After some stunning players, plays, performances and playoffs, football season has drawn to a close for another year.
Yet a few things still percolate about the season both in hindsight and moving forward into winter, where coaches and a few players change colors, and new answers related to next year’s division/section alignment and also transfer rules are closer to seeing the light of day.
• One season isn’t enough to make a judgment on whether the new power rankings formulas worked. The secrecy of it all is still confounding, and the subsequent oddities some schools dealt with in terms of moving up or down in a given week (or not at all) makes it worse.
But with perhaps one or two exceptions, the top 16 teams in the six divisions were worthy of placement, and a decent case could be made for/against a few schools who were left behind. Furthermore, the semifinals in Divisions I, II and IV were No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds. Nogales as a No. 14 seed in the Div. III semifinals was the big party crasher with Desert Edge (No. 1), Queen Creek (No. 2) and Williams Field (No. 5). Division V was pretty “chalk” as well with Northwest Christian (No. 1), Morenci (No. 2), Tempe Prep (No. 3) and Yuma Catholic (No. 5).
Whether anyone knows how any of this happened or not, it looks like the ends justified the means in 2012.
• Most impressive playoff runs: Tucson Ironwood Ridge, Nogales and Seton Catholic. Ironwood Ridge was already top-notch given it beat Marcos and Peoria Centennial during the regular season, but to run roughshod over those two schools again in the postseason was remarkable.
• With a nod to the jobs admirably done at Chaparral (Dave Huffine) Desert Mountain (Tony Tabor), Hamilton (Steve Belles), Highland (Pete Wahlheim), Mountain Pointe (Norris Vaughan), Mountain View (Chad DeGrenier), and Tempe (Brian Walker), the Coach of the Year race in the East Valley is feeling more like a two-man “race” between Joe Germaine (Queen Creek) and Rex Bowser (Seton Catholic).
Oddly enough, two coaches who likely couldn’t care less about such things.
Though a few different criteria and circumstances exist for each in this season’s body of work, the qualifications for each of them are pretty equal in substance. Eventually, we’ll have to decide, but not before a heated debate or two.
• Apache Junction, Arcadia and Mesquite are about to begin coaching searches, with hirings like to occur in January or February. A.J. and Arcadia both had interim coaches for 2012 so a full-bore search was inevitable.
Mesquite, however, was a bit more puzzling. The Wildcats underachieved a bit in Matt Gracey’s first year of 2011, but California commitments and moving meant he couldn’t arrive until early summer, which put the team behind from the start. The 2012 season was a struggle for sure, but expected given the large group of seniors gone from the 2011 team.
The Wildcats are headed to Division II for the next two-year block (thankfully for them) while their schedule was considered by some to be the most difficult in Division I (Highland, Red Mountain, Chandler, Hamilton, Chaparral and Desert Vista). The school lost a lot of kids and incoming kids because Campo Verde opened nearby but Gracey was optimistic of this team’s future.
The school figures moving to Division II will actually help it be a draw in terms of coaching interest, and a family of young kids made it more difficult for Gracey to burn the proverbial candle on both ends the way many coaches can in younger, single days.
We’ll see who comes down the pipeline, but given some of the aforementioned obstacles and upcoming, built-in changes, it’s still fair to wonder why a change, and, thus, reconstruction, was necessary after only two years.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.