Maricopa’s 28-26 football win over Sells Baboquivari on Friday was easily the school’s biggest this season, but if you take into account the problems surrounding the team’s trip to Sells, the win looks even more impressive.
First, the Rams played their fourth straight game without five two-way starters, who were out due to academic ineligibility.
Second, two other starters, defensive end Jeff Martinez and offensive lineman Caleb Smith, were required to attend an event in Maricopa in which Gov. Janet Napolitano was speaking.
Another difficulty the team faced came when it was not allowed to bring water on the bus for the two-hour-plus ride.
"The bus driver refused to let the kids have water on the bus," Maricopa coach Kelvin Liermann said. "They always stress to us about the safety of the players and most of my guys play both offense and defense during a game and they couldn’t hydrate on the trip. That didn’t make much sense to me."
Despite all of the problems, the Rams were able to win and set themselves up for a run at the playoffs.
Liermann’s team only needs to beat Gila Bend and Tonopah Valley to finish no lower than third in the 2A West Region and earn a berth in the state playoffs.
Good news will come this week when four of the five starters who have been out the last four weeks return. Liermann said it’s possible all five could be back in uniform.
"The combination of the return of those players and Friday’s win will go a long ways to carrying us through the rest of the season," Liermann said.
Offensive addition: Gilbert added another body to its offense last week as junior Joe Zakhar got his first extensive playing time after working back from an earlyseason leg injury.
Zakhar carried 17 times for 102 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 36-21 triumph over Highland.
That lightened the load on junior John Coon, who also topped the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in six games with 142 yards on 23 rushes.
‘‘They had a good pair of running backs,’’ Highland coach Preston Jones said. ‘‘We had a tough time stopping them.’’
Equal representation: Last weekend’s Phoenix Goldwater Volleyball Festival may have shown the fine line between the new classifications.
The tourney’s final four teams represented each of the top four classifications — 5A-I Corona del Sol, 5A-II Desert Mountain, 4A-I Tucson Rincon and 4A-II Cactus Shadows. Interestingly the Division II schools, Desert Mountain and Cactus Shadows, ended up in the finals and both 5A schools won — Desert Mountain in the championship and Corona in the third-place match.
Early-season prohibitive 5A-I favorite Xavier has fallen on hard times after a 16-0 start. The Gators have lost to Horizon and Desert Mountain in Desert Valley Region play and only finished sixth in the 32-team Goldwater tourney after Gilbert rallied for a three-game victory.
The injury bug has bitten Xavier. On Saturday, several players also were absent during the day to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
During one stretch of Saturday’s round-robin play to decide seeds for the finals, there were just seven Gators present.
- Staff writers Les Willsey and Brett Fera and correspondent Al Bravo contributed to this report.