It was a year to remember in the northwest Tucson, Oro Valley and Marana region, with more sports-related stories than you can shake a stick at.
2018 was a year of highs (see the Oro Valley Wolverines below) and lows, but showed the strong sports culture in our region.
I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed watching the Ironwood Ridge girls soccer team threaten a state title, and the same goes for Catalina Foothills in baseball and boys basketball. All in all, there were just so many individual and team-wide accomplishments to keep track of this year, it’s a wonder so many talented young athletes have found their way to the handful of high schools within our coverage.
Outside of the region (but still in Tucson), plenty of new hockey fans were entertained by the Tucson Roadrunners’ first playoff run in the spring, we brave few traveled to Boise to watch Arizona in the NCAA Tournament, and there was plenty of heartbreak to be found this year for the Wildcats both on the court and the football field.
It was a blast to dig into this region more thoroughly this year, my first full trip around the sun at Tucson Local Media. I can’t wait to do it all again in 2019.
1. Munguia and Peña leave Mexico to play football for Canyon del Oro
Canyon del Oro seniors Diego Munguia and Sebastian Peña came to America with a dream of playing football at the sport’s highest level. The pair excelled during their lone season with the Dorados, with Munguia finishing as the team’s second-leading rusher, with 723 yards and 8 touchdowns, and Peña playing the majority of snaps along the team’s offensive and defensive lines.
Both young men, who came to Oro Valley from Monterrey, Mexico, arrived over the summer. The pair came to the U.S. to improve their football acumen, while also bettering their chances of receiving an academic scholarship. Each also expressed an interest in studying science-related majors in college. Both men were born in the United States. Munguia hails from Tucson originally, while Peña was born in Houston.
Munguia came to the Oro Valley program after starring in the Under-18 International Bowl held at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, where he took home the Most Valuable Player Award in the exhibition, which he called the most fulfilling moment of his football career to-date. The pair wound up playing for longtime Dorados coach Dustin Peace by accident, after originally planning to relocate to Austin, Texas. Their arrival in mid-August took Peace by surprise, but ended up being a much-appreciated gift in the long run for a Dorados team that went 7-4, qualifying for the state playoffs for the first time in two years.
Munguia said his year with the Dorados was better than anything he dreamed of, with Peace and his staff welcoming he and Peña with open arms.
“We came, we talked to Peace and he welcomed us,” Munguia said. “We really liked the school, and we decided to take a chance to try and to apply and everything went correctly.”
Peace, who first talked to Munguia online, remembered his exact feelings when the pair showed up during a preseason workout, with a mixture of disbelief and relief: “Both young men have left a lasting impact on everyone that’s met them, including Munguia’s family friend, Francisca Migueles, who has housed the pair inside her Oro Valley apartment during their short stint in the state.”
Munguia, who has not received any football scholarship offers in the States, plans on staying and attending college in America.
Peña has a similar game plan, with an eye toward studying chemistry in college (and possibly continuing his playing career, should the opportunity arise.)
His two loves are hitting people in the trenches and learning more about science and math—two passions he hopes to continue in the future.
As of now, Peña (like Munguia) does not have any football offers in the States, but he’s keeping his options open.
“I can be physical with a player, and there is no problem because it’s part of the game,” Peña said. “I love the game because of the feeling that makes me want to be better every day.”
2. Oro Valley Lacrosse win first state title
The Oro Valley Wolverines boys lacrosse team captured its first state title in May, beating Phoenix’s Desert Mountain High School, 8-7, in the Division II championship game. The Wolverines, which feature a roster of CDO and Ironwood Ridge High School students, finished atop its 10-team division during the league’s regular season, posting an 11-1 record.
The Wolverines rolled over the competition from there, giving coach Christopher Gin and his players a spot in the history books. Gin, who played for the club during his high school years, previously told Tucson Local Media that winning a state title as the team’s coach ranks amongst the greatest accomplishments of his life.
“To be able to see where this club started and to be a small part of bringing the first championship—seeing how much work the players and the team this year have put in—it’s really rewarding and makes everything worth it,” Gin said. “I’m just extremely happy for all of the players involved.”
Ironwood Ridge senior Nathan Grijalva described the Wolverines’ feat in glowing terms, calling the state title a banner accomplishment for Oro Valley as a whole.
