The Star's longtime columnist checks in on where Treyson Bourguet fits among the best quarterback recruits in Tucson history, why Southern Arizona is well-represented at the Ryder Cup and how Byron Evans found himself back in town Friday night.
Big week looms for Salpointe's Treyson Bourguet
Salpointe Catholic senior quarterback Treyson Bourguet is the first Power 5 conference QB recruit from Tucson since Wake Forest signed Mountain View High School’s James MacPherson in 1997 and Cal signed Sahuaro’s Reggie Robertson in 2000.
Catalina Foothills QB Rhett Rodriguez, who signed to play for his father, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, in 2017, was not generally considered a Power 5 recruit; Arizona was his only offer. Rhett is now the starting QB for RichRod, who is the offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Monroe.
Bourguet initially committed to Arizona in August 2020, but changed his mind a few months later — and who can blame him after Kevin Sumlin’s 12-game losing streak and the implosion of Arizona’s football program?
Bourguet took an official visit to BYU a week ago, watching the Cougars upset Arizona State and later told Provo radio station 960-AM: "After this trip, BYU has left a mark on me that no other school has been able to do, which leads them to have a special spot in my heart as I move closer to making a decision. My visit was unbelievable."
Bourguet, who also has offers from Cal and Vanderbilt, plays the biggest game of his young life Friday night at Scottsdale Saguaro, which has won seven state championships since 2010, including 2017 and 2018 championship game victories over then-Salpointe coach Dennis Bene’s Lancers.
Rivals.com ranks Bourguet No. 89 of all prep quarterbacks in the Class of 2022 and the No. 23 prospect in Arizona. I suspect that’s a bit off; Bourguet is a gamer who hasn’t had much chance to play on a big high school stage. The two top-ranked QBs in Arizona are Chandler Hamilton’s Nicco Marchiol, who has committed to West Virginia; and Adryan Lara of Goodyear Desert Edge, who has committed to Washington State.
UA coach Jedd Fisch appears to have moved on from Bourguet. The Wildcats got a commitment from Anaheim Servite QB Noah Fifita over the summer. Fifita is ranked No. 8 nationally of all QBs in the Class of 2022 by MaxPreps.com, and has Servite at 5-0 and rolling. Fifita doesn’t have NFL-desired dimensions — he is 5 feet 11 inches and about 185 pounds — but he’s a threat running and passing, something similar to 1990s Arizona QB Keith Smith. Fifita is more athletic and versatile than Arizona’s 2014 Pac-12 South Division championship QB Anu Solomon.
If Bourguet indeed "gets away’" from Tucson, it probably won’t be accurate to put him in a category with those ex-Salpointe players like Bijan Robinson (Texas) and Lathan Ransom (Ohio State), both who eschewed offers from Arizona. But it’s all guesswork now, anyway.
Either way, Tucson’s long drought of not producing Power 5 quarterbacks continues to be head-shaking. In the Pac-10/12 years, only Amphi's 1975 state championship QB Jim Krohn became a regular starter at Arizona, a scholarship player of Pac-12 ability. Since Krohn, Rincon/University's Billy Prickett, who started two games in 1991, was the last local QB to start for the Wildcats until Rodriguez got an emergency start against UCLA in 2018.
Sunnyside’s Bobby Valdez, who signed with ASU in the 1980s, did not contend for a starter’s job with the Sun Devils. Nor did Jason Verdugo of Canyon del Oro, who played sparingly at ASU in 1994-95. As it turns out, the most productive prep quarterbacks from Tucson in FBS football — I don’t count Sahuaro’s Rodney Peete, who completed his prep career in Kansas — were Salpointe’s Tyler Graunke, who threw for 2,429 yards at Hawaii from 2005-08, and MacPherson, who not only threw for 4,716 yards at Wake Forest from 1999-02 but led the Demon Deacons to a bowl-game victory over Oregon in 2002.
MacPherson didn't even make the Star's 1997 All-City first team. Yet he has been the most productive FBS quarterback from Tucson in more than 40 years.
MacPherson is now a scout for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Tucson well-represented at Ryder Cup
Salpointe Catholic High School and UA grad Tommy Roy was hired to run errands for NBC during the 1978 Tucson Open. The son of a Tucson and Green Valley golf pro, Roy made the most of that week as a go-fer.
He has been the executive producer of NBC golf coverage since 1993, part of a remarkable NBC 40-year career in which he has been the producer of Super Bowls, NBA Finals, the Dayton 500, the Kentucky Derby and Wimbledon.
At the ongoing Ryder Cup, Roy is the captain of the NBC ship. As NBC analyst Peter Jacobson said last week, "Tommy is the Tom Brady in the truck and in your headset. He directs all traffic. When he speaks, everybody listens."
That includes NBC’s No, 1 golf voice, Dan Hicks, a Sabino High School and UA grad who has been the voice of NBC golf for 21 years.
Before the Ryder Cup, Roy told reporters in Wisconsin: “We have a love affair for this event. It’s right in our wheelhouse. Every session will have the same intensity and even more energy than the back nine of a major.”
Roy and Hicks are joined by another prominent Tucson golf figure at the Ryder Cup. Santa Rita High School grad Tony Martinez, one of the leading figures in the vast PGA organization. Martinez, who began his career working at Tucson’s Fred Enke Golf Course and at Starr Pass Golf Club, is on the PGA Board of Directors; the PGA operates Ryder Cup action when played in America.
This week, Martinez is the official observer for Saturday’s foursome matches and Sunday’s 10th singles match. He will walk inside the ropes, monitoring play.
Martinez traces his golf career to his junior golf days at Randolph Park, learning under, among others, 1973 Ryder Cup standout Homero Blancas, who was the head pro at the Randolph Golf complex from 1972-88. Now the head pro at Keeton Park Golf Course in Dallas, Martinez operates the Tony Martinez Golf Management business, which includes Tucson’s Rolling Hills Golf Club and the Dorado Golf Course.
Mica Mountain's Pat Nugent climbs wins list
After a year away from high school football coaching, UA grad Pat Nugent won career game No. 153 on Friday when Vail’s newest high school, Mica Mountain, won its first-ever game, 13-7 over Coolidge.
Nugent, who grew up in a football coaching family in Rye, New York, before attending Arizona in the mid-1980s, is now in his fifth head coaching job in Tucson: He was the head coach at Flowing Wells, Canyon del Oro, Pima College and Cienega before moving to Mica Mountain a year ago.
He is a rarity: a high school coach who is in the sport for the long haul. Nugent coached his first game on Sept. 5, 1997, when Flowing Wells lost to Salpointe Catholic 21-16. To put that in perspective: Nugent’s quarterback that night, Jeff Thomas, has been the head football coach at the University of Puget Sound in Washington since 2010.
It’s possible that Nugent could become the third Tucson prep football coach to reach 200 career victories, especially if he is as successful at Mica Mountain as he was in previous stops. Here’s the current list of Tucson coaching victories:
• Vern Friedli, Amphi, 288 wins
• Jeff Scurran, CDO, Sabino, Santa Rita and Catalina Foothills, 252 wins
• Dennis Bene, Salpointe Catholic, 174 wins
• Todd Mayfield, Tucson High and Palo Verde, 171 wins
• Richard Sanchez, Sunnyside, Santa Rita and Tucson High, 161 wins
• Nugent, 153 wins
• Wayne Jones, Mountain View, 144 wins
• Nemer Hassey, Sahuaro and Cienega, 141 wins
• Jay Campos, Sabino, 134 wins
• Howard Breinig, Rincon/University and Sahuaro, 118 wins
UA coach Chip Hale lands commitment from Stanford coach's son
New UA baseball coach Chip Hale got a recruiting commitment last week from the most unexpected source: middle infielder Xavier Esquer of Palo Alto High School, who is the son of Stanford baseball coach David Esquer. On his Twitter account, Xavier Esquer wrote: "I want it to be known I am not going to Stanford. I am looking to make my own path." That choice reflects on the respect the Stanford coach has for Hale and his staff, particularly assistant head coach Dave Lawn, who was on Esquer’s Cal staff in 2001. The Lawn family established a connection to Esquer, creating an endowment benefitting the Cal baseball program. Each year, Esquer, who was Cal’s head coach from 2000-17, would meet with the Lawns to inform them how their money was being spent. After some lengthy research, I could find just one precedent of the son of a Pac-12 head football, basketball or baseball team playing for another conference school — Arizona basketball player Mike Bibby matched against his dad, Henry Bibby, USC’s basketball coach.
Jim Click's caring side shows
Tucson auto dealer Jim Click was the tri-captain of Oklahoma State’s 1965 football team, a tough-as-nails linebacker/center who was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame in 1995. He has remained involved with Oklahoma State football through the years, including hosting his former teammates to Tucson for a 2012 game against OSU, paying for the lodging of the ex-Cowboys while in Tucson. Click’s connection to his school continue to be strong. Former Arizona golfer John Cauley, now a finance executive in Houston, a former golf partner of the UA’s Rich Mueller, Mike Hultquist and Jon DeChambeau — Bryson DeChambeau’s father — became friends with Charlie Harper, one of Click’s OSU teammates and a seven-year NFL player for the New York Giants. "I dropped Jim Click an email some months ago to make sure he knew that Charlie is dealing with some serious cancer," Cauley told me last week. "He responded and said he knew about the cancer and told me he talks to Charlie every week or two by phone. He said he just loves Charlie and thanked me for being Charlie's friend." Sounds like the Jim Click so many of us know.
Tucsonan Wally Johnson heads to hall of fame
Longtime Tucsonan Wally Johnson, who was a top assistant coach on Canyon del Oro’s 1976 and 1977 state championship football teams, will be inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday. Before moving to Tucson in the ’70s to be an educator and coach, Johnson was the 1960 South Dakota prep baseball player of the year, a state champ in the 100 and 220 yard dash and a key member of the 1961 Northern State University basketball team, an all-NAIA tournament selection. Johnson went on to be heavily involved in Tucson golf, including being a board member at the Rolling Hills Golf Club. You’ll often see Johnson at Hi Corbett Field. He's a season-ticket holder at UA baseball games.
My two cents: Ex-Cat Byron Evans returns to Tucson, wins
In the winter of 1982, I was graciously allowed to accompany UA football coach Larry Smith and defensive coordinator Moe Ankney on a recruiting visit to Phoenix. It was a significant day in Wildcats football history.
Smith and Ankney went to South Mountain High School to talk to under-the-radar linebacker Byron Evans, who told the UA coaches that his only scholarship offer was from New Mexico State. In the car on the way back to Tucson, Smith and Ankney were beaming. They had been turned down by bigger-name prospects Darin Tupper of Phoenix Trevor Browne and Glenn Dennard of Tempe Corona del Sol that day — both would go to ASU — but they talked as if Evans could be a franchise-type middle linebacker.
They were right. In 1986, Evans was the Pac-10’s defensive player of the year. Evans would go on to play eight years for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, 35 years later, Evans returned to Tucson as head football coach at his alma mater, South Mountain. It was only his third-ever game as a head coach, but it was a success. South Mountain beat Tucson High 26-20 on Friday night. Evans’ former UA teammates, linebacker Jerry Beasley and lineman Reggie Gaddis, showed up to support ol’ No. 48.
I still remember that ’82 recruiting visit with Evans. He was shy to the extreme. But his personality emerged as a Wildcat. His high schools coach told Smith and Ankney that on the field he was “a tornado.’’