What is it about that oblong ball that gets all of our hearts beating faster and our pupils dilated? You know what I'm talking about. The pigskin, the rock, that glorious odd bouncing ball that we all schedule our weekends around. Yes the Pac-10 had their media day this week and the Cards are headed north but there's another group hitting the gridiron in the coming days that shouldn't be overlooked. The prep football season is upon us as well and I'm here to give you some of the top reasons why you should set aside at least 2 or 3 Friday nights this Fall to go check out some of the great local football action.
#1 It's football. I mean really do you need any other reason besides that. The ball is a little different but aside from that you have helmets, shoulder pads and guys flying around hitting one another with the same purpose as the people on Saturday's and Sunday'. To win!
#2 Arizona talent is gaining on the big boys in terms of D-I prospects and future pros. You might get an early glimpse at a future NFL player if you go see a game on Friday night. Over the last decade more and more Arizona born and bred players are finding their way to the NFL sidelines. From Terrell Suggs, to Adam Archuleta to the Cardinals own Max Hall. These guys are a just a small sample of local Az guys who are representing the AZ.
#3 It's a great way to support the community and keep you connected with what's going on around you. Doesn't matter whether it's a 5A-I school or 1A. There's just something very cool about being at a game on a Friday night. There's no giant jumbotrons, you're not sitting a mile away from the action and there are no suites. It's as real it gets and you gain a great appreciation for the coaches and players knowing there's no big contracts being discussed or played for. It's just the sheer love of the game.
I've been covering high school sports in Arizona almost from the time I arrived here back in 89'. Fall's wouldn't be the same I don't think if I wasn't at a game or two per week. This coming season I'll try to keep you dialed into what's happening on the prep front.
I know one thing that's changed and that is the media coverage of the sport.
The governing body for athletics here in Arizona is the A.I.A.(Arizona Interscholastic Association). They have worked hard to ensure their sports are finding their way into the mainstream spotlight a little bit more. If you can't make it out to a game you can always log on to their new website (www.AIA365.com) and you can watch a "live" webcast of not just one game, but multiple games on a Friday night.
On the eve of the high school football season here's a few teams to keep your eye on and some matchups that you will definitely want to clear your schedule for.
In class 2A the defending champs are Valley Christian and they are a fixture in the Top 5 of the this division. Other clubs to be on the look out for are boys from St John's along with last year's top seed Northwest Christian and Scottsdale Christian. Small schools but big time intensity at these games.
Class 3A is comprised primarily of teams outside of the Phoenix metro area with the exception of Fountain Hills & Estrella Foothills. Both teams were in the postseason last year and figure to be in the mix again this season. If you want to see what a dynasty looks like head north some Friday night and go watch Blue Ridge High School play. The Blue Jackets have captured 11 state titles in the last 23 years and in 9 of those seasons went unbeaten. The most impressive stretch came from 94-98' when they won 63 straight games! Fear the Jackets is all I can say.
In class 4A the defending champs in the 2 divisions were Canyon Del Oro (4A-I) & the Cactus Cobras (4A-II). CDO is in southern Arizona near Tucson and boasts not just one of the states top talents but also one of the country's top talents in RB Kadeem Carey. As a junior all he did was rush for over 2700 yards and ring up 43TD's. He is worth the price of admission, which by the way is usually $5. Trust me you want to see this kid play. He led his club to the championship and as a senior he's looking to leave a last mark on the record books. Pencil in Oct. 1. On that particular Friday night Carey and his defending champs will be at Scottsdale Saguaro. Adding a little more fuel to this game is the fact that CDO beat Saguaro last season to snap the Sabercats 37 game win streak. Cactus Shadows, Peoria and Sabino are other clubs who will be in the mix.
In 4A-II the Cactus Cobras are always well stocked and this year should be no exception. Top seed Mingus is eager to bounce back after getting dropped in the semi finals and look out for Liberty. This young school has a sharp head coach and talent that's beginning to have the look of a consistent winner.
Onto the 5A where Hamilton(5A-I) and Chaparral(5A-II) wore the crowns in 2009' and based on returning talent for both clubs there's nothing that suggests repeating is out of the question. However, don't sleep on the Chandler Wolves led by all everything QB Brett Hundley, considered one of the top signal callers in the state. He may be the best athlete on the field at any position! The Wolves schedule is a veritable murderers row however with matchups against perennial power Centennial (3 titles in 4 years), Brophy, Hamilton and Mtn. View. Survive that and you get to do it all over again in the playoffs. The Broncos of Brophy will also have something to say about who takes home the trophy as will the Basha Bears led by their new head coach Bernie Busken who returns to the sidelines and knows how to coach. Steve Belles and the Hamilton Huskies though may just have too many athletes at the end of the day and could nail down their 5th crown in 8 years. The Huskies will be eyeing the 3peat.
In 5A-II Charlie Ragle has turned the Chaparral Firebirds into a perennial powerhouse and despite some key personnel losses there's plenty returning to the mix to go along with a few transfers. The Firebirds will enter as the team to beat once again. In the west valley the Centennial Coyotes found out what it was like to not have a championship party for the first time in 4 years. The top seeded club was derailed from their attempt to make it 4 straight titles by Marcos De Niza in the semi finals. The Coyotes are well coached and have a hungry team. Marcos De Niza has a hunger as well after getting to their first ever title game and they want more as well.
So many teams, only so much space but I hope this has given you a little snap shot of how great Arizona high school football is. While you celebrate the beginning of the NFL & college seasons, just remember there's some great football being played on Friday nights right here in your backyard. Go checkout. You never know when you might be watching the next NFL draft pick