What a great week this will be – Thanksgiving, high school state championship games, college football and the NFL – what more can anyone ask? Isn’t this a great country? During my entire lifetime (about six decades now) I can’t remember our high school state championship games ever being played on Turkey Day weekend. This is about as close to a perfect weekend as any man has any right to wish for. So as I wait patiently for the festivities to begin, here are my predictions for this final week of Arizona High School Football.
#1 Northwest Christian vs. #2 Yuma Catholic
These two programs are becoming the dominant schools in Division V. They played in last year’s State Championship game, and NWC won. Then they opened this season against each other and again, NWC won. It should be noted however, that those two games were decided by a total of 10 points. This week should be another close one that comes down to the end. David Inness, the HC at NWC coached for me at Glendale Mountain Ridge and played for me on the Cops and Robbers team in the ‘80’s. One of his assistants, Bill Henderson played on that same team and has coached for me at three different schools; so part of me is pulling for them. Rhett Stallworth, the HC at Yuma Catholic played linebacker for me for four years at New Mexico Highlands University; so part of me is pulling for Yuma Catholic. But since I have always had a soft spot in my heart of hearts for the “under dog”, I’m going with Yuma Catholic. Remember, I’m the guy who couldn’t beat Hamilton in thirteen attempts in ten years – along with 53 other people.
#1 Blue Ridge vs. #3 Show Low
This is another repeat of last year’s State Championship game won by Show Low. If you have followed Arizona high school football for any length of time, then you know that Blue Ridge is the premier program in this state for the last twenty-five years. No one has been more successful than they have. Randy Ricedorff, the HC at Show Low and another former player of mine (at MCC), has done a great job at Show Low. I just can’t overlook what Paul Moro, the HC at Blue Ridge has accomplished in his career there. I believe that Blue Ridge will regain the title that they lost last year. There will be at least three young men playing football in this game who will be playing in college next year and this should be a fun one to watch.
#3 Cactus vs. #5 Saguaro
Cactus showed up last Saturday to play football and controlled a talented Arcadia team. By doing this, they earned the opportunity to play Saguaro. I can’t help but argue that Saguaro, led by DJ Foster, has just too much fire power for Cactus. And though Coach Fetkenhier and his staff do know more than a few things about State Championship games, so do Coach Sanders and his staff. I’m putting my lunch money on Saguaro. Arizona has produced some of the most talented and versatile athletes in the country, and DJ Foster needs to be in the front row of that group picture.
#1 Chaparral vs. #2 Cienega
Since their opening week loss to Bishop Gorman, Chaparral has become better each week. If they can recover emotionally from their exciting, but draining, victory last week over Centennial and show up focused on what they need to do, they can defend their title. For Cienega to beat Chaparral, they will need Chaparral to help with mistakes and turnovers. It is starting to sound repetitious (but in a good way), in this game their may well be the most college bound young men playing their last high school football game.
#1 Hamilton vs. #3 Desert Vista (Go Fiesta Region)
Hamilton is Hamilton, a pretty redundant statement, but the fact is that simple. Until someone knocks them off, they are the “King of the Mountain”. In a very similar situation to the Chaparral vs. Cienega game, Hamilton must help Desert Vista beat them. I don’t think that DV can beat them straight out, they will need to benefit from possible turnovers that they can then turn into TD’s. In last year’s State Championship game, Desert Ridge gave hope to everyone that Hamilton was mortal. But in the end, Hamilton defended their title. I anticipate that they will again hold up the gold football in victory. The reign will come to an end someday, but I don’t think it will be this Saturday.
What I do anticipate, after having had the opportunity to watch both schools play twice this year, is a hard-hitting game. Both schools play solid defense, and both schools have multiple weapons on offense. I do think that Hamilton has a few more bullets in their gun than DV. For me, an old coach who remembers football before we used the term “up tempo”, I’m looking for an old-fashioned knock’em down and pick’em up and then do it again kind of game.
Yes, I have no doubt we will see some finesse football, but there will be enough old-fashioned gang-tackling and wrap-em-up style to keep us old-timers entertained. And just like the other games I’ve mentioned, there will be several young men who be playing college football a year from now. So come out and enjoy some good Arizona high school football.
And just maybe in a few short years while sitting on your couch on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll be able to point at your television and say “Hey, I saw that kid play in high school and I knew then he was going to be good”.