As if there wasn’t enough on the line for Chandler Valley Christian’s football team tonight.
The squad is 3-3 in 2012. It sits behind eight teams in the Division V, Section II power rankings, and only the top three are guaranteed playoff berths. After that, the 16-team bracket is filled by the next seven highest-ranked teams in the power ratings.
Valley Christian is 16th, right on the razor’s edge.
Tonight it hosts longtime rival Phoenix Christian, 5-1 and ranked third in Division V and second in the section. For homecoming. As Valley Christian celebrates its 30th anniversary.
“It’s already such a big rivalry,” junior linebacker/fullback Ty Corbin said. “It just hypes up the game much more.”
Phoenix Christian leads the all-time series 14-12. Valley Christian has fallen to Phoenix Christian twice in the state championship, but has won six of the last eight meetings between the schools.
The schools are intertwined off the field, too. Phoenix Christian is the oldest Christian school in the Valley, as it began as Old Paths Christian School in 1912, adopting its current moniker in 1949.
Parents who send their kids to Valley Christian — and many other Christian schools in the Phoenix area — often are Phoenix Christian alumni or are related to some.
Until Valley Christian got its own athletic facilities, it rented Phoenix Christian’s field for home games.
If you’re going to celebrate Valley Christian history, then maybe it’s fitting its greatest rival is involved.
“I think that it is very appropriate,” said first-year athletic director Greg Haagsma, who has been at the school for 21 years. “Having Phoenix Christian, with the history between the two schools and the ties and some of those things, makes it a great homecoming.”
Haagsma is expecting a big crowd, and is anticipating running out of parking spaces. As part of a yearly tradition called the Alumni Walk, graduates of the school will march across the field after the homecoming court is crowned.
The players will try not to think of all that hoopla, though.
“It’s kind of set on a bigger stage, but at the same time it’s just another game,” senior linebacker/guard Luke Widner said. “It’s another game, and we just have to approach it that way and not get caught up in the hype.”
A win is crucial for Valley Christian. Its final two games are against No. 4 Phoenix Scottsdale Christian and No. 6 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, with only a tune-up against 1-5 San Tan Valley Combs from Division IV before.
“If we win this, it gives us momentum for the rest of the season,” Corbin said.
Added Haagsma: “It makes it a really fun night. Hopefully the football will live up to the fun that we’ll have created for the whole evening.”