Palo Verde High School 1973 Football Team
A few months before the 1973 high school football season, Palo Verde High School informed coach Van Howe that ’73 would be his last season coaching the Titans.
It wasn’t because Howe didn’t win enough. It was because he was about to turn 65, which was then mandatory retirement age in the Tucson Unified School District.
For his last act, Howe coached the Titans to a historic 13-0 season and the state championship.
Before the ‘73 season, Howe asked all of his football players to sign a document indicating no one would give up, which proved to be the Titans’ declaration of dedication and commitment.
The season concluded with an epic finish in the state title game, defeating 13-0 Camelback High School 22-20.
Palo Verde led 15-14 at halftime but fell behind 20-15 in the final two minutes. That’s when quarterback Chuck Helms willed the Titans to the winning touchdown, with a combination of running 60 yards in an 80-yard drive. Palo Verde scored to win with 34 seconds remaining.
Helms scored on a quarterback sneak from the 2-yard line, behind the block of left guard Gary Brown.
To get to the championship game the Titans had to beat Salpointe Catholic, 41-6, in the Southern Division playoffs as Myles Williams scored four touchdowns. A week later Palo Verde beat Mesa High School 20-12 to qualify for the title game.
Of the many standout players in the perfect season, running back Robert Fowler scored 12 touchdowns. Myles Williams scored seven TDs. Ken Coddie, Jeff Cox and Helms also scored multiple touchdowns.
Offensive lineman and field-goal kicker Paul Swank became an all-city selection, as did Helms, Fowler and Cox. Bob Chuk was a second-team all-city end.
Howe grew up in the Midwest and served in World War II as a Naval gunner during three years of combat in the Atlantic theater. He moved to Tucson in the late 1950s, serving as a UA assistant coach in 1958 and 1959 before becoming an assistant coach at Pueblo High School. When the brand new PVHS was selecting its first-ever football coach, it interviewed Howe and hired him.
“These boys have taken their lumps,’’ Howe said in a post-season banquet celebrating their 1973 state title. “They had been getting beat by just about everyone. I challenged our 26 lettermen to fight back and turn the tables, and that’s exactly what they did.’’