Joe Ortiz, who built the Cactus High School football program into an Open Division qualifier this past season, has been recommended by Perry High School to become its next head football coach.
Perry Athletic Director Jennifer Burks confirmed the hire in a press release on Friday. The hire is currently pending board approval, which is expected to take place during the Chandler Unified School District’s Governing Board meeting on Jan. 26.
“It feels amazing, you’re in the SEC of Arizona,” Ortiz said. “To be at the top level and the premier region, it’s where you want to be. It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of grinding and a lot of hours but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I want to make Perry a continuous Open-contending team.”
Ortiz will take over at Perry after longtime coach Preston Jones announced his retirement in early December. Under Jones, the Pumas went to two straight 6A championships with quarterbacks Brock and Chubba Purdy under center during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Hired in 2018 to replace legendary coach Larry Fetkenheir, Ortiz carried on the success from his predecessor and continued to build the Cactus football program into a 4A power.
He led the Cobras to the 4A quarterfinals in his first season where they fell to juggernaut Saguaro. The next year, an Ortiz-led Cactus team advanced to the semifinals where it fell to Mesquite, the eventual 4A champion led by five-star quarterback Ty Thompson. Thompson again got the best of Cactus in 2020 in the 4A final.
And just this past season, Ortiz and Cactus ran the table in the regular season, dominating opponents throughout the year and were awarded the No. 4 seed in the elite Open Division playoff tournament.
He now hopes to find similar success at Perry through building relationships.
“(I) have to let the kids know that I care about them,” Ortiz said. “That’s how you get kids in. We want them to know they are going to get a great experience at Perry. That’s what we did with the kids at Cactus. Let the kids know I care about them and they’re going to have a great time.”
Cactus was Ortiz’s first head coaching gig after spending 10 years coaching under Eddy Zubey at Higley and St. Mary’s. Together, they helped lead Higley to the playoffs five times, including a trip to the semifinals in 2017.
Zubey, who has a track record of helping develop coaches, believes Ortiz is ready to make the jump to the 6A level.
“Joe is a great leader of young men,” Zubey said in a text message. “He took Cactus to places it had never been in a short amount of time. He connects well with the players and is well organized. He will do a good job at Perry.”
Leaving Cactus wasn’t an easy decision for Ortiz. But the draw of coaching a 6A program in the Premier Region and Chandler Unified School District was appealing.
And when Perry offered him the job Friday morning, he immediately accepted.
Ortiz said, pending board approval, he will be on campus this month preparing for offseason workouts and spring ball in May. He plans to retain several coaches from Jones’ staff while adding more.
He aims to have his staff in place as soon as possible to begin the rebuild at one of the state’s largest schools.
“We’re going to meet with the kids, get to know them and start an offseason weight training program,” Ortiz said. “Having them learn the offense and defense is the next step."