Photo by Kevin FrenchSalpointe Catholic (Tucson) and Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) set the tone.
Salpointe Catholic helped get Arizona football off to a great start with a win over Liberty at last week's Sollenberger Classic.
These two Arizona football programs traveled out of state, won both games at the Sollenberger Classic in Las Vegas and not only came back with the traveling trophy but put a positive light on the state's caliber of football.
Now it is up to the next wave of teams playing out-of-state opponents to keep improving the image of Arizona football in the weeks to come.
"You know what, those two wins were pretty impressive and were great for our state," Desert Vista (Phoenix) coach Dan Hinds said. "We have to keep that going. Arizona is being looked at differently these days with the high number of recruits heading to top Division I programs and now we have a chance to keep putting a positive light on our brand of football."
The number of teams from Arizona playing out of state has to be at an all-time high and a good portion of those games are this weekend.
Basha (Chandler, Ariz.) and Westview (Avondale) get it started on Friday night as Basha travels to Green Valley (Henderson), one of the better teams in Nevada, while Westview plays its namesake — Westview (San Diego) — in the Brothers in Arms showcase.
Three other Arizona teams are in the newly created Brothers in Arms event as Desert Vista plays Mission Hills (San Marcos, Calif.), Hamilton (Chandler) takes on Eastlake (Chula Vista, Calif.) and Desert Ridge (Mesa) plays Serra (Gardena, Calif.), which is ranked No. 10 in the MaxPrep's Xcellent 25 rankings.
The three games are the first of four contests played at Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) on Saturday.
A strong showing and suddenly Arizona is no longer just that place in the desert with a few good recruits.
"I talk to a lot of people from out of state, and I think we're the most underrated state in the country," Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock told the East Valley Tribune. "Some people still think of Arizona as a desert with lizards and cactus. They never think of sports. You're dealing with some entrenched thoughts, but we're right on the cuff of being with (the top) states. And I'm not just saying that because I'm an Arizona coach. It truly is getting better."
The opportunities to impress (or disappoint) don't end there.
On Sept. 6, Red Mountain (Mesa) will play Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.), and on Sept. 14, Chandler faces St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) — the No. 6-ranked team in the Xcellent 25.
Another game has Hamilton, ranked No. 13 nationally, playing at Liberty (Henderson, Nev.).
All of it adds up to a unique season in Arizona — partly because many Division I teams had trouble finding opponents after the big-school division was reduced from 40 to 29 teams for this two-year scheduling block — that is off to a very promising start.
Mountain Pointe, which beat then-No. 25 Bishop Gorman 28-21 last week, got it started with a touchdown on its first offensive play of the year.
Can the rest of the state keep up?
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Follow on Twitter @JSkodaAFN and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.