On Sunday afternoon, Saguaro football coach Jason Mohns received a call from equipment manager Mike "Tug" Garcia, who said he was in the hospital and would probably miss the first few days of practice this week.
In typical fashion, Garcia was steadfast in ironing out any possible issues while he was gone so the practices would still run smoothly. Mohns told him not to worry about it, and that he’d see him when he returned.
On Monday morning, Mohns received a phone call that Garcia had died of yet-to-be-determined causes. The 44-year-old Garcia - nicknamed "Tug" because it was short for "Tugboat" based on his short, stocky physique and workhorse mentality - was a staple at the school and mentored countless students and athletes throughout the years. Mohns brought the football program together and broke the news during the school’s second period.
“It was definitely a tough time,” Mohns said. “Everybody was pretty shaken up about it. For a lot of these kids, they’ve never lost anybody close to them. 'Tug' was part of their lives every day. I don’t know if there was anyone more loved by more people on campus. His couch was the place to be. People would just go in, sit on the couch and talk to Tug. That’s why the impact was felt the way it was.”
The Sabercats host Queen Creek on Friday, where green "In Tug We Trust" t-shirts will be sold for $10. The proceeds will go to Garcia’s family. Donations can also be made at Arizona Federal Credit Union under the 'Donation account for Mike Garcia: #853836.'
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, beginning with a viewing from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. followed by a 10:30 a.m. mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix.
Locker room thefts
At least three East Valley schools’ locker rooms were burglarized recently during practices, mostly involving kids’ wallets, cell phones or small amounts of cash.
Kids at Chandler, Highland and Campo Verde were targeted in the past two weeks. Coyotes coach Max Ragsdale said his players lost between 10-15 iPhones and some cash. Another football coach said Desert Ridge was also targeted but the Jaguars’ locker room was locked, and it wasn’t immediately known if any other schools were involved.
According to a couple coaches, a suspect is in police custody.
Matt Guida update
Queen Creek star running back Matt Guida injured his leg in the team’s second game against Highland and has missed the past three games. Backup Weston Barlow has been fantastic in his absence, but getting a healthy Guida back in the fold seems essential if the Bulldogs want to repeat as Division III champions.
Coach Travis Schureman said he was unsure if Guida would play this week against Saguaro and wants to be cautious.
“We’re kind of day-to-day to be honest with you,” Schureman said. “It’s a long season, we hope. We don’t want to rush it.”
Schureman was asked if there is any internal conflict between making sure Guida is healthy and wanting him back for such an important matchup.
“At the end of the day, it’s never a hard call when it’s best for a kid in the long run,” he said. “We’re not going to put a kid in a situation where he’s not 100 percent just because we’re in a big game.”
More injury misery
Guida might be (slowly) on the mend for Queen Creek, but he appears to be one of the lucky ones.
The worst of the bunch was Perry quarterback Austin Nightingale, who suffered a torn ACL and broken femur in last Thursday’s loss to Glendale Mountain Ridge. Nightingale was hit near the sidelines at the end of the first half while trying to run out of bounds.
Backup Alec Monte played the rest of the game and will be the team’s quarterback moving forward. “He doesn’t have the same arm strength (as Nightingale) but he should run the offense well,” said Perry coach Preston Jones, whose Pumas face nearby Basha on Friday night.
Highland could be without four of its original starting offensive lineman against Gilbert because of injuries, and while Desert Mountain should get LB Blake Hutchings back from injury, it lost starting offensive tackle Coleman Martin for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Center Christian Boettcher has also been out with a knee injury.
As for good news, both Desert Mountain WR Mark Andrews and Campo Verde QB Luke Pineda were cleared to practice this week and both are likely to play on Friday night (the Wolves face Red Mountain, Campo Verde faces Marcos de Niza).