It’s time for high school football to start in Arizona and rain clouds and lightning might decide to throw a curveball at these first games of the season. Last year, the Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge-Peoria Liberty game didn’t finish until close to midnight because of two lightning delays. Monsoons have become an obstacle in Week Zero. There are some good games as every year, it seems, more teams are having to find Week Zero games to schedule. Let’s take a look in our first edition of the 2014 First and Ten football series:
No. 10 Ray of hope
Phoenix Barry Goldwater at Gilbert Campo Verde, Friday, 7 p.m.
Goldwater feels is much improved after going 3-7 and falling to Campo Verde 46-0 to open last season. Much of that is due to the experience of quarterback Kooper Ray. But Campo Verde, which has one of the best lines in Division II, thrives on defense.
No. 9 Short order
Phoenix North at Yuma Kofa, Friday, 7 p.m.
Bernie Busken, who won three state championships at Mesa Mountain View in the 1990s, has had very little time to assemble his first North team, hired less than a month ago. But the players are buying in and he’ll try to open a new chapter in his coaching life with a win on the road.
No. 8 New era
Lakeside Blue Ridge at Sahuarita, Friday, 7 p.m.
The Jake Belshe coaching era at Blue Ridge begins. The Yellow Jackets, who won 13 state titles under Paul Moro in the last 30 years, will see how well they travel under their new coach. There are 17 sophomores on the roster, so they could go through some growing pains.
No. 7 Meeting in the middle
Bagdad vs. Pima, Friday, 7 p.m., at Gilbert Christian
This neutral site opener is a battle between arguably the two best 8-man, Division VI teams. Bagdad returns its backfield, led by Casey Jeans, after going 10-0 and beating Heber Mogollon for the state title. Pima’s only loss last year was to Mogollon in the state semifinals.
No. 6 St. Mary’s alumni game
Chandler Hamilton at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Friday, 7 p.m.
This is the first time Hamilton coach Steve Belles has faced Sandra Day O’Connor coach Johnny Rodriguez in a game as opposing head coaches. But they have something in common. They’re both former Phoenix St. Mary’s High quarterbacks. Belles followed Rodriguez at St. Mary’s in the 1980s.
No. 5 New turf
Show Low at Gilbert Williams Field, Friday, 7 p.m.
Williams Field hopes to break in its new synthetic surface with a win. Williams Field will be dynamic once again with Josh Page helping carry the load on offense and with an improved defense, which will be needed to slow down a big, athletic Show Low team that is led by junior receiver/linebacker Quentin Clark, one of the top players in Division IV.
No. 4 Wyatt’s wild ride
Ironwood Ridge at Liberty, Friday, 7 p.m.
Last year, Ironwood Ridge didn’t know much about Liberty quarterback Tyler Wyatt. They do now after he carved them up with his arm and legs in a season-opening Division II shootout that Ironwood Ridge ended up pulling out. Ironwood Ridge doesn’t want to get into another shootout. First, it will have to solve Wyatt.
No. 3 Hitting re-set button
Phoenix Mountain Pointe vs. Sparks (Nev.) Reed, Saturday, 7 p.m., at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman
This is day two of the Sollenberger Classic. Last year, Mountain Pointe kick-started a 14-0 championship season with a win at Bishop Gorman against the Gaels, who never lose at home. Sparks is considered the second-best team in Nevada. Mountain Pointe still is fast, physical, punishing and will try to show there is no slowing this machine, despite taking a hit from graduation.
No. 2 Decided underdog
Phoenix Brophy Prep at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Friday, 7 p.m.
This Solleberger Classic appears like a mismatch with Bishop Gorman the No.1 ranked team in the nation by USA Today, and Brophy coming off a rare losing season. Brophy will come in with a nothing-to-lose attitude, play loose but know that any missteps could quickly turn into a rout.
No. 1 A new start
San Tan Valley Poston Butte at Queen Creek, Friday, 7 p.m.
This is the much-anticipated Poston Butte coaching debut of Paul Moro, who won his 13th small-schools state championship last year at Lakeside Blue Ridge, where he piled up more than 300 wins in a 30-year career. Queen Creek is a tough opener for anybody with a powerful offense, led by running back Weston Barlow.
Photos: High school football preseason preparations
Mountain Pointe High School’s starting quarterback Garvin Alston warms up before football practice at the Phoenix school on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. The team is gearing up for its Aug. 23 season opener in Las Vegas against Sparks, NV Reed High School.