Vern Friedli chuckles when he thinks back on Matt Johnsons dueling passions. Johnson, the Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge football coach, got his start playing for Friedlis Tucson Amphitheater Panthers.
He was the left tackle on Amphi's 1990 team that reached the state title game before falling to Mesa 21-7. A year later, Amphi lost in the state semifinals. But football wasnt Johnsons only teenage passion. He also played the tuba in the school band.
It was kind of hard for away games, Friedli quipped. We couldnt really pack the tuba on the team bus.
Playing for the states all-time winningest coach (331 victories) might have given Johnson the false impression that more success was just around the corner. But its taken the 1992 Amphi graduate more than two decades to return to prep footballs ultimate stage.
Following two straight seasons of semifinal losses, No. 3 seed Ironwood Ridge will face No. 4 seed Peoria Centennial in the Division II state championship game Saturday at 7:07 p.m. ...