The impromptu matchup between Salpointe and Mica Mountain at the Thunderbolts’ field last week evidently carried more significance than first imagined by coaches Eric Rogers and Pat Nugent.
Salpointe (5-2 overall, 1-0 in the 5A Southern) was originally scheduled to play at Cholla, but the struggling Chargers were void of enough healthy players.
That opened the possibility of playing new school Mica Mountain, which is in its first year of varsity football with an abbreviated schedule. Instead of potentially adversely affecting Salpointe’s power rating, the game won by the Lancers 56-5 helped both programs judging from the rankings released Tuesday morning by the AIA.
Salpointe appeared for the first time in the Open Division rankings at No. 12 with Desert View (6-1, 1-1 in the 5A Southern) going from No. 12 to No. 15 after its 20-14 win at Mountain View (2-5, 1-1).
The top eight teams from the 4A-6A conferences comprise the Open Division.
Mica Mountain, 2-2 against varsity competition, has its first top 20 ranking in program history at No. 18 in 4A.
Nugent’s team is two games shy of the six-game minimum to qualify for the 4A state playoffs. The Thunderbolts have varsity games scheduled at home against No. 24 Amphi on Nov. 5 and a game at No. 19 Bradshaw Mountain on Nov. 12.
Teams ranked high in 4A, 5A and 6A may qualify for the Open Division, pushing up the teams in the conference rankings. For instance, if the season ended today, Mica Mountain would be in the 4A playoffs as the No 16 seed because the 4A’s No. 1 team Cactus and No. 2 team ALA – Queen Creek would be in the Open Division.
The following is a look at the rankings from Open Division to 2A (the 1A state playoffs are already under way).
A total of 16 high school football programs from Southern Arizona are rated in the top 20 from the Open Division to 2A:
- Open: Top eight teams from 4A-6A conferences
6A, 5A, 4A (16-team bracket): In order to qualify, a school must have played a minimum of six (6) games. After qualifying teams are added to the Open Division state tournament bracket and removed from the conference rankings (if applicable), remaining teams will be re-seeded No. 1 through No. 16 and will make up the state tournament brackets. The state tournament brackets will be seeded according to the overall AIA rankings powered by MaxPreps. The state tournaments will consist of four rounds and be single elimination.
- Chandler (7-0)
- Basha (8-0)
- Hamilton (7-0)
- Cactus (7-0)
- Queen Creek (6-1)
- ALA – Queen Creek (6-1)
- Saguaro (6-1)
- Highland (6-1)
12. Salpointe (5-2)
15. Desert View (6-1)
NOTES: Salpointe is only four spots from making the eight-team Open Division playoffs, but the Lancers’ remaining schedule will likely prevent them from getting to that plateau. They have games left against 5A Southern opponents that are not in the 5A Top 25 — No. 26 Mountain View (2-5, 1-1), No. 27 Buena (2-4, 1-0) and No. 32 Flowing Wells (3-5, 0-2). … Desert View has gone from No. 6 to No. 12 (after losing to Salpointe) to now No. 15 and figures to keep moving down because of its remaining schedule against Flowing Wells, Buena and No. 40 Cholla (1-4, 0-0).
6A, 5A, 4A: Teams ranked 1-16 following selection of Open Division participants:
- Saguaro (6-1)
- Horizon (6-0)
- Salpointe (5-2)
- Verrado (6-1)
- Desert View (6-1)
10. Marana (6-1)
11. Cienega (4-3)
16. Ironwood Ridge (3-4)
NOTES: Only Saguaro presently is in the Open Division rankings, which means if the season ended today, No. 3 Salpointe would be the No. 2 seed in the 5A playoffs, Desert View would be No. 4, Marana No. 9, Cienega No. 10 and surprisingly, Ironwood Ridge at 3-4 overall, 1-1 in the 5A Sonoran, would be in the postseason as the No. 15 seed. The Nighthawks made the jump into playoff contention after their 24-7 win over then-No. 14 Sunnyside last week. … Marana (6-1, 2-0 5A Sonoran) remained at No. 10 after winning at No. 42 Rincon/University (1-6, 0-2) last week. … Cienega, under new coach Justin Argraves, is another surprise team in the 5A after a 1-3 start now on a three-game winning streak at 4-3 overall and 2-0 in the 5A Sonoran. The Bobcats will be tested Friday against a hungry Sunnyside (4-3, 0-2) team that was No. 10 two weeks ago but is now No. 22 and fighting for their playoff lives after consecutive losses at Marana and Ironwood Ridge. The Blue Devils finally return home with their postseason on the line.
- Cactus (7-0)
- ALA – Queen Creek (7-1)
- Poston Butte (5-2)
- Mesquite (5-3)
- Casa Grande (7-0)
15. Canyon del Oro (5-3)
18. Mica Mountain (2-2)
NOTES: CDO, under 13-year coach Dustin Peace, continued to roll last week with a 47-0 4A Kino win at No. 34 Pueblo. The Dorados’ five-game winning streak has them at 5-3 overall and 2-0 in the 4A Kino heading into Friday’s big home game with No. 5 Casa Grande (7-0, 2-0) that amounts to a region championship game. A win over Casa Grande could vault the No. 15 Dorados close to a top 8 ranking, which means they can play for a home game in the first round of the 4A state playoffs going forward. With Cactus and ALA – Queen Creek presently in the Open Division, CDO would be the No. 13 seed in the 4A playoffs if the season ended today. … No. 18 Mica Mountain would amazingly be in the 4A playoffs as the No. 16 seed right now. Nugent and administrators Nemer Hassey and Jay Campos — both highly successful football coaches at Cienega and Sabino, respectively — did not originally count on playing more than three varsity games this season. However, after beating Coolidge and Douglas, the Thunderbolts’ brass felt the team was far enough along to face more varsity competition. In the previous two weeks, Nugent has scheduled impromptu games at home against 6A power Mesa Mountain View and against Salpointe and that has vaulted Mica Mountain’s power ratings. The Thunderbolts host No. 24 Amphi (4-2 overall, 1-1 in the 4A Gila) on Nov. 5 and play at No. 19 Bradshaw Mountain (4-3) on Nov. 12. … Amphi dropped from No. 17 to No. 24 after its loss to No. 28 Catalina Foothills (3-4, 1-0) last week. The Panthers host No. 31 Empire (4-4, 2-0) on Friday. No team from the 4A Gila may make the state playoffs based on the current power ratings which means Amphi, Catalina Foothills and Empire will play for the pride of a region championship as the season winds down.
(16-team state tournament bracket) In order to qualify, a school must have played a minimum of six (6) games. Based on region standings, the top team in each region will earn an automatic bid to the state tournament. Remaining teams will be added to the state tournament bracket based on AIA rankings powered by MaxPreps. The 16 teams will be seeded according to AIA rankings. 3A Conference leadership reserves the right to evaluate state tournament participants and bracket seeding based on analytical data. The state tournament will consist of four rounds and be single elimination.
- 3A: Seven (7) automatic bids and nine (9) at-large qualifiers based on ranking
- ALA – Gilbert North (8-1)
- Snowflake (8-1)
- Valley Christian (8-1)
- Yuma Catholic (8-1)
- River Valley (8-1)
8. Pusch Ridge (7-2)
9. Sabino (6-2)
NOTES: Incredibly, Pusch Ridge (7-2 overall, 3-1 in the loaded 3A South) did not move up from its No. 8 ranking despite beating No. 10 Thatcher 41-14 last week. The Lions conclude their regular season with a non-region game at No. 18 AZ College Prep (5-4) on Friday. That game likely will not help Pusch Ridge move up in the rankings. … No. 9 Sabino (6-2, 2-1) only moved up one spot to No. 9 after defeating No. 14 Safford 49-14. The Sabercats play at No. 33 Sahuarita (1-7, 0-3) on Friday. With this being the last week of the regular season, Pusch Ridge and Sabino are locks to make the postseason. The question is, based on their power ratings, will they have to open the postseason on the road?
(16-team state tournament bracket): In order to qualify, a school must have played a minimum of six (6) games. Based on region standings, the top team in each region will earn an automatic bid to the state tournament. The state tournament bracket will be seeded according to the overall AIA rankings powered by MaxPreps of the 16 teams. The state tournament will consist of four rounds and be single elimination.
- 2A: Nine (9) automatic bids and seven (7) at-large qualifiers based on ranking
- Parker (8-0)
- Arizona Lutheran (8-1)
- Benson (6-2)
- Gilbert Christian (7-2)
- Morenci (7-2)
7. Willcox (7-1)
13. Tanque Verde (5-3)
NOTES: No. 3 Benson (6-2, 3-1 in the 2A San Pedro) travels to No. 7 Willcox (7-1, 2-1) with the region title in the balance. A win by the Bobcats and a loss by No. 6 Pima (6-2, 3-0) at home against No. 5 Morenci (7-2, 3-1) would earn them the region title and automatic bid to the 2A state playoffs. Benson will play in the 2A state tournament nonetheless because of its lofty ranking. Same goes for Willcox, who could play its way to a top 5 ranking with a win over Benson. That would solidify its chance to host a game in the first round of the state playoffs. … No. 13 Tanque Verde (5-3, 1-1 in the 2A Rillito) is clinging to its playoff chances under second-year coach Jay Dobyns having to play at No. 43 Catalina (0-8, 0-3) this Friday. The Hawks will have to take care of business and hope teams around them in the rankings lose in order to strengthen their chances of earning their first state playoff appearance in program history (since 2007). They already have the most wins in program history and have clinched a winning season in the regular season for the first time. … Defending state champion Eloy Santa Cruz is No. 21 at 4-5 overall and 2-1 in the 2A Rillito after last week’s loss at Tanque Verde. But the Dust Devils can clinch the region title and automatic bid to the state tournament with a win at home Friday against No. 37 Santa Rita (1-6, 1-1).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District