Knowing the success the Canyon del Oro High School football team has had in recent years, it makes sense the program stayed in-house for its new coach.
What may surprise some is hearing the new coach, 27-year-old former defensive coordinator Dusty Peace, talk about his hope for change.
“Obviously CDO is a wonderful place and one of the best in Tucson for sure,” said Peace, whose hiring was approved Tuesday by the Amphitheater Public Schools board. “But we’ll change some things up. While we’ve been at that high level around here for a while, we need to find out what is needed to take that next step.
“We’ve been a play or two away each year. We’re close, but we want to get that (championship) ring.”
CDO went 23-4 the past two seasons, was undefeated in its region, and reached one state championship, one state semifinal and was arguably the best team in southern Arizona.
Peace replaces Pat Nugent, who left after the 2008 season to accept the head coaching position at Pima Community College.
Peace, a 2000 Flowing Wells graduate, played under Nugent in high school before a two-year career as fullback at Northern Arizona was cut short by a neck injury. He was an assistant under Nugent starting in the 2002 season.
Peace inherits plenty of talent, including two of Tucson’s top prospects for the 2009 season: senior-to-be defensive back/wide receiver Josh Robbins and junior-to-be running back/return specialist Ka’Deem Carey.
The challenge of building on the solid foundation Nugent left is a task that Peace knows comes with plenty of expectations.
“I know if we slip up at all, people will talk,” Peace said. “But to be honest with you, I’m going to put more pressure on myself than anybody.”
Peace, who is a math teacher at the school, said the CDO weight room is “packed every day” this offseason and he looks forward to coaching the senior class for next fall.
He said he will lean heavily on “the premiere coaching staff” in the Tucson area, including longtime assistant Tom Steele.