I have to make high school football picks every week during the season. Usually, my record indicates the art of prognostication eludes me.
(This goes all the way back to 2001, when I picked the Yankees to beat the Diamondbacks in five games in the World Series. I’m still reminded of that boneheaded forecast.)
But does that deter me from making 10 predictions about the upcoming season? Not a chance.
GAMES THAT MATTER
I hope this one comes true, that on a Friday night in October a game between two Phoenix Union High School District teams will be meaningful and played before a packed house. The move of all 10 district teams to the same section in Division III should result in more wins, more interest and eventually, better programs as more kids come out.
NORRIS VAUGHAN AND GEORGIA
There are few coaches I enjoy talking to more than Mountain Pointe’s Norris Vaughan. He’s colorful, opinionated and always quotable, which I appreciate. Invariably, though, Vaughan will bring up his coaching days in Georgia and how coaches there are paid so much more than they are in Arizona. It’s become so much a part of his repertoire that when he started talking about it last year before the Mountain Pointe-Hamilton game, Hamilton coach Steve Belles smiled and began to walk away, knowing what was coming.
FIND A GAME: 2015 Arizona high school football schedule
NEW SEASON, SAME STORY
The Arizona Interscholastic Association can do everything possible to create more parity but you and I know which teams will be vying for a state title come November, particularly in Division I and Division II. I’d love to see some upstart teams make a deep run in the postseason but I’m not expecting it to happen.
The work Arizona State coach Todd Graham and Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez have done in building relationships with high school coaches – and the respective success of the two programs – should start to pay off. Some of the top recruits will undoubtedly cross state lines but expect more and more kids to stay home and play for one of the in-state schools.
San Tan Foothills’ hiring of John Sanders means one thing: The volume will be turned up in the far southeast Valley. Sanders, who led Scottsdale Saguaro to four state championships in five years, is combative, opinionated and supremely confident. I have no idea how good his football team will be but I can guarantee one thing: Sanders will make things interesting.
BRYCE PERKINS APPRECIATION
I think we’ll find out this season just how good former Chandler High quarterback Bryce Perkins was last year. That’s not a knock against his successor, Mason Moran, who already is committed to Oregon State. But Perkins was an extraordinary talent and the reason Chandler finally was able to beat arch-rival Hamilton and win a state title. Hamilton coach Steve Belles had been able to design defenses to beat nearly every elite quarterback he faced, but he had no answers for Perkins.
Could an Arizona quarterback throw for 4,000 yards this season? I wouldn’t be surprised. Defenses seem to be helpless against the no-huddle, spread offenses that have become the norm. If quarterbacks like Basha’s Ryan Kelley, Saguaro’s Kare Lyles and Marcos de Niza’s Nazareth Greer are in enough tight games that they’re still throwing the ball in the fourth quarter, they could vault past 4,000.
Too many Valley football fans won’t take the time to get in their cars and drive a few hours to see a small-school rivalry game. That’s their loss. I’ll repeat what I’ve said dozens of times: Do yourself a favor and check out a Blue Ridge-Show Low game or some other rural contest. It’s a high school experience you won’t forget.
Call this one a hunch: A prominent coach either will retire or leave his program after the season. I don’t know who it will be but my Spidey sense is tingling.
I am not going to pick my state champions in each division yet. But I will make this prediction: I’ll be wrong more often than I’ll be right.
See Yankees in five.
Arizona high school football preseason practice: