Pima football team no longer toiling in dark - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Pima football team no longer toiling in dark

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Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 11:00 pm

The sun had come and gone, and there was the Pima Community College football team still practicing.

Yet, Pima football is no longer in the dark. Or dark ages – at least when it comes to football. That was so 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and of course, '09. Sense the pattern? Winless seasons – Pima was 0-fer in that time — and unguided dreams tend to do that to teams and programs. Misdirection plays weren't the only things going on at Pima and its football program.

That's not the case these days. Not under Pat Nugent, the former Canyon Del Oro coach who took the Dorados to the brink of a title, only to leave a year before it actually happened. Nugent was 72-29 at CDO, a place of comfort and winning tradition (both of which he built). CDO, under Nugent assistant Dustin Peace, won the 4A-I state title.

But Nugent lives with no regrets, even though going 0-10 in his first year at Pima "was rough” for a guy "who hates losing.”

"It was an opportunity I could not pass up because if I passed it up I may have regretted it and wondered where would it have taken me,” Nugent said. "Who knows? I can always go back to high school. But right now, it's a lot of fun.”

Admittedly, however, Nugent joked "we're selling a broken-down ship” and was serious when he said "it's the hardest job I've ever done.”

But the ship is afloat and there is hope. Nugent, always affable, gives the Aztecs that – hope and a chance. Pima entered Saturday's game with Arizona Western 1-3. Pima lost that contest, 32-13.

"If I saw how bad it was (at Pima) before I got here I would have thought differently about it,” he admitted. "The level of play … I never knew the Western States was as good as it was. The talent level is crazy. It's going to take some work here at Pima but it's possible.”

Pima is proving it. It won the season opener, beating Phoenix College 17-14 and bringing smiles to everyone involved.

"There are no words to describe that win,” said Nick Carlson, a sophomore linebacker from Ironwood Ridge High School. "We could have won some games last year. … it wasn't like we were getting killed.”

No, Pima was thisclose when it came to victories. So close and competitive, Nugent was named the Western States coach of the year.

Slowly, he has people believing anything is possible. It's about having a winning attitude, developing a culture of it.

"We've learned and it's been a learning process,” Nugent said. "We know the type of kid we need to recruit and how to coach them in this league.”

Players like sophomores Griffin Ronstadt and Brent Lush, both CDO grads, help turn around a once-winning program. It happens one win at a time and being competitive.

"I knew the city would embrace me and so would the local high school coaches,” he said. "It's been great and the type of kids we are getting are from Tucson. We just have to improve Tucson football.”

It's a grassroots effort. He also has a number of players from the Northwest side willing and very able to help out. Sixteen are from the Northwest side, including CDO and Ironwood Ridge. Of the 90-something players on the roster, 63 are from Tucson.

"A lot of things that have helped me are a lot of coaches know me and I have a reputation on the Northwest side,” he said. "When I go in and recruit on the Northwest side they pretty much know who I am. They know what I'm about. That's how it is in Tucson.”

Now, it's about getting another victory.

Slowly, he has people believing anything is possible. It's about having a winning attitude, developing a culture of it.

"We've learned and it's been a learning process,” Nugent said. "We know the type of kid we need to recruit and how to coach them in this league.”

Players like sophomores Griffin Ronstadt and Brent Lush, both CDO grads, help turn around a once-winning program. It happens one win at a time and being competitive.

"I knew the city would embrace me and so would the local high school coaches,” he said. "It's been great and the type of kids we are getting are from Tucson. We just have to improve Tucson football.”

It's a grassroots effort. He also has a number of players from the Northwest side willing and very able to help out. Sixteen are from the Northwest side, including CDO and Ironwood Ridge. Of the 90-something players on the roster, 63 are from Tucson.

"A lot of things that have helped me are a lot of coaches know me and I have a reputation on the Northwest side,” he said. "When I go in and recruit on the Northwest side they pretty much know who I am. They know what I'm about. That's how it is in Tucson.”

Now, it's about getting another victory.

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Hamilton @ Ironwood Ridge

Rio Rico @ Marana

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Aug. 28

CDO @ Gilbert

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