Six East Valley teams were idle this week while the 5A Division I and 4A-I playoffs took a holiday break before the semifinals Dec. 1.
Some clubs used the time to work on fundamentals. Some scaled back their practices. Some put in new wrinkles.
Scottsdale Saguaro went bowling.
“We thought it would be a good idea to get away from football completely and just have some fun,” said Saguaro coach Mike Reardon, whose team hit the lanes Monday.
“It’s a . . . good thing we can play football because none of us can bowl.”
Fun aside, the week was a productive one.
Scottsdale Chaparral got to rest some aching bodies.
Mesa Mountain View coach Tom Joseph went back to basics for practices early in the week. The Toros took Thanksgiving and today off. On Saturday they’ll begin implementing a game plan for Chandler.
Chandler Hamilton and Chandler practiced Monday through Wednesday and had brief workouts or at least met on Thanksgiving.
‘‘I almost decided to give them Thanksgiving off,’’ Chandler coach Jim Ewan said. ‘‘Then I remembered I told the kids it would be nice to be able to practice on Thanksgiving because it meant we were still in the playoffs.’’
As for the benefits of this break, the jury is still out.
“I’ll tell you a week from (tod)day whether I like it or not,” Reardon said.
With quarterback Riley Nielsen’s 158-yard rushing effort last week against Phoenix Desert Vista, the Toros literally have twin 1,000-yard rushers on the same team for the first time in school history.
Riley joined twin brother Ridge, who cracked the 1,000-yard barrier the first week of the playoffs vs. Casa Grande. Ridge Nielsen has rushed for 1,072 yards on 118 attempts. Riley Nielsen has 1,013 yards on 126 rushes and is the first quarterback in Mesa Mountain View history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Ridge Nielsen, with his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, is now the Toros’ all-time leading rusher with 2,830 yards. He broke the old mark held by Paul Kaspryzk (2,322) during the 1982 and 1983 seasons.
Chandler Hamilton quarterback Brad Gruner, who missed the 2005 season with torn knee ligaments, has produced efficient numbers leading the Huskies’ passing attack with 2,113 yards and 22 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
Junior running back Covaughn Deboskie, who took over as the Huskies’ featured back about midseason, passed 1,000 yards (1,060) with a 100-yard, 12-carry performance last week against Scottsdale Horizon.
On Monday, the Arizona Interscholastic Association voted to continue investigating alleged recruiting violations by Chandler Valley Christian involving current quarterback Rob Brown and assistant coach Kelvin Liermann.
Liermann was Maricopa’s head coach last season and Brown was enrolled at Maricopa for a short time last year. Valley Christian forfeited its first three games this season after Brown was ruled ineligible. His eligibility issues were cleared up, however, and Brown has been playing since.
The allegations claim that after Liermann’s coaching contract was not renewed by Maricopa, he encouraged Brown, who did not play at Maricopa last season, and two other players to transfer to Valley Christian. Liermann was alleged to have helped push those players to Valley Christian, though he was not on either school’s staff.
The AIA will reconvene Dec. 17.
“There’s no merit to it,” Valley Christian coach Bill Morgan said. “It’s absolutely hogwash, I’ll say that.”
Cave Creek Cactus Shadows starting linebacker Sean January did not play last week and will be a game-time decision against Washington on Friday. January has been ill and was dressed against Queen Creek but would only have played in an emergency.
With only Mountain View and Thatcher standing in the way, the city of Chandler is close to becoming just the second city in the past 21 years to post a state title in separate conferences.
Valley Christian goes for the 2A title Saturday while Hamilton, Basha and Chandler are chasing the 5A-I title.
Phoenix Moon Valley and Phoenix Christian won the 5A and 2A titles, respectively in 2004. Phoenix also took two titles (St. Mary’s, 5A; Phoenix Christian, 2A) in 1985.
Phoenix schools won both divisions of the 5A conference last season — Brophy in 5A-I and North Canyon in 5A-II.