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State champ Santa Cruz joining 2A region with Tucson schools


The 2021 high school football schedules are closer to being finalized with the latest development an intriguing switch of Eloy Santa Cruz Valley leaving the 2A Gila region for the Tucson-based 2A Rillito.

Santa Cruz is coming off a 2A state championship under coach Rishard Davis, a Tucsonan who is a former assistant at Flowing Wells and Pusch Ridge.

Sequoia Pathway, of Maricopa, north of Casa Grande, will also compete in the 2A Rillito.

As reported here earlier this week, some of the matchups from 2A to 6A will be very intriguing to watch this upcoming season.

They include:

— Two eastside rivalries involving Sabino will take place with the Sabercats playing at Sahuaro Oct. 1 and hosting Tanque Verde (and second-year coach Jay Dobyns) Oct. 15. Sandwiched between those marquee games is a showdown with fellow 3A South power Pusch Ridge, which visits Sabino on Oct. 8.

Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis holds the 2A state championship trophy high from last season (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

— Pusch Ridge, whose schedule has not been finalized, also plays at 2A state runner-up Benson to start the season Aug. 27. Benson has its entire roster back from last year’s 9-1 team. Pusch Ridge is coming of an 8-1 season that finished in the 3A state semifinals and second-year coach Kent Middleton has most of his top players returning.

— Salpointe visits nemesis Scottsdale Saguaro on Oct. 1. Those teams met in the state playoffs three times during the Dennis Bene era with Saguaro managing to win all of them, including two state championship games in 2017 and 2018. The schools were scheduled to meet in last year’s Open Division quarterfinals but Saguaro had to forfeit because of a positive COVID-19 test. Salpointe, under first-year coach Eric Rogers, who replaced Bene last season, finished 6-1 with a loss to Chandler Hamilton in the semifinals.

— Mountain View at Marana takes place for the Battle of the Boot between the Marana rivals on Sept. 3.

— Desert View at Sunnyside, also known as the Duel in the District, is scheduled for Sept. 3 between the southside rivals.

— Salpointe at Cienega, with new head coach Justin Argraves, is an intriguing matchup on Sept. 17.

— Ironwood Ridge at CDO in a game to look forward to between the Amphi School District rivals on Oct. 1.

Interesting to note: The 2021 season will feature at least eight coaches at new places. They include:

— Catalina Foothills coach Danny Sainz, a nine-year assistant at Sahuaro under Scott McKee.

— Cienega’s Argraves, coach at Tucson High for 10 years who replaced Pat Nugent after Nugent left to Vail School District sister school Mica Mountain, a school that will be in its second year and won’t play a full varsity schedule until 2022).

— Sahuarita coach Jake Price, longtime Marana and Mountain View assistant).

— Tucson High coach Richard Sanchez, the dean of Southern Arizona coaches with 21 years at Sunnyside and Santa Rita who is awaiting the formality of TUSD school board approval.

Santa Rita, Marana and Catalina have coaching vacancies that need to be filled.

Southern Arizona Football’s Chris Kidney, dad of former Cienega receiver Caleb Kidney, compiled the schedules through correspondence with head coaches. Kidney offers analysis for the 520 Gridiron Facebook Live show along with GameTime recruiting service coordinator Rodney Cox,

The following are schools with finalized schedules with graphics completed by Chris Kidney.

Soon to be added to these schedules are those of Tucson, Walden Grove, Douglas, Pusch Ridge, Baboquivari, San Manuel and St. David.

5A SONORAN

Cienega

Ironwood Ridge

Marana

Nogales

Rincon/University

Sunnyside

5A SOUTHERN

Buena

Cholla

Desert View

Flowing Wells

Mountain View

Salpointe Catholic

4A GILA

Amphi

Catalina Foothills

Empire

Palo Verde

Rio Rico

4A KINO

Canyon del Oro

Pueblo

Sahuaro

3A SOUTH

Sabino

Sahuarita

2A RILLITO

Catalina

Eloy Santa Cruz Valley

Santa Rita

Tanque Verde

2A SAN PEDRO

Benson

Bisbee

Tombstone

Willcox


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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.

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