Thatcher will spend what will feel like nearly half a day on the bus to get to Yuma to play its 6 p.m. Division V semifinal against Yuma Catholic at Yuma Cibola on Saturday.
The neutral site for small schools may not look ‘neutral’ to some making the long trips, but this is what the schools signed up for before this season when it was voted on after a recommendation from the football advisory board.
Before, the Division IV and V quarterfinals and semifinals were played in the Valley, double-headers on Saturdays.
Now, the teams with the highers seeds are being rewarded in the quarterfinals and semifinals with sites closer to them.
“I do feel bad for our fans who will have to travel further than expected, and many of them who would normally be able to travel to the Valley may not be able to attend,” said Thatcher coach Dave Jefferies, whose team fell to a seven-seed after losing its last two regular-season games to Glendale Joy Christian and Morenci. “As far as our team goes, I really don’t care where we play the game.
“If we could have done a little better during the regular season, we could have possibly been the higher seed and picked Safford High School, which is two miles down the road, as our neutral site.”
The major reason for the small-schools semifinals being played in the Valley in the past was because of the chance of inclement weather this time of year in northeastern Arizona. It is supposed to rain Saturday in northeastern Arizona with a chance of snow. It will likely be in the 40s and rain at lower-elevated Snowflake, the neutral site for the Show Low-Lakeside Blue Ridge Division IV showdown.
Eagar Round Valley’s dome would have been ideal, but Round Valley is traveling Saturday to the Valley for a Division V semifinal against top-seeded Phoenix Arizona Lutheran. It has a strong fan base, and who knows who would be there to operate the dome.
“I’m not going to complain,” Blue Ridge coach Paul Moro said. “I’m just glad I get to hang around these guys for another week.”
With Mesa Desert Ridge passing the ball less than 10 times a game, it would seem that Phoenix Mountain Pointe doesn’t have much game-planning for its offense. But the Wing-T is one of the more difficult offenses to defend, Pride coach Norris Vaughan said.
“The Wing-T is one of the greatest offensive systems in football,” Vaughan said. “It’s like the wishbone. I mean it’s almost a perfect offense. You’re running a sweep when you got a guy running up the middle. One guy is going one way, and the quarterback is boot-legging the other way. They bootleg and run their quarterback a lot, too. You’ve got to read your keys.”
The last time Chandler and Hamilton met, Chandler quarterback Bryce Perkins moved Chandler 70 yards in the final 1:12 to win.An interception return for a touchdown at the end made the score not look as close.
Hamilton coach Steve Belles said that if he had to bet his house against Chandler going 70 yards with no timeouts and scoring in the end against his defense, he would have taken it.
Double or nothing?
“I would double or nothing it,” he said. “That hurt this senior group. It hurt us as coaches, too. It was personal, when you haven’t lost to somebody. For a Monday practice, I think it was as focused as I’ve seen out of our kids.”