October 5, 2005 - Break up the Marana Tigers.
After five games, five teams from the Northwest and Foothills have winning records and, brace yourself, Marana High School is one of them.
And no, the southernmost region of the netherworld has yet to freeze over.
With two wins total in as many years, to say Marana football has fallen on hard times is an understatement. But this year, the second under coach Willie Dudley, there's a new air about the Tigers who, with their 20-7 win over Desert View, jumped above .500 for the first time in years at 3-2.
Marana did so in front of a sparse home crowd Friday night fueled by a yellow T-shirt clad student section that did its best to rile up those in attendance with the plastic one-note, monotone horns that were handed out "by a mysterious stranger" before the game, said a student with one of the horns who was straggling around the campus well after the final gun. One kid in particular fell in love with his horn and bleated a constant blurt that sounded more like a dying moose than a call to battle.
It must have worked to dissuade the Desert View offense, which Marana held to 180 yards from scrimmage, 84 rushing and 96 passing.
It should be pointed out that Marana's opponents during its three game win streak, Surprise Willow Canyon High School, Rio Rico High School and Desert View, are a combined 1-14 for the year.
Three straight wins may surprise the most ardent Marana fans blind to opposing teams' records, but it's no shock for some of the players.
"We expect it," said running back Tanner Henry about winning three in row. Henry may very well be the most polite junior in all of Marana, dropping the term "sir" six times in a four-question interview.
Henry wasn't polite to the Desert View defense, when lighting them up for 126 yards rushing. Coupled with senior Adrian Rojel's 152 yards rushing to go along with touchdown runs of eight and 55 yards, Marana's offense appeared to be in full gear.
Despite the offensive outburst in the first half, the Tigers held just a 13-0 lead at halftime, although missed opportunities and mental mistakes probably kept the score from being higher.
The Tigers allowed the Jaguars to get back in the game in the third, thanks, in part, to an errant Daniel Silva pass that was picked off at the 21-yard line by a Desert View defender and taken in for what turned out to be the Jaguars' only score of the evening.
That's where Marana's defense stepped in.
Although erratic passes sometimes float like drunken butterflies and other running plays sputter and spin their wheels at times, the Tiger defense is slowly finding its identity. Although Marana hasn't pitched a shutout yet this season, head coach Willie Dudley is quick to point out that in two of its games Marana's defense didn't allow an opposing team to score. Opposing teams' points came off of breakdowns by the offense and special teams.
"We need to build confidence," said Dudley about his squad. "This is a good team and they need to know that."
"We've got to fix some mistakes. Football is all about mistakes. I think they make mistakes on Sunday, too," said Dudley, who apparently watches his share of Arizona Cardinals games.
After two games this year, it looked like the same old Marana teams from years past. A two-game losing streak kicked off the year. Its defense was nowhere to be found, surrendering 63 points in eight quarters. Also, an equipment shortage hamstrung the team.
But all that has now been resolved, Dudley said.
So sometimes the lining isn't quite so silver, but it is unmistakably Marana gold and blue, if not frequently black and blue. The heart is there, if the body is not willing.
Silva atoned for his interception with a three-yard scoring scamper of his own to put the Tigers up late 20-7. From there, Marana was content to simply hold on for the win while Anthony Capanear and Ramon Gallegos sat at the makeshift infirmary that was the team's bench, one with his head in his hands, the other painfully pointing out a stinger in his neck. As the finals seconds faded into the dark Marana night, the whooping went up from the sidelines and carried into the crowd.
With that, the wounded moose bleated its final breath and Marana had its longest winning streak in recent memory.
Passing the Teike torch
The Canyon Del Oro High School wrestling team has a new wrestling coach who doesn't take any guff from anyone. A member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his service to the sport, Walter Teike takes over the spot vacated by Steve Gleason, who resigned to spend more time with him family. Teike, originally from Rochester, N.Y., has been wrestling since 1948, or, as he puts it, probably since before your parents were born. Upon moving to Tucson, Teike has had ties to the now defunct University of Arizona program, Amphi High School and, most recently, Catalina Foothills High School. At Foothills, Teike coached the Falcons in their inaugural year and built the program from six kids to 44 in six years. The plan at CDO, Teike said, is almost the same.
"My job is to build this program back to where it used to be, which was on top."