Thoughts, observations, predictions as the high school football season hits the halfway point …
Phoenix Mountain Pointe has to be considered the favorite in Division I after a 5-0 start that’s included victories over top-five teams Chandler Hamilton, Chandler and defending champ Phoenix Desert Vista. The Pride can run the ball with Garette Craig and finally have an adequate passing game thanks to quarterback Antonio Hinojosa. The defense? Until Friday’s game against Chandler, Mountain Pointe hadn’t given up a point in the second half all year.
That said, my pick to win it all is … Hamilton. Remember, the Huskies likely would have beaten the Pride in the season opener had they not fumbled deep in Mountain Pointe territory in the fourth quarter. Hamilton, which has won three consecutive games by a combined score of 130-24, still must play Chandler, Desert Vista and Chandler Basha, but Steve Belles has his club rolling toward a fourth title in five years.
Lapping the field
Can anyone in Division II challenge Peoria Centennial?
All Centennial has done in going 5-0 is score at least 48 points in every game and 55 or more in four of the five contests. Tempe Marcos de Niza was the most likely challenger but its suspect kicking game and porous run defense was exposed against Tucson Ironwood Ridge. Scottsdale Chaparral is probably a year away and Ironwood Ridge, even with its impressive win over Marcos, may not have the athletes to keep up with Centennial.
Consider this: Glendale Apollo is ranked No. 9 in Division II. It lost to Centennial by 50 points.
A call for transparency
It’s ridiculous that the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s business deal with MaxPreps means the high school community doesn’t know the exact methodology used to determine seedings. MaxPreps deems its algorithm “proprietary” information, as if it’s discovered how to make a tastier secret sauce.
We’ll beat this drum until the folks that run the AIA go deaf: Your business partnerships (full disclosure: The AIA and azcentral sports also are partners) and the revenue they produce is not as important as your primary mission: serving the schools and their students.
Everyone — coaches, athletes, fans, parents, media — deserves to know the precise formula that determines the seedings.
Long time coming
The controversy against Scottsdale Saguaro aside, the Tempe Buffaloes may be the best story of the year. Tempe is 4-1, matching the win total of its past three seasons combined. It won’t win a state title but making the playoffs would be a remarkable accomplishment, and the Buffaloes are closing in on that goal.
One last thing about Tempe: Don’t expect the AIA to come down hard on the program for the forfeit against Saguaro. Tempe might be placed on advisement or get a warning, but the AIA understands the extraordinary circumstances of the game and won’t jeopardize the Buffaloes’ chances of reaching the postseason.
Head and shoulders
The most dominant team in the first half — sorry, Centennial — has to be Pinetop-Lakeside Blue Ridge. Star linebacker Chans Cox, an Arizona State recruit, has been bothered by a bum ankle all season yet Blue Ridge is 6-0 and has outscored its opponents 241-48.
Rival Show Low probably is Blue Ridge’s toughest opposition the rest of the way — their annual grudge match is Oct. 19 — but toughest in this case is a relative term. Show Low squeaked by Snowflake by one point. Blue Ridge beat Snowflake, 50-0.
Nothing, it seems, will keep coach Blue Ridge from winning its 15th state title, and coach Paul Moro getting No. 13.
A varsity football coach once told me he added up all the hours he worked and estimated his coaching stipend came to about 98 cents an hour.
Remember that the next time you rip a coach for calling a play that didn’t work, not starting your son or, heaven forbid, losing to the arch-rival.
Coaches aren’t in it for the fame. They’re certainly not in it for the money. Most of them do what they do because they love the game and want to help turn boys into men.
They deserve your support rather than your scorn.
Reach Bordow at email@example.com or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow.