Maryvale, North hang tough

A few numbers from the Phoenix Maryvale football program the past two years:

It finished a combined 1-20. It lost 11 games by at least 40 points. It was outscored 905-177 and shut out eight times.

Maryvale wasn’t equipped to be competitive in Division I, much less challenge for a playoff spot.

It must have seemed like manna from heaven, then, when the Arizona Interscholastic Association allowed schools to appeal their division placement. Maryvale could move down to Division II and try to make Friday nights enjoyable again.

And that’s exactly what they didn’t do. Instead, Maryvale and Phoenix North were the only Phoenix Union High School District teams to remain in Division I.

Just one question:


Why continue to fight a fight you can’t win when doing so can suck the life out of your program?

Even more perplexing, why not appeal down when so many of your neighbors — Phoenix Carl Hayden, Phoenix Trevor Browne, Phoenix South Mountain — made the sensible move and gladly left Division I behind?

OK, that’s more than one question. But it all comes back to that one word: Why?

“We made the decision to stay in our division because of the number of students in our school (approximately 2,800) and our belief that we can be competitive,” Maryvale assistant principal and Athletic Director Wendy Truvillion said. “Not knowing exactly how the sections were going to turn out and who was going to end up where, we decided to stay where we were and take whatever was going to be handed out as a Division I program.”

North’s reward for remaining in Division I was a lump of coal in its Christmas stocking. It was placed in a section with, among others, powerhouses Phoenix Brophy Prep, Phoenix Desert Vista and Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

That’s not exactly a soft landing for a program that has had a winning record just once in the past five years and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008. Yet, North Athletic Director Melville McKay has had no second thoughts. His reasoning: North likely won’t be a state-championship team in Division II, either, so why not stay in Division I and observe through competition what it takes to be an elite program.

“If you go down and play the same schools in Division II, you get the same results and you don’t learn anything,” McKay said. “I think you get more competitive by playing competitive teams and by playing different teams.”

The consequence, of course, is that those lessons may be in the form of 40-point losses that could diminish support and participation in the football program. But McKay believes North has the numbers — school enrollment is 2,530 — and more importantly the desire and resources to be competitive in Division I.

“Although our record does not show it the last two years (North was a combined 6-14), we had some winnable games but we had key injuries that hurt us,” McKay said. “But I’m thinking with proper training and proper measures to prevent those types of things ,we should be good.”

McKay’s only wish: that North’s appeal to move from Section IV to Section II is granted so the school can play in the same section as fellow Phoenix Union programs Maryvale and Laveen Cesar Chavez.

Frankly, a part of me admires what Maryvale and North are doing. The schools could have taken the easy way out of Division I, and no one would have blamed them. Instead, they’ve chosen to hang in there and hope they get better.

I just hope that process doesn’t take so long — and result in so many beatings — that kids give up on football. The Phoenix Union schools once were among the state’s better programs. It would be a great story if either Maryvale or North could be that again.

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow@arizona or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at

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