Here's our best guess for Divisions I, II, III and V as the season begins in earnest
1. Chandler Hamilton - Was there another logical choice? Not as experienced as 2010, but it hardly seems to matter. There's always a cast of seniors waiting for their chance. The Huskies, led by WR Kendyl Taylor and S Reggie Daniels, have to be the favorites until beaten.
2. Mesa Desert Ridge - Many players return from the surprise runner-up. The lines are sound and the offensive weapons are deadly. The big question for the formerly pass-happy Jaguars is how much Parker Rasmussen drops back vs. how often they rely on Jordan Becerra and Joey Counts and their dominant read option.
3. Phoenix Brophy Prep - The Broncos return Arizona's most acclaimed juniors, including QB Tyler Bruggman, WR Devon Allen and LB/S Robert Relf. The sophomores are full of potential, too. By playoff time, Brophy should be the last team playoff opponents want in their bracket.
4. Phoenix Mountain Pointe - If they're able to answer quarterback questions, the Pride can get to the next level with what looks like third-year coach Norris Vaugh's deepest and most talented team. Sophomore CB/WR Jalen Brown appears on his way to a special career. A few slip ups on its rugged schedule could knock Mountain Pointe into the middle of the pack.
5. Avondale Westview - The Division I sleeper and the only former 5A-II team with a realistic shot of braking through against the East Valley. The Knights may have their best backfield combination since 2007 with junior Seivion Morris and senior Shayne Miller driving the wing-T. LB Chuks Amaechi leads a fast, physical defense.
6. Chandler - The Wolves have as much talent as anyone, with WRs Javon Williams and Lloyd Mills, OT Zach Hemmila and DEs Kisma Jagne and Richard Winston. New coach Shaun Aguano will have to answer the old questions about defense and faltering in big games to lift Chandler to its first title game in recent memory.
7. Phoenix Desert Vista - So far so good for the Thunder with QB Hunter Rodriguez, LB Mike Arredondo and another group of speed merchants and stout linemen like J.J. Dielman to run the fly sweep. Hamilton is in a class of its own right now, but the margin between teams 2-7 is razor thin.
8. Chandler Basha - The Bernie Busken regime began with unprecedented success, until a stunning playoff loss to 15th-seeded Gilbert. How have the Bears recovered from that, and how prepared are they to face neighbors Chandler and Hamilton after years of not playing them?
9. Anthem Boulder Creek - Of the three large Deer Valley district schools, the Jaguars are the best-positioned to make a move. Most of the starters return, including the dynamic Trevor Bonfasi-to-Marquis Bundy passing combination, and St. Mary's transfer Beau Kitson adds a dimension to the offensive line.
10 . Mesa Red Mountain - While Mountain View reinvents itself, the Mountain Lions are the best hope for the cradle of Arizona football. The arrival of Marcus Brantley injects some athleticism and the line play and depth are solid. Will Red Mountain find a quarterback to get Brantley and TE Billy Freeman the ball?
1. Scottsdale Chaparral - It's too early to discount the Firebirds based on one feeble half of football against a national powerhouse. But neither line looks as overwhelming as it was last year, and even the possible addition of Jarvis Lewis won't plug all the holes. Brewer to Neal will still be tough for Arizona teams to stop. Salpointe is an interesting test tonight.
2. Centennial - This may be the deepest group Richard Taylor's had since the 2008 team. QB Justin Sanchez, RB Jalen Ortiz and WR Troy Hawthorne will be a nightmare matchup for most teams and S/WR/RB Zach Hoffpauir is Centennial's latest all-purpose star. Offensive line is the lone question mark, but if DL Marcus Farria and Josh Stevens are as good as advertised, it may not matter.
3. Tempe Marcos de Niza - The three best teams at the end of 5A-II remain the heavyweights of the new Division II. LB Adam Pavlenko leads a typically intense Padre defense. QB Tommy Thornton can torch teams deep. The main issue is at the skill positions, but Marcos is rarely short on playmakers.
4. Tucson Salpointe Catholic - Who joins the big 3 in the semifinals? We say Salpointe because they rarely lose to another Tucson program. The four best Tucson programs are in Division II, but the Lancers are seasoned by regular quarterfinal trips in 5A-I. Junior RB Johnny Pena and sophomore WR Cameron Deson are ready for prime time?
5. Vail Cienega - If Salpointe isn't the Old Pueblo's best, then it's these guys. RB Manny Vera arrives from Sunnyside ready to carry the load. WR Edgar Poe is a pun-worthy talent. Plus, if the Bobcats beat Sabino tonight, they should run the table, as Cienega somehow avoided Salpointe, Ironwood Ridge and Canyon del Oro.
6. Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep -Plenty of talented players suit up for the Saints, like QB Jordan Gerkhe and LB Luke Taffuri. But if Notre Dame is better than 7-3, it's a minor miracle. Why? Games against Marcos de Niza, Chaparral and Hamilton. Yikes.
7. Deer Valley - If the Skyhawks are ever having a memorable football season, it will be with this group. Deer Valley has a standout senior at every position group except defensive line. IF LB Jon Reed and CB Kenny Bowden pace an even slightly improved defense, it will be tough for teams to keep up with RB Trae Armstrong and QB Auston Hillman.
8. Tucson Ironwood Ridge - After pushing Centennial to the brink in the 2010 semifinals, the Nighthawks are rebuilding a bit. But with RB/LB Mitch Fischer, OT C.J. Healey and a solid junior class, the dropoff should be too pronounced.
9. Laveen Betty Fairfax - A shade more proven than neighbor Cesar Chavez, and that game could have a big say on the playoff picture. DEs Dwight Melvin and Anthony Arledge will be in opposing backfield often. QB Kurtis Walls is sold. The question for this young program is, are they ready for the next step?
10 Goodyear Millennium - Another program lurking in the background. Millennium is always solid and took its lumps with a young team last year. The Tigers play Fairfax tonight, Centennial next week and Deer Valley and Chavez later in the season, so they'll have a big say on the Section I pecking order.
1. Scottsdale Saguaro - This is the most wide-open title race, but based on recent history Saguaro has to start at the top. RB/WR/CB D.J. Foster is one of the state's best players and the Sabercats usually have a pronounced advantage along the lines against schools their size. Dept, as always, remains an issue.
2. Phoenix Thunderbird - last year's miracle 4A-II title run obscures the fact that this was supposed to be the Chiefs' year. Rbs Connor Hustead and Kani Benoit are the state's best duo, and the quarterback, receiver, linebacker and secondary spots are stocked with returning talent. How will being the hunted affect Thunderbird?
3. Cactus - The Cobras don't have much coming back, particularly on offense, but that doesn't seem to matter. G Denzel Dotson and LB Guy Williams are among Arizona's best at their spots. And Cactus' veteran staff usually figures the rest out. Home games against Liberty and Peoria give the Cobras a slight edge over their district rivals.
4. Liberty - In terms of returning talent, only Thunderbird has more in Division III. But can the Lions break through in the playoffs? Coach Dan Filleman is confident in junior QB Tyler Rodgers, enough to move Andre Gattie to WR to team with Paul Panaccione LB Ben Kullos paces a defense that will determine Liberty's fate.
5. Gilbert Williams Field - We're relying on our East Valley colleagues for this one. They believe a Williams Field team with few starters returning starters is better than a Queen Creek team with few returning starters. A lot of that belief can be traced to dominant RB Alex Howard.
6. Peoria - The Panthers are perfectly content to lurk in the shadows. They're always a threat at the end of the season. CB Chris Chapman's eight picks in 2010 will have teams wary of throwing his way. QB Nick Salute is accurate in the short passing game and he'll have several speedy playmakers to choose from.
7. Tucson Sabino - Much like Peoria, Sabino is always in the hunt. A talented defense is largely back. And only Amphitheater looks like much of a threat once tonight's game with Cienega is over.
8. Goodyear Desert Edge - Coach Rich Wellbrock put his defensive stamp on the Scorpions. Desert Edge loses some of its defensive speed, but returns WR Anthony Fletcher, a great target for its new quarterback. This is not your typical No. 8 team. The Scorpions could win it all. Tonight against Thunderbird is a good gauge.
9. Queen Creek - Coach Joe Germaine's true impact can be assessed after this season. Only three starters return, so if the Bulldogs are close to the top again, he's truly taken this program to the next level.
10. Higley - Not much difference between Higley, Apache Junction and Arcadia. One of those teams could burst into the title picture. Our money's on Higley, with QB Eric Kump primed for a big season. How will the Knights respond to Eddy Zubey?