Purdy, Shough’s Fiesta Bowl reunion allows for reflection from high school coaches

Brock Purdy (left) and his high school football coach Preston Jones (right) stand on the sideline in University of Phoenix Stadium in December 2016.

Matt Belinson

Preston Jones didn’t mince words on what it was like to coach Brock Purdy in high school in Perry, Arizona.

In an age of social media and instant recognition across college and high school football, Jones said having Purdy as his quarterback at Perry High School was a unique experience. For someone who was still considered a kid by age standards, Jones said Purdy showed maturity and poise beyond his years.

From Jones’ perspective, Purdy was a flat-out winner in every sense of the word.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime type thing,” Jones said. “It was kind of like having a perfect child. Great leader, nice kid, coachable, talented and makes everyone look better.”

So as Purdy and Iowa State prepare for a PlayStation Fiesta Bowl matchup with Oregon on Saturday, Jones expects the Gilbert-native to shine on one of the biggest bowl games in the entire country for high school players across the state to witness.

But the thing is, Purdy won’t be the only Arizona quarterback playing in Saturday’s PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough (pronounced “shuck”) grew up about 20 minutes from Purdy in Chandler, Arizona, and has had plenty of experience facing off against the Iowa State junior quarterback over the years.

Purdy and Shough faced off four times during their high school days, and Purdy came out on the winning side more often than not, including a 65-63 game in 2017.

Dick Baniszewski, Shough’s high school coach during his senior season, can’t wait for the Fiesta Bowl matchup and for the chance to see two homegrown quarterbacks show how far they’ve come on such a big stage.

“It’s amazing,” Baniszewski said.

High school days

As the quarterback at Perry High School, Purdy had the numbers to back up his coach’s praise and took his team deep into the playoffs multiple times.

As the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017 for the state of Arizona, Purdy led Perry to the 6A state championship game with one of the best seasons by an Arizona prep quarterback. The Gilbert, Arizona, native threw for 4,405 yards and 57 touchdown passes and rushed for 1,016 yards and 10 touchdowns in his senior season as well.

Jones remembers how hard Purdy worked at his craft, even as a young 17- and 18-year-old in high school, a time in a person’s life when football might be an afterthought. Not for Purdy.

“Eat, sleep, drink, it was football,” Jones said.

Facing off against Purdy in the 2017 season, Baniszewski said Purdy was always a threat but it made for some entertaining football to watch.

“Someone asked me before we played them his senior year, ‘What concerns you the most about Perry?’ and I said two words: ‘Brock Purdy,’” Baniszewski said. “You’re never safe as long as he’s under center.”

And while Baniszewski had great memories of what kind of talent Purdy was back in his high school days, Baniszewski’s praise started with Shough — not only for his talent, but for how he led his team.

Shough led the way during a tumultuous time for Hamilton High School, and Baniszewski said Shough’s leadership and effort during that time were remarkable on their own, but the fact that he was still a young man made his leadership that much more important in order for Hamilton to overcome those tough times.

Shough attacked the weight room, according to Baniszewski, and while he could show his emotions on his sleeve from time to time, Shough led through actions and his intense work ethic.

“Tyler threw the best deep ball of any kid I’ve ever seen,” Baniszewski said.

Shough’s ability to run with the football has not been used as much as Purdy’s in his college career, but it has shown during big games throughout his time as a Duck.

Baniszewski joked that Shough’s running ability was obvious in high school but said that he wasn’t ready to send Shough out on designed runs or lots of read options based on how good Shough was and how limited Hamilton was at the position back then.

“If we lost Tyler, we didn’t have much depth, so why would I want him to get hurt?” Baniszewski said with a laugh.

A home-grown Fiesta Bowl matchup

When Purdy and Shough face off for their respective teams Saturday, it will be another national stage for Arizona quarterback talent to shine.

Outside of the two Fiesta Bowl quarterbacks, the Arizona spotlight has grown brighter thanks to Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, Bengals’ quarterback Ryan Finley and many more names recently.

Jones said Saturday will be another example for some of the best talent in the state’s history to show out against each other.

“The state of Arizona follows Iowa State basically because of Brock Purdy,” Jones said.

Jones attributes the rise in nationally recognized Arizona quarterbacks due to the state’s population growth over the years, warm weather, which allows quarterbacks to train virtually all year, and the growing stage of high school athletics across the state.

Baniszewski said Shough and Purdy have been and will continue to inspire the next wave of Arizona talent and said the stage of the Fiesta Bowl is one of the best, if not the absolute best, place to show it.

Baniszewski echoes the same enthusiasm as Jones, excited that Arizona’s biggest college football stage will be able to have two hometown kids in the center of it all.

“To see them get to dance again is going to be a lot of fun,” Baniszewski said.