Repeat state FB champions: Don't think so this year
Originally published: Nov 7, 2013 - 12:00 am
The 2012 state football champions in Divisions I through V were Hamilton, Ironwood Ridge, Queen Creek, Seton Catholic and Northwest Christian, respectively.
Looking at what's transpired in the 2013 regular season,it's likely new champs could be crowned in all five divisions.
Here's a look at the five divisions in a bit more detail:
DIVISION I: Favorite -- Mountain Pointe. Mountain Pointe fell a game short last year losing to Hamilton, but this year's Pride has displayed all the necessary elements -- varied offense, defense and plenty of speed on both sides of the ball. Mountain Pointe has been dominant all season. The one caveat the second half of the season is the lack of a challenge presented by what was thought to be a powerful section. Brophy and Desert Vista are not what they've been in recent years. Corona and Dobson struggled. The impressive wins over Hamilton and Chandler are the mark of how good MP is. Contenders -- Chandler. A beefed up schedule and 7-8 wins leaves the Wolves little to prove -- other than reaching and or winning the title. Defense seems to be as good as Chandler has seen it of late. That gives them a chance with their high-powered offense. Desert Ridge. Desert Ridge won a section that qualified at least four and maybe five teams for the tournament. The Jaguars have won defensive struggles and shootouts. Not sure they stand with Mountain Pointe and Chandler, but this might be their year to take Hamilton should they meet. Darkhorse -- Hamilton. Not the offense D-I is used to seeing from the Huskies. The defense hasn't been as stout as suspected at the outset. But Hamilton still managed eight wins in a tough schedule, winning four of four games decided by a touchdown or less. Defense, offense or special team played a role in all four of those wins. Defense dictates whether or not Huskies reach the semis or better.
DIVISION II: Favorite -- Salpointe. Not one letdown since the Lancers opened the season with Liberty High (Henderson, Nev.) on Aug. 24 to the end of the regular season. As high-powered as the offense is with Cameron Denson, Andy Cota and Kaleyn DeBoskie the Lancers defense has been equally impressive. If Salpointe is challenged in the tournament it won't be until the semis/finals. Contenders -- Chaparral. Only loss was via a shootout early with Marcos de Niza, but the Firebirds are better defensively and have knocked off some good D-I opponents (Red Mountain and Brophy) as well as one of D-III's best (Saguaro). D-II is full of potent offenses, but defense is where its at to win the big trophy. Centennial. Centennial took a beating from D-I Chandler early and has looked formidable since. That includes, like Chaparral, some solid wins over D-I opponents. Centennial has what it takes to win on both sides of the ball. The Coyotes eliminated Salpointe in the semis last year so they have that chip in the game. Darkhorses -- Mesquite, Sunnyslope and Campo Verde. All three face tough odds if or when they match up against Salpointe, Chaparral or Centennial. Mesquite has turned in an impressive turnaround from a two-win season to playing for the section title against Campo Verde in the season finale, albeit in D-II rather than D-I it competed in last year. The Wildcats have improved markedly as the season's worn on, a good sign. Sunnyslope won all its games, but faced one of the lighter schedules among D-II's elite. One or perhaps two of Sunnyslope's opponents will qualify for postseason. Those are near the 13-16 range of the bracket. That's the only knock against the Vkings, but a legitimate one. Campo Verde made the jump from D-III to D-II in impressive fashion. The Coyotes are good enough for a win or two in postseason, which would be the first in the school's brief, five-year history.
DIVISION III: Favorite -- Saguaro. Saguaro gives up points, but they have a history of being high-scoring and winning shootouts when they take home a title. They've outscored two top section foes in Williams Field and Queen Creek and their only loss was to D-II rival Chaparral. Noone has found a way to stop or slow quarterback Luke Rubenzer or back Christian Kirk. Considering he handles the ball on every play, that makes it tough tolimit his touches short of ball-control keep-away. Contenders -- Desert Edge. Desert Edge is a little short on high-caliber competition. The same was true last year, but they showed everyone they could play with the best beating Saguaro and falling just short of Queen Creek. Desert Edge has a uber game-breaker in wide out Elijah Marks. If the hunger is there from last year's title-game loss, Scorpions can beat anyone in the tourney field as they've done to all to date. Williams Field. Williams Field would love to get another shot at Saguaro after spotting the Sabercats a 27-3 lead. Williams Field doesn't have that one standout threat, but several very good ones. The Black Hawks have a title-worthy squad. Darkhorse -- Queen Creek. Down a little offensively, down some defensively. If Bulldogs have a healthy backfield once the playoffs begin they are dangerous. They lost to both Williams Field and Saguaro during the season. Defense will have to be at top of its game to return to finals or perhaps even the semis.
DIVISION IV: Favorite -- Show Low. Randy Ricedorff's squad wasn't content with its usual White Mountain section schedule. So they added Queen Creek and Williams Field from D-III to the mix. They aren't worse for the wear even though they lost one of those. The competition helped set them up to drub both Snowflake and Blue Ridge in October. This appears to be Show Low's best team since 2010 when it last won a state title. Contenders -- Blue Ridge -- Like Show Low, Blue Ridge has two losses. One was to D-III Prescott, who nearly knocked of Desert Edge early in the season. The other was to Show Low. Blue Ridge looked sharp in its final three games tuning up for postseason. Not a stretch to see Blue Ridge play for or win the title. Snowflake. Snowflake is the only D-IV school to face Show Low, Blue Ridge and Seton this season. The Lobos were 1-2, defeating Seton in a tight game. There isn't much separating Snowflake from the other three. It may be a case of on any given Friday night..... Darkhorse -- Seton Catholic. Seton doesn't have as many of the high-cailber athletes as last year, but they've performed better than most teams that lose as many solid seniors as the the Sentinels did. Of all the division darkhorses, this is one that isn't a big stretch to come away with a title appearance/victory.
DIVISION V: Dispense with the favorite, contender, darkhorse talk here. This is the state's most wide-open bracket with Yuma Catholic, Arizona Lutheran, Northwest Christian, Thatcher, Round Valley, Joy Christian and perhaps St. Johns capable of hoisting a championship trophy the day after Thanksgiving.Heck, even last year's runner-up, Morenci is coming on. First, none of the teams is unbeaten. Yuma Catholic has lost to Thatcher and beaten Arizona Lutheran, Bourgade and D-IV River Valley (top 5 in D-IV). Arizona Lutheran has defeated Joy Christian, NWC and Bourgade. Joy Christian has beaten Thatcher. Round Valley has defeated St. Johns. Bourgade has beaten NWC. You get the idea. Enjoy the heck out of this tournament. Should be great entertainment and intrigue throughout.
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