Paul Moro would have been proud of the way his former Blue Ridge High School football team played its opening game last week, starting the 2019 season with a dominant 41-21 home win over Winslow High.
It’s the way his Blue Ridge teams would generally start a season during the 30 years he ran the program and turned it into the most dominant small-school program in the state of Arizona. Moro passed away last January after compiling 336 career wins to make him the winningest high school football coach in the state.
But, despite all his accomplishments, he probably wouldn’t have been too comfortable with all the pomp and ceremony that went on earlier in the evening. That’s because it was all about him.
Friday evening was a celebration for all that Moro had done for the football program. The field where he worked the sidelines for three decades was dedicated in his honor and the football stadium now bears his name.
The same booster group that took on the task of securing the permission needed to name the field also raised the funds to place a lighted sign above the stadium to assure that Moro’s legacy would live on.
Moro’s accomplishments at the small school located in the community of Lakeside in the White Mountains are the stuff of legend. During his 30 years as head coach at Blue Ridge (he spent 35 years altogether with the program) his teams set the gold standard for winning consistency. His teams put together 93 consecutive regular-season wins and 76 consecutive conference wins, and made the state playoffs in 27 of the 30 years. Ten of his teams went undefeated and 21 won conference championships.
His Yellowjackets played in 16 state championship games and won 13 of them, and in 2011 Moro was named National Coach of the Year.
Moro unexpectedly left the Blue Ridge program following the 2013 season to take over as the head coach at Poston Butte High School, located down in the Valley in Florence. After two years at Poston Butte he was hired to take over the Marcos de Niza HS program in Tempe.
Right after the opening game in his second season at Marcos, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He continued with the 2017 season while undergoing treatment, but was unable to return the following season when the work load of teaching and coaching became too much of a burden on his failing health.
He suffered a stroke just a couple of days before Christmas of 2018, and a second followed just weeks later. That proved to be more than his body could handle and he passed away at his Gilbert home on January 26.
Moro’s grandson, Elijah, and granddaughter, Aubrielle, were on hand for the dedication and unveiled the new stadium sign.
Fireworks topped off the ceremony, which was fitting because for 30 years his teams provided the fireworks that made every Friday night a celebration in a small town that took enormous pride in its football team…and its coach.
(Photo: Blue Ridge High School)