “It’s like that saying, ‘Hard work beats talent when talent don’t work hard.’

“All you can do is keep working hard and hope for that scholarship.”

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Aztecs win running back recruiting battle

Aztecs win running back recruiting battle

By MYLO ERICKSON

 

The Pima Community College football team came out on top in the recruiting battle for running back Mitch Fischer.

“Mitch is a great player and we are very happy about his commitment,” head coach Patrick Nugent said. “We will cross our fingers and hope he is here in August. Anything can happen from now until August.”

Fischer played for Ironwood Ridge High School. He was the Arizona Daily Star’s 2011 Offensive Player of the Year and KVOA News 4’s High School Football Player of the Year.

He stood out by rushing for 2,143 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, which helped his team earn a spot in the Division II state semifinal.

Maxpreps.com ranks Fischer first in his high school’s league, second in his state’s division, ninth in the state overall and 556 nationally in rushing rankings.

In total rankings, he is second in the league, sixth in the state division, 31st in state and 1,293 nationally.

Offers came in from numerous Football Championship Subdivision schools, including South Dakota State. Football Bowl Subdivision school New Mexico State also showed interest.

Besides the FCS schools, Fischer received offers from top two-year colleges across the country.

Fischer chose Pima because he wanted to stay close to home, Nugent said. He also wants to play safety for the Aztecs.

Fischer will not be the only former Ironwood Ridge athlete on Pima’s fall roster. He will be joined by defensive lineman Tyson Otuafi and offensive lineman C.J. Healey.

Thirty-five recruits have committed to Pima, including nine from Tucson. In addition to Fischer, Otuafi and Healey, the other six Tucson players are:

  • Defensive back Josh Brown from Canyon Del Oro High School
  • Linebacker Nathan Delf, Sabino
  • Center Matt Fontes, Cienega
  • Offensive lineman Jake Laird, Sabino,
  • Offensive lineman Matt Rossi, Sabino,
  • Offensive lineman Liam White, Sabino
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