“It feels really good to be state champs, considering it’s Oro Valley Lacrosse’s first-ever championship out of the 11 years they’ve been around,” Grijalva said. “We all bonded together really well even though we went to rival schools. It was also special because a lot of us were first-year players. With great leadership from some of the veteran players it made the transition to play much easier.”
Both Grijalva and Gin describe the stick-and-ball sport as a sleeping giant in the state of Arizona, with room to grow. They hope that the team’s championship can help grow its popularity in Southern Arizona, matching the growth seen in the Phoenix region over the last 20 years or so.
“I would definitely describe it as an up-and-coming sport,” Gin said. “I would say that not very many people who try lacrosse ever leave lacrosse, and there’s not many sports that you can say that about.”
The Wolverines kick off their 2019 season in the spring, with Gin and his players looking to repeat their claim as the state’s best lacrosse club.
3. Louie Ramirez takes over Marana football
The Marana Tigers football program saw its share of headlines over the offseason, all starting with longtime coach Andy Litten leaving the program. Litten, who posted three-straight 9-3 seasons to end his six-year tenure with the Tigers, was eventually replaced by former Northern Arizona University graduate assistant, Louie Ramirez, who became one of the youngest head coaches in Arizona high school football at the age of 25.
Ramirez’s first year at the north side school was equally memorable, posting a 7-4 record that included winning the team’s first four contests, before cooling down during the latter half of the year. The Tigers eventually lost their first round playoff game against Cienega, 49-28, but not before establishing an identity that gave the program its share of publicity in the region.
Ramirez summed up his first season with the Tigers, saying that he’s proud of the way his team played each week and the culture that he and his staff are building in Marana.
“I’m just proud of the way that we fought each week and got better because at the end of the day, it’s about so much more than football,” he said. “It’s so much more than wins and losses; I love these guys, these guys play their hearts out and to change from a new coaching staff, new offense, new defense, and just everything new and trying to get everything going in the right direction, they did everything I could ask for and more.”
4. Trenton Bourguet sets the new 5A passing touchdown record
Marana High School senior quarterback Trenton Bourguet went out on a high note this fall, throwing for 2,460 yards and 25 touchdowns in 11 games to cap off a record-breaking career.
On top of an impressive season, Bourguet finished his high school career with 89 passing touchdowns, breaking the 5A career passing touchdown record of 87 set by former Scottsdale Horizon and University of Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed. Bourguet set the record during the Tigers’ first round playoff loss to Cienega, putting a bow on top of a high school career that will go down in the record books of the school.
“The thing about Marana is we’re a town, we’re not just a school,” Bourguet said. “Everybody grows up together, you go to the same elementary school, you see each other at birthday parties, at the park. It’s about everybody sticking together, just staying the course, because we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but looking back it’s crazy how fast it’s flown by, but I’m glad where we ended up.”
5. Tucson Roadrunners win AHL Pacific Division, make playoffs
The Roadrunners’ second season in Tucson reached new heights on the ice, with the team clinching a spot in the American Hockey League’s 16-team playoffs. The Roadrunners finished the 2018 regular season with the best win percentage in the 15-team Western Conference, finishing at 42-20-6. The team played its inaugural postseason game on April 25, beating the San Jose Barracuda, three games-to-one, before falling to the Texas Stars in the Western Conference quarterfinals in five games.
Team President Bob Hoffman saw the team’s second season in Tucson as a smashing success, despite the team’s loss in the second round of the playoffs.
“I definitely wanted to dip our toe in the water of the playoffs for sure,” Hoffman said. “It’s a great accomplishment for year two to be able to do that, and to let your core fan base get an idea of what that’s about, and what it’s like.”
Jason Hisey replaces Keith Francis as CDO’s baseball coach.
Ironwood Ridge reaches 5A softball title game under first-year coach Dave Martinez.
CDO softball reaches 4A semifinals, falls to Salpointe Catholic, 2-0.
CDO swimming wins first-ever boys swimming state title.
Arizona softball closes out tenure at the original Hillenbrand Stadium by winning NCAA Tournament regional over Mississippi State, 4-3.
Catalina Foothills reaches 4A baseball final, falls to Nogales, 3-2 in finals.