Queen Creek vs Williams Field, semifinal game 11/25/2013

Queen Creek coach Travis Schureman cheers on his squad before taking on Williams Field, Monday, November 25, 2013 at Campo Verde. [Jerry Burch/ Special to Tribune]

Travis Schureman was a bit perplexed, much like everyone else, but he isn’t as concerned as others about where the Queen Creek football program will land once divisional placement is finalized.

The state got a glimpse of what the next scheduling block — through the 2017-18 school year — is going to look like on Tuesday when the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) released its initial divisional placement for team sports.

There were several surprises with the focus coming on Division I football, which has two less teams (down to 27 from 29) but six new programs.

The biggest surprises came with McClintock and Queen Creek making the leap from Division III to Division I.

“The AIA is going to do what it does and we have no control over that,” Schureman said. “We can only control how we prepare for football games.”

The Bulldogs have had success in recent years, reaching the state finals twice and winning once over the last three years, and have had played and defeated Division I schools Highland and Perry the last two years.

With that said, Queen Creek athletic director Paul Reynolds said they are leaning toward an appeal, but will talk it through before deciding officially.

“We will probably make an appeal to put the kids in a better position,” Reynolds said. “It’s a compliment to think we can be up there with the big dogs and I think our kids can compete at any level. We are not going to hit the panic button.

“I think we need to discuss it a little more and figure out what we need to do.”

The one sticking point with Schureman is the idea of losing some of the passion that comes with playing familiar opponents.

“My one complaint is the fact in this division we have no rivals and that is a huge part of football,” he said. “I don’t know how the freedom games will work and whether or not Williams Field, Saguaro or Higley are going to want to play a Division I school. It’s the one problem I have with it.”

Many others aren’t so singular with their negative reaction, or at the very least bewilderment, in some of the decisions derived from the algorithm put into place to determine divisional placement.

It used enrollment, free and reduced lunch and the MaxPreps rankings history of teams (not including this past fall) in the past six seasons to decide in which division teams will be placed.

“I always think it is better when everyone understands going in what the formula is,” said Centennial football coach Richard Taylor, whose program surprisingly stayed put in Division II. “I talked to a lot of people and got bits and pieces, but not sure any or all of them were correct.”

AIA executive director Chuck Schmidt reiterated that was just the first step in the process.

“The whole purpose of this was to answer and address the concern about enrollment being indicative of how we were placing schools,” Schmidt told reporters on Tuesday. “The football conversation always drives that ship. Our response was to try to find an objective way, gather the data that we could to place schools in a competitive environment.

“I think we addressed this. The brilliance of this is the opportunity for appeal.”

The deadline for schools to appeal their initial placements is 2 p.m. Jan. 30, with appeals heard by the AIA Executive Board between Feb. 3-10.

Leading up to the release speculation and expectations were that West Valley programs like Centennial and Liberty, who met in the Division II title game last year, were going to be prime candidates to make the leap to DI.

Instead, both programs stayed put to help make up the 49 teams in DII along with newcomers Cesar Chavez (down from DI), Combs (up from DIV) and Saguaro (up from DIII).

The announcement touched all team sports so there were some additional head scratching.

In the Ahwatukee area, the one that stood out was the decision to place Horizon Honors boys volleyball in Division I after the program played its initial season last spring, winning just three times.

When it was announced in December that the AIA was adding a second division for boys volleyball, the Eagles (enrollment of 400) were giddy, expecting to get placed with programs they would be more in line with rather than the likes of Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, with enrollment numbers closer to 3,000 and stayed in DI across the board.

Horizon Honors is expected to go through the appeal process.

It has been reported that Joy Christian football coach Brian Cole has said his school will appeal its placement in Division IV. Joy Christian played the last two seasons in Division V after moving up from eight-man football.

Valley Vista, which dropped from Division I to Division II, while Cactus goes from DIII to DII and Sunrise Mountain is expected appeal its move from DIII to DII.

In the East Valley, Perry girls soccer, which finished as Division I state runner-up last season, have been bumped down to DII.

While there seems to be several programs misplaced the thing to remember is that this was just the initial placement. Appeals will be heard. Final decisions are yet to be made.

“Whatever the schools think is important they have the ability to take it to the advisory committee for the appeals/placement committee,” Schmidt said.

Then again some already are embracing the announcement as the expectation.

“The only thing I know to do is compete and we’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Schureman said. “We will be OK. It is what is. We are going to be ready no matter who it is we are lining up across from.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@evtrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

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