Realignment needn't put rivalries on recess

Realignment needn't put rivalries on recess


Realignment needn't put rivalries on recess


A high school football season without rivalries is like Christmas morning without presents. Something’s missing.

Imagine Phoenix Mountain Pointe not playing Phoenix Desert Vista, or Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside Blue Ridge extinguishing their annual grudge match. The season just wouldn’t feel right.

Unfortunately, some schools and communities will endure that empty feeling this fall. For a variety of reasons, a few natural rivalries have fallen by the wayside.

Most notably, Phoenix Brophy Prep won’t play Phoenix St. Mary’s, putting a temporary hold on a rivalry that began in 1959.

From a competition standpoint, that may not be a bad thing. Brophy won the past two years by a combined score of 121-6, and the games weren’t even that close. But the rivalry also was scuttled by St. Mary’s move to Division II. The Knights are in a nine-team section and only had two freedom games to schedule. Instead of playing up against Brophy — and probably getting hammered — St. Mary’s chose to play Mesa Skyline and Division II school Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.

St. Mary’s athletic director Greg Fahrendorf didn’t have a single conversation with Brophy administrators about continuing the rivalry.

“We agreed to play each other in both basketball and baseball, since in those sports we are staying in D-I, but only basketball was scheduled,” Fahrendorf wrote in an e-mail. “We would like to rekindle the football rivalry. … We will assess where our football program is at in two years and then make the appropriate decisions.”

As someone who advocated for St. Mary’s to drop to Division II, I can’t now castigate the school for its unwillingness to play Brophy. Still, I hope the game can be rekindled for the 2015-17 scheduling block. It has too much history and tradition to be lost forever.

The St. Mary’s-Brophy game isn’t the only rivalry to be influenced by the new division placements. Phoenix Christian, which has moved up to Division III, won’t face longtime Division V rivals Phoenix Arizona Lutheran or Chandler Valley Christian, for example.

But it’s two other lost games that leave us perplexed. How in the world can Peoria Sunrise Mountain and Peoria Liberty, separated by just 2.5 miles, not play each other? And who put a stop to Laveen Cesar Chavez vs. Laveen Betty Fairfax, only 2.8 miles apart?

In Peoria, Liberty is moving up to Division II and will have an enrollment of approximately 2,000 next year, while Sunrise Mountain will remain in Division III and have about 1,500 kids. Still, it’s not as if the rivalry has become as one-sided as Brophy-St. Mary’s. Plus, the game is a big deal for the players, students, fans, alumni — heck, the entire community.

It’s a disservice to call it off.

“We wish we were playing the game,” Liberty Athletic Director Rick Johnson said. “There will be a lot of people who will miss that game. I know I will be one of them.”

The Fairfax-Cesar Chavez game was called off for similar reasons. Fairfax Athletic Director Reynaldo Peru said his school only had two freedom games, and it wasn’t a “priority” to play Chavez, which is moving to Division I.

Well, it should have been.

I understand the scheduling of freedom games was complicated and that some schools — eyeing MaxPreps power rankings and a playoff berth — wanted more winnable games. But administrators and coaches need to find a way to keep rivalries alive.

They could take a cue from Scottsdale Saguaro, which has no intention of letting its annual grudge match with Scottsdale Chaparral come to an end, despite the fact it makes little sense from a scheduling perspective.

“Playing Chaparral doesn’t really help us when it comes to putting ourselves in the best position for a playoff run,” said Saguaro coach Jason Mohns, whose Sabercats are in Division III. “The way MaxPreps works, we’d be better off beating an undefeated team in Division IV than playing a Division II team like Chaparral.

“But with what that game means to the school and the community, we feel like we have to keep it on the schedule. It’s important.”

It’s a rivalry game.

Without it, the football season is an empty box.

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

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