There are seven members of the 300-win football coaching club, led by former Tucson Amphitheater legend Vern Friedli at 331.
Poston Butte coach Paul Moro has the best shot at catching Friedli.
Moro, who will be starting his second year at the San Tan Valley school since leaving a rich legacy at Lakeside Blue Ridge, has 325 career wins.
Moro has a great shot at becoming the state’s all-time wins leader next season.
With the coaching retirement this week of St. Johns’ Mike Morgan (303 career wins), only two more active coaches have more than 300 wins.
Here is a look at who could be gaining on Friedli’s record:
Paul Moro, Poston Butte
Moro won 318 of his 325 at Blue Ridge, where he led the Yellow Jackets to 13 state championships. He could have stopped there. But Moro feels he has a new lease on coaching life at Poston Butte, a big challenge in a bigger city. He is re-energized heading into his second spring football at a larger school. Moro loves challenges. And he’ll likely break Friedli’s record this coming season. And will he stop after that? No way. He has too much passion for what he does.
Larry Fetkenhier, Glendale Cactus
A big cancer scare late last season derailed this longtime coach who is sitting at 307 career wins, the second-most for an active coach. He had successful surgery to have the cancer removed and is experiencing a rebirth of sorts in his coaching career. Fetkenhier won’t ever get coaching out of his blood. And he has steered Cactus to such steady success over the past few decades that there appears never to be any shortage of talent to keep the blue machine from rolling.
Jim Rattay, Laveen Cesar Chavez
Rattay nearly died from a fungal infection that had him hospitalized during Mesa’s 1992 state playoff run to the championship. It caused him to lose an eye. But the passion hasn’t left. Though frail and unable to receive celebration ice-water baths from his players (when he won his 300th game last season, players weren’t allowed to shower him with ice water because of possibility he could become deathly ill), Rattay has no quit in him. He is at 303 wins, some of those coming in Ohio, where he led Elyria Catholic to a state title in his first season as head coach in 1976. With the Arizona Interscholastic Association placing all of the Phoenix Union district football teams in Division III for the next three school years, Rattay’s win total could ramp up fast. He has the talent not only to win at that level but to win championships. He hasn’t won a state title since he left Phoenix Christian in 2004. That was his seventh overall state title. He had never gone more than four years without winning a state championship before he came to Cesar Chavez in 2007.
Arizona’s best high school football coaches – ranked by state titles:
Richard Taylor, Peoria Centennial
Taylor has 198 of his 257 career wins at Centennial, leading the Coyotes to the Division II championship last season. Centennial is moving up to Division I, but it has a proven strong track record against the big boys. This should be a smooth transition for Taylor, who has not had a shortage of talent coming through since the mid-2000s. Centennial has become the west-side football factory, producing college players. Taylor is just getting started.
Norris Vaughan, Phoenix Mountain Pointe
Vaughan thought he was retiring from coaching after he left Georgia in 2004 and helped out at Paradise Valley. He was a pretty good golfer, thinking maybe he could make some coin in that career. But the coaching bug hooked him again. He turned Wickenburg into a small-schools power, before taking over at Mountain Pointe in 2009, and turning that into a state power at the top level reaching top-10 national status during its 14-0 state championship season in 2013. Vaughan has 248 wins, 66 of those coming at Mountain Pointe.
Steve Belles, Chandler Hamilton
Belles could be the fastest to 300 in state history. He has a ways to go with 188 career wins. But look at what he’s done since 2006 at Hamilton: more than 100 wins and five state championships. The Hamilton factory isn’t slowing any time soon. And neither is Belles, whose only losing season came in his first year building Scottsdale Desert Mountain from scratch. He won 26 games in five years at Desert Mountain, then 47 in five years at Glendale Mountain Ridge, before really cranking it up at Hamilton.
Jeff Scurran, Tucson Catalina Foothills
Scurran has 280 career wins, counting college and pro (Italy). Some of his prep wins have been accumulated in Georgia, California and Oregon. Scurran, two shy of 200 career Arizona prep wins, will be starting his third season at Catalina Foothills, a program that was dying before he took it over. He has proven he can win anywhere. He took struggling programs at Tucson Sabino and Tucson Santa Rita and turned them into huge success stories. If he had stayed put at one position for very long, Scurran would have had 300 wins by now. Scurran is constantly looking for a new challenge. But he wins as fast as any coach in the state.
Dennis Bene, Tucson Salpointe Catholic
He is 134-32 at the only school he has been the head coach. The talent level keeps rising at the private school, and that partly keeps Bene around. He is not a teacher at the school, but he has a great rapport among the athletes there and his great mind for calling the offense will help Salpointe continue to win. Salpointe was very good in Division I. Now that it has been in Division II for a while, the program has just taken off, averaging more than 10 wins a season.
Jeremy Hathcock, Mesa Desert Ridge
Hathcock is one of the young coaching guns, a swashbuckler who captured his 100th career victory last season against rival Skyline. He won four more the rest of the season, and has great young talent coming up in the program. Who knows how long Hathcock will stay at Desert Ridge. But since he has been there, the Jaguars have been a perennial power, knocking at final fours every year.
Bernie Busken, Phoenix North
Most of his wins came in a meteoric, four-year Mesa Mountain View career, where he won three state championships and 40 consecutive games. He is sitting at 198 career wins, which is impressive in itself because dating to his Oklahoma days, he is at the sixth school in his coaching career where he has taken on a major rebuild job. Busken should now have a chance to succeed with North placed in Division III in football the next three years.
Arizona’s best high school football programs – ranked by state titles: