There isn't much flash inside the cramped football office at Canyon Del Oro High School. Along one wall is a computer that refuses to cooperate with assistants, there are not enough chairs for the entire coaching staff and a stack of old division championship plaques dating as far back as the 1993-94 season sits in no particular order on a table and seem to say "one day, we'll get around to hanging these up."

This is CDO football under Pat Nugent, a no frills kind of team that prefers to show its flash on the gridiron. As Nugent enters his seventh year as coach of CDO, his squads have slowly begun to take on his own fiery personality.

Often, CDO is regarded as a baseball school, and rightfully so with four former Dorados currently on Major League clubs. But the last two years has seen a shift in the school's dominance. During that span, the football team has emerged as a perennial contender for its division going 18-5.

"We're in that situation where at CDO our goal every year is a state title now," said Nugent. "Anything less than that is underachieving."

Dropping down to the Class 4A certainly has helped. No longer does CDO have to contend with the 5,000-student 5A powerhouses of Phoenix for state supremacy.

Despite a decrease in the school's enrollment, the number of students playing football has increased, said Nugent, who will keep roughly 120 kids between the freshmen, JV and varsity squads. Last year those three levels amassed a 25-5 mark.

A former high school quarterback from Rye, N.Y., Nugent's face lights up when you talk about offense.

It's no wonder the program has taken on a similar style where, just because you're small in stature doesn't mean you can't compete. CDO football has become synonymous with speed, agility and overall athleticism in the past six years.

"We know our kids aren't going to be big," said Nugent. "So we really stress on the speed and the agility stuff and our kids have bought into the system."

Football is in the Nugent family bloodline. His father was a high school coach in New York and his uncle stalked the sidelines as a coach on the college level.

"I never thought I'd get into it but it was something that kind of ran in the family and I couldn't get away from it," said Nugent.

At the University of Arizona, Nugent got his first taste of coaching as an undergrad assistant for then-head coach Dick Tomey. From there he moved to Flowing Wells High School where he was an assistant for six years before taking over as head coach for three years.

In 2000, he took the reigns at CDO and built it into the formidable program it is today. In six seasons, Nugent is 41-23 and made the state playoffs three times - including the past two seasons. The Dorados' 5A Southern Division title was the first for the program since 1993.

Despite his football pedigree, Nugent gives the bulk of the credit for resurrecting CDO football to his coaching staff - seven of whom are teachers at the school. The faith in his coaches allows him to focus on his specialty, the offense.

Despite his iron-jaw demeanor and sharp tongue on the football field, Nugent, who doubles as the school's driving education instructor, is popular among the student body.

"He is the heart and soul of the CDO campus," said Matt Powell, the Dorado's running backs coach.

CDO will have its work cut out for it when the season starts Sept. 8. The Class 4A Sonoran Region is packed tightly with promising programs such as Sabino and Ironwood Ridge high schools. Still, CDO is quietly confident.

"Everyone always looks past us," said Nugent. "We're perfectly fine with being the underdog every week."

If the season goes according to plan, perhaps there'll be another plaque to hang in the office.

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