No one was really sure how it would turn out or even whether there would be an “it.” Every high-school sports year is full of hopes and dreams, but this past sports year was more one of fear and disappointment. In the end, we got through it in pretty decent shape, although, for the schools in the northwest part of Tucson, there was an extra muted feeling to it. The schools in the area—Amphi, Canyon Del Oro, Flowing Wells, Ironwood Ridge, Marana, Mountain View, and Pusch Ridge—are usually good for a few state championships in various sports each year. But this year, the year of COVID, turned out to be not as good as we had hoped, not as bad as we had feared.
There was but one state championship and it was basically the first one of the year. Back in November, with everything having been pushed back from the initial starting times in a fever-dream hope that the pandemic would magically subside, the Ironwood Ridge girls’ golf team won the state championship by a razor-thin margin. It would turn out to be the only state title won by a northwest school this year.
Partly (but not entirely) because of that, we are naming Nighthawks girls’ golf coach Doug Kautz as our 2020-21 Coach of the Year. He was also named the National Federation of High Schools Arizona Golf Coach of the Year in 2019-20. (Our award, obviously, is much cooler.)
Kautz is a non-stop whirlwind of activity. Besides being the Chair of the Math Department at Ironwood Ridge (one of the classes he teaches is Sports Statistics), he pretty much coaches year-round. In his 31 years as a teacher, he figures (see that…figures) that he has coached at least 70 teams. He has coached football, baseball and, of course, golf at the high-school level. He has also coached middle-school track and field, baseball, basketball, and softball.
This past year, with the pandemic raging, Amphitheater School District Athletic Director Armando Soto was having trouble finding someone to coach the seventh grade girls’ basketball team at Coronado Middle School in Catalina. He called Kautz, who started at Coronado just a couple days after the golf championship. It was somewhat strange what with all the COVID protocols, but the team had a good time.
He should be up for a few more awards in the future. His entire starting squad is back next season from last year’s championship team. He thinks they should do okay.
Also receiving strong consideration this year were:
• Amphi football coach Jorge Mendivil (who is also a math teacher). Mendivil had the Panthers rolling, going 4-0 before the season was stopped right before Thanksgiving.
• Canyon Del Oro girls’ cross country and track & field coach Michelle Gerard, who guided both teams through the pandemic while keeping an eye on her former sprinter Jaide Stepter, who has a great shot at making the U.S. Olympic team as a sprinter.
• Flowing Wells girls’ basketball coach Michael Perkins, who took the Cabs to the 5A state championship game and has much of that squad returning next year.