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Corky: Tucson High marks 100 years of sports glory

FROM LEFT: Joe Goff, 79; Rudy Castro, 77; Armando Carrillo, 80; and Bob Canfield, 78, return to Tucson High School this month. All played on the Badgers' state championship football teams in the 1940s.

FROM LEFT: Joe Goff, 79; Rudy Castro, 77; Armando Carrillo, 80; and Bob Canfield, 78, return to Tucson High School this month. All played on the Badgers' state championship football teams in the 1940s.

Once they sank their cleats into the football field at Tucson High School, they became part of something very special.

But the sport didn’t matter – baseball, track and field, basketball, tennis – whatever the game happened to be, the pride and honor of being a Tucson Badger was like that of no other school.

“You dreamed of being a Tucson Badger. It was in your blood,” said Richard Alday, a THS grad and head baseball coach at the University of New Mexico.

The old campus on Sixth Street, a punt away from the University of Arizona, has an amazing athletic tradition.

This is Tucson High’s Centennial Year – the doors opened in 1906, the year of the great San Francisco earthquake. That was six years before Arizona became a state, but the Badgers were playing football.

In 1910, the year Pancho Villa and his men joined the revolt against Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, Tucson High thumped the University of Arizona freshman team 15-0.

The year the Pentagon was completed in Washington, D.C., 1943, Tucson High had an undefeated football season under Coach Rollin T. Gridley.

At one time the THS athletic program was rated the best in the United States, having won 135 state titles. Lost in some dusty attic is a national magazine article of long ago calling Tucson High “the Notre Dame of U.S. high schools.”

In 1956 it was the largest high school in the nation, with 5,000 students, and triple sessions ran from dawn to dusk.

In 1999, Tucson High became the first school in the U.S. to accomplish 500 victories in football and 1,000 victories each in baseball and basketball.

“You had to be a Badger . . . your brother was, your uncle was and you were going to carry it on,” Alday said. “When I was in grade school we’d go watch the Badgers play and after the game, we’d run around on that field and throw a small football.”

In 1965, Alday quarterbacked one of the greatest THS football teams ever. With Davey Jones, Frank Mendez and the great Lewis Cook in the same backfield with Alday, the Badgers went 12-0 and won the state championship.

Karl Eller, one of the most respected businessmen and civic leaders in the history of Arizona, played at Tucson High. So did astronaut Frank Borman.

“My hero was Jesus ‘Bebo’ Lopez (a former THS athlete and local soccer coach who died last year),” Alday said. “I wanted to be just like him.”

Eric Watson of the class of ’69 played under the legendary Ollie Mayfield. Watson teaches health and driver education at his alma mater, as well as assisting with the junior varsity football team.

“I think it’s the diversity of the student body that makes Tucson High so special,” Watson said. “Guys from so many different backgrounds became stars at THS. One of the best there ever was, was Lonnie Don, a great halfback of Oriental extraction. Hispanic, black, Anglo – every group has been represented.”

Mayfield is now retired and living in Colorado. His son Todd followed in his footsteps to coach the Badgers and is now the head coach at Palo Verde High, where he won the state championship last year. Another son, Scott, coaches all sports at Ash Fork and is hoping to start a football program soon.

“When I first went to Tucson High in the 1950s, I worked with John Mallamo,” Ollie said. “I was also the track coach. We had kids from every kind of family: Mexican-American, black, Anglo . . . and they were a great group. Our teachers and administration people were tremendous people, too. And with the history and tradition at Tucson High, it was just a wonderful place to work and go to school. It still is.”

One dynasty after another created the glory of that proud football stadium of brownish-yellow bricks, now named in honor of Rollin Gridley.

The Badgers own 13 state football championships – 1912, 1929, 1937, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951, 1952, 1965, 1966, 1970 and 1971. The Badger defense in 1945 had five shutouts in 11 games and the team was ranked No. 10 in the nation at the end of the season. THS completed a 45-game winning streak that season and beat Mesa High 14-7 in front of 13,000 fans here.

Joe Petroshus scored 32 touchdowns from 1966-68; Alistaire Heartfield scored 21 in one season, 1970.

Pop McKale coached at Tucson High before he became the “Knute Rockne” at the university. Joe Batiste was a star football player at Tucson High, as were Hayzel Daniels, Frank Gentry, Ted Bland, Fred Enke, Fred Batiste, Sol Ahee, Oscar Carillo, Lee Carey, Joel Favara, Pat Flood, Art Acosta, Jim Sims, Lewis Cook, Bill and Mike Dawson, Derral Davis and Sean Harris.

Times change, and so do the fortunes of great sports dynasties. When Tucson High opened its doors in 1906, the population of the city was about 10,000. By 2000 it was 486,669.

And when Tucson exploded toward the suburbs and high schools popped up like mushrooms, athletic talent spread thin. Sometimes the Badgers played like chipmunks.

This year’s football team, coached by former UA lineman Vincent Smith, is still looking for its first win. The Badgers’ centennial homecoming is Friday against Yuma High at 7 p.m.

“When it was a neighborhood school, we all wanted to go to THS,” Watson said. “Now it’s a magnet school. I talk to the kids, and to most of them today, it’s ‘just a school.’ When I was playing at Tucson High, we knew the system but most of all, we knew the tradition.

“When you stepped on that field, you knew what Badger football meant.”

Tucson High School football coach Ollie Mayfield watches a game in 1975.

Tucson High School football coach Ollie Mayfield watches a game in 1975.





Fred W. Enke was three-sport star at Tucson High School.

Fred W. Enke was three-sport star at Tucson High School.

Tucson High Centennial celebration

Tucson High Centennial celebration

Thousands show up for the Tucson High Centennial celebration Sunday evening.


Slide 1 of 15 [Next | Previous].
Former football players and graduates of the class of 1945 Armando Carrillo, 80, (left) and Bob Canfield, 78, embrace on the steps of Tucson High. "It's not a surprise the school is still here, it will go on forever, Tucson High is the beginning of everything" said Canfield.
Source: FRANCISCO MEDINA/Tucson Citizen


RELATED STORY: Tucson High lasted just 2 weeks back in 1896


What: Tucson High centennial homecoming football game against Yuma High

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Tucson High’s Gridley Stadium, East Sixth Street and North Euclid Avenue


From 1906 to 1980, Tucson High won a national-best 133 state championships. The baseball team won state titles in 1987 and 1988, giving the school 135, but the school has not won any since. The breakdown:

Sport State titles

Baseball 29

Girls tennis 22*

Boys track 18

Boys tennis 17

Football 13

Boys basketball 8

Boys golf 7

Girls basketball 6

Boys gymnastics 5

Boys swimming 5

Wrestling 2

Boys riflery 2

Boys cross country 1

* The girls tennis team, under coach Sue Clark, won 213 straight dual matches from 1959-72 (a national record) and 10 state titles.

Tucson High has fielded a slew of athletes who went on to be stars in college and the pros. Here’s a sampling:

Baseball: Ron Hassey, Eddie Leon, Tavo Alvarez, Willie Morales

Basketball: Roger Johnson, Lincoln Richmond, Bill Kemmeries, Ernie McCray, David Vann

Football: Fred W. Enke,* Mike Dawson, Lee Carey,* Sean Harris, Michael “King Kong” Nolan

Swimming: Barry Weiss, Eric Finical

Tennis: Jim Grabb (pro), Bill Lenoir (amateur), Sarah McKasson, Joanne Sears

Track and field: Joe Batiste

*Also basketball and baseball stars

Source: Tucson Citizen research

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