Final appeals were heard this week and the Arizona Interscholastic Association finally has the schools locked into divisions for next school year.
Here are my quick hitters on how football breaks down:
-First, Wickenburg losing its final appeal this week to move from Division III to IV might have been the biggest upset since Tempe McClintock mistakenly was placed in Division I after a computer spit out the initial placements with enrollment mixed in with free and reduced lunch and the last six years’ success rate.
Wickenburg didn’t just lose its appeal. It got shut out by a 5-0 vote.
Not sure if the AIA was looking at Wickenburg’s success during the Norris Vaughan era. Since Vaughan left in 2008 to build Phoenix Mountain Pointe into a Division I power, Wickenburg has fallen off. Dramatically.
It was a combined 18-4 the two seasons after Vaughan left, but in the past three seasons it has bottomed out to 6-23, failing to reach the Division IV playoffs each year.
-I can’t imagine Division I with only 17 teams going to a 12-team playoff format. That’s crazy. There is a 30-percent rule applied to all divisions but Division I, because it doesn’t have enough teams. So it will get to advance 12 teams. “You want 80 percent?” Mesa Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said.
Hathcock believes at the end of the day the coaches will push for a 16-team state playoffs with the 17th team getting a play-in game.
That makes more sense that having four top teams getting a first-round bye to the quarterfinals.
If schools and the AIA want to factor in success, Scottsdale Saguaro should be in Division I.
As it is now, the 17 best teams in the state are now in Division I, because nobody else wants to be part of that monster division with the Chandler schools scaring off most.
“I don’t hate on anyone not being Division I but if you want to complain about it, then come on up and play,” Hathcock said.
-Chandler Hamilton coach Steve Belles, who routinely gets his teams in to the state final, doesn’t believe creating another division is the fix.
“Just more teams need to be in Division I,” Belles said.
-Vaughan, who says he is staying put at Mountain Pointe, believes school placements in football should be based on enrollment with the exception of the Phoenix Union district schools, because those schools struggle with participation numbers. Not to mention solid feeder systems. Many players come into high school in the Phoenix district not ever playing tackle football and don’t know how to put on pads.
-With Phoenix Northwest Christian and Yuma Catholic moved out of Division V and now placed in IV, it gets Tempe Prep one step closer to becoming the first charter school to win a state football championship. Tempe Prep reached the state final last year, losing to Yuma Catholic in the final.
Still, Division V will be owned by the privates with Phoenix Arizona Lutheran and Glendale Joy Christian good bets at making the final four next season, along with public rural school Eagar Round Valley. Thatcher lost its appeal and will be in Division IV.
-Teams that don’t belong in Division III but one level higher, in my opinion: Scottsdale Notre Dame, Paradise Valley, Laveen Cesar Chavez, Goodyear Desert Edge. There are 58 teams now in Division III, which appears wide open, but Paradise Valley, Cesar Chavez and Desert Edge move to the top as far as teams that could quickly contest for a state championship. Desert Edge was young with a big, strong line and lightning-quick skill guys. Paradise Valley returns its dynamic duo, quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd and receiver Jacob Brown, that beat now-Division I Scottsdale Chaparral last season with a great Division II season. Cesar Chavez was really good in Division II before it got moved up into Division I and handed a gauntlet of East Valley powers to take on during the first half of their last two seasons